The year 2020 has changed the way we live, work and play. And while many economies and industries around the world are still booming, it could be said that fashion – and sustainable fashion – is not just recovering, it’s in the midst of a revolution.
How exactly? In a historically unregulated sector that contributes to 4% of global gas emissions, fashion leaders have launched best-practice initiatives for 2020, including carbon labeling in Western Europe; The Fashion Pact reached 60 CEO brand signatories, all of whom committed to reducing their carbon footprint; The EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy entered into force and the Global Fashion Agenda (zero-carbon industrial practices by 2050) gained momentum through collaborations with major NGOs. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has prioritized sustainable fashion at its Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021, and global brands are working with entrepreneurs, designers and consumers to reduce fashion’s negative impact on the environment.
Since 2020, some of the world’s largest fashion houses have developed circularity programs championed by new C-level sustainability leaders. With apparel consumption projected to increase by 63% by 2030, and with consumers buying 60% more items than in 2000, the ongoing fashion revolution needs leaders with continuous solutions.
So what does the future of the industry look like? Experts suspect that sustainable solutions could be in our own hands.
Power to the consumer: Environmentally friendly solutions within reach
What if the future of sustainable fashion is already within our grasp – literally? Buying fewer items, wearing clothes longer and washing at lower temperatures each year could result in a CO2 saving equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road each year.
According to Vanessa Butani – vice president of sustainability at Electrolux, a global appliance brand – extending the lifecycle of clothing by nine months could reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by 20% to 30%. Butani said small changes in our behavior and “breaking the mold” of old habits are key to making more sustainable fashion choices.
“We know from our research that there is an urgent need to help people understand how best to care for their clothes and to encourage as many people as possible to adopt more sustainable laundry practices: wash less, steam more, full loads and lower wash temperatures,” she says. “Taking better care of your clothes so your favorite pieces last longer resonates with consumers.”
Taking better care of your clothes so your favorite pieces last longer resonates with consumers.Vanessa Butani
And it’s not just about consumers – manufacturers have a role to play in promoting more sustainable practices. “We need to put a lot of effort into encouraging people to move away from standard washing practices, which may be outdated and not necessarily the most sustainable,” Butani said. “What most of us don’t realize is that temperature labels state the maximum wash temperature, not the recommended one. Washing at lower temperatures extends the life of your garments, keeping them feeling new and fresh for longer. A lower temperature is also better for your electricity bill – switching from 40 to 30 degrees Celsius can save up to 60% in energy consumption.”
Electrolux research also highlighted the fact that while 69% of consumers agree that extending the life of clothes is a good idea, two-thirds of Europeans still use washing temperatures of 40 degrees or higher. Outdated washing practices and old-school advice are barriers to more sustainable fashion choices. What is the best way to address these issues? Tech innovation is a journey.
Garment Care: The Impact of Innovation
Research and development of new product features are at the heart of Electrolux. “Our new care drum is a highly innovative design with a ‘pillow-like’ washing machine drum pattern, resulting in much gentler fabric care that reduces wear and tear on garments. Our SteamCare system allows you to refresh your clothes after a full wash isn’t needed, what uses over 96% less water compared to a full wash. We also have a microplastic filter to remove plastic fibers.” Butani revealed.
While washing technology has a role to play in the circular textile economy, consumer fashion choices play a role in the early stages – and there is increasing emphasis on the design and manufacture of clothes that are built to last. The innovative use of textiles also plays an important role here.
A “closed” cycle of textile innovations
McKinsey’s 2022 State of Fashion Technology Report highlights the need for end-to-end innovation, including “closed-loop textile recycling” – where garments are recycled into new garments and the process repeated, creating a never-ending cycle of innovation . Unlike “open-loop” recycling (clothes are recycled into a new product that cannot be dismantled), closed-loop textile recycling combats environmental impact – reportedly 60% of fashion managers have already invested or are planning to invest in the loop -Recycling in 2023. And with an estimated 87% of textiles ending up in landfill, the industry needs a creative cross-industry approach. That’s why Electrolux’s partnership with Rave Review, an upcycled fashion house, is so relevant. Together they have created a world-first capsule collection of garments sourced from the world’s second largest garment graveyard in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Creative partnerships fight “clothing graveyards”
It is estimated that 39,000 tons of fast fashion and textile waste ends up in the Atacama landfill every year. Electrolux and Swedish fashion company Rave Review agree: this statistic needs to change. Rave Review co-founders Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück (who count Gucci and Vogue among their collaborators) said: “We believe that Atacama is a result of the textile industry not taking responsibility for overproduction and waste. In our eyes, the landfill is seen as a resource and not as waste.”
Rave Review joined Electrolux to launch Break the Pattern: a series of limited edition statement pieces aiming to encourage a new generation of upcycling behaviors. “In the process of upcycling, from material sourcing to production, we’re hoping for industry developments to make better use of fabric waste and encourage smaller and more local productions and so on.” Schück continued. “This would help upcycling and remake businesses to be more financially successful. Electrolux is a Swedish company with a long history of making quality products that last for many years, and that’s what Rave Review wants to achieve with our garments too.”
In the process of upcycling, from material sourcing to production, we hope for industry developments to make better use of fabric waste and encourage smaller and more local productions, etc.Olivia Schuetz
Butani added: “Rave Review did a fantastic job – they share our values when it comes to sustainability and it’s amazing the niche they have carved in high fashion.” According to Rave Review, many industries need change – and sustainable development can be explored hand in hand between the branches.
Creating change through cross-industry collaboration
As the WEF debate “Meet The Pioneers of Sustainable Fashion 2021” (September 2021) explored the urgent need for education and cross-industry innovation, Electrolux’s own team of “Change Makers” – a group of eight young sustainability advocates, Electrolux experts and industry influencers – are already sharing disruptive ideas. Butani hopes that change maker workshops will create innovative, cross-industry solutions for garment care in 2030 and beyond: “Hearing what the change maker team has to say, we hope that the future solutions we develop , consistent with their visions of sustainable living and fashion,” she said. “After all, they are the guardians of the future. We have many existing partnerships in different areas of our business and are always looking for partners who share our sustainability vision.”
If you would like to learn more about sustainable fashion practices and how Electrolux is shaping the future of garment care, please visit our website