Why fashion is in danger of not being in fashion
Julie Oxberry, Group CEO and Co-Founder of Household

How did I come to find the BBC World News rifling through my singularly unimpressive wardrobe at home on a wet Wednesday in January?

Video courtesy of BBC World News

It’s a long story that seems particularly relevant now that Fashion Week is upon us.

Fashion Week is entertaining, fun, and visually provocative, a celebration of all that’s new in that world. But it also hints at the broader industry where millions are struggling, and 10% of the world’s carbon emissions are churned out in its service.

Unquestionably, the industry needs to change in order to reduce this unsustainable environmental impact. Brands need to design, manufacture and market clothes, that are more durable. And in reducing consumption of fast fashion, buying less, and wearing each item longer, we consumers can play our part by swapping or upcycling clothes, shopping in second-hand and charity shops rather than merely throwing garments away. It’s not going to save the planet, but it will definitely help.

Without radical change, fashion is in danger of not being in fashion.

Back to Fashion Week.  The rise in ‘resale’ almost conflicts with Fashion Week, and some luxury brands are evaluating whether participating in Fashion Week counteracts their sustainability initiatives. Yet, there is a place for Fashion Week in a sustainable world. It’s not naturally the home of fast-fashion, yet it should be a platform for game-changing discussion by promoting sustainability and changes in the way the industry operates, asking, ‘what more can fashion brands do to make their collections as circular as possible?’

If fashion brands want to take effective action against climate change, sustainability needs to be woven into their very fabric. Luxury fashion brands can use the platform of Fashion Week to lead the way and drive sustainable innovation. Christopher Raeburn shared a sneak peek online of his LFW collection, which includes upcycling parachutes into clothing. This is the type of invention we would like to see brands adopt and stay on trend with the drive for circularity.

This is indirectly how I came upon ReThread, a burgeoning clothing resale business in North London, and how the BBC came to interview me in my wardrobe about changing buying habits during Lockdown.

Image courtesy of ReThread

At Household, we’ve identified ‘Conscious Living’ as an Experience trend that will define retail and hospitality in 2021 and beyond. Household’s interest in ReThread is similar to our interest in other like-minded brands such as The RealReal and The Restory.

We welcome a new era of conscious living, heightened during the pandemic by people’s desire to make more sustainable choices. The BBC News report I mentioned was about the boom in the second-hand fashion market, a conscious reassessment of what I/we need and how I/we shop, in a bid to be more eco-conscious.

I’m not alone in this – McKinsey found that 57% of people have made significant changes to their lifestyles during the pandemic to lessen their environmental impact. And they’re looking to brands to use their platforms to encourage more sustainable lifelong actions and make eco-choices easier to adopt.

As brand experience designers, Household wants people to buy stuff, and we want clients to be profitable. Of course, we do. We also want the experience to be, inspirational, positive for the environment, attractive and meaningful to the conscious customer. We creatively showcase ‘new’ for brands through the entire shopping experience by focusing on responsible design and implementing the three R’s: Reuse, Reduce and Recycle.

The resale market is a lucrative opportunity. It grew 25 times faster than the broader retail market last year and is set to more than double to $64 billion in the next five years (Charged Retail, 2020). eBay and Depop are leading the way in the UK and new players, such as Vinted, Vestiaire Collective, and Re-Thread are joining all the time.

Resale is changing the face of luxury fashion; brands are creating new ways to buy their products with the environment in mind. Luxury brands are now starting to see the value in partnering with resale companies as a way of meeting their sustainability goals while ensuring the authenticity of their pre-loved products. For example, Gucci has opened a luxury consignment shop on The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective announced a new partnership with Alexander McQueen.

Image courtesy of  The RealReal and Gucci 

London Fashion Week so far is also looking hopeful in this regard. With peer-to-peer rental companies expanding across London and the UK, old is the new ‘new.’ For the first time ever, LFW hosted a clothing and accessories Swapping Centre, with donations from celebrities and British Fashion Council ambassadors. It hosts a broad range of voices on current fashion issues relating to positive change, diversity, sustainability, education, culture, and technology (BFC guest speakers include Supriya Lele, Rosh Mahtani, Richard Malone, and Stella McCartney). And the best of British talent will be showcased in new zero-waste, eco-friendly ways, with Alexander McQueen leading the charge by releasing surplus in-house fabrics to students at UK fashion colleges for use in their own work.

For fashion, 2021 will be a year of sustainability and circularity. My spare room may be the repository of the tidy-up much needed for the BBC’s visit, but the intention is clear – we create the environment that makes the environment.

Cover image courtesy of The RealReal 

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