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The Positive, Practical Steps Forward In Fashion We're Looking Forward To In 2017

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 years ago | Features

Image: the way cotton is grown for clothing is just one area set for change. Image source.

Fashion has been in constant flux over the past few years — as seasonal calendars shift, shoppable runways emerge and designers scramble to keep up with the fast fashion cycle. But in the midst of all this change, there have also been some quieter, more practical shifts taking place as well. Like the introduction of sustainable man-made fibres such as Tencel, for example. Or the increasing focus on organic rather than conventionally grown cotton.

These are the kinds of innovations and ideas that have already begun to take hold, but haven’t necessarily swept the fashion industry at large yet. Given the fact that so many of them could quite literally revolutionise our social and environmental impact though, it is really only a matter of time. So today we’re taking a moment to appreciate some of the practical fashion changes that we’re most looking forward to in 2017.

1) Organic cotton growth
At the moment, less than 1% of the world's cotton is certified organic, however demand is already beginning to exceed supply. And it is for this reason that the C&A Foundation is focussed on accelerating organic cotton both next year and into the future. It’s an area that certainly needs support, because although cotton farmed in this way provides a more sustainable alternative, it can also be difficult for farmers to convert. 

As the C&A Foundation points out, “going organic requires new skills, knowledge and access to certified organic seed. Yields can also be lower in the first years compared to genetically modified seeds, which means farmers have no incentive to make the switch.” This is why the foundation and many like it are now working to bring brands and industry players together, in order to accelerate the market and uptake of more sustainable cotton.

As the world prepares to move towards greater organic cotton growth though, so can we as consumers make similar decisions within our own personal wardrobes. It is a small shift to make, in the grand scheme of things, but one that also has the power to radically transform our impact on the environment and farmers’ lives.

2) The shift towards waste minimisation
Increasingly designers are beginning to recognise the impacts of their choices when it comes to fabric cutting and pattern making. And given that an estimated 15-20% of the fabric used to create a piece of clothing actually ends up in a landfill — it is clearly time to make a change. Fortunately, plenty of brands have begun responding to this need by committing to minimal waste practices throughout production. And we foresee even more brands converting to this model in 2017. By using end of roll fabrics, for example, these brands are able to cut down on their overall waste and thereby minimise their environmental impact.

Which isn’t a change that’s only limited to brands, either. As consumers, we too can integrate minimal waste into our purchasing decisions — by choosing not to buy yet another fast fashion garment and instead looking to ways that we might be able to upcycle our pre-loved pieces, for example.

3) Further fabric innovations
It is not just a shift towards the way we grow and use existing fabrics that’s becoming significant for the future of fashion, though. There are also plenty of new fabric innovations happening, which could vastly alter the landscape as well. Take Adidas’ recently-revealed innovations in terms of artificial spider silk, for example. Or the increasing role that companies like Lenzing (which is responsible for both Tencel and Modal fabrics) is having on fashion overall.

In fact, even fast fashion companies such as Zara’s parent company Inditex have now pledged to work more closely with Lenzing over the coming year. Plus, the more that we consumers become aware of these types of fabrics and their various different benefits, the more we can also encourage brands and designers to adopt them in their clothing production as well.

4) The enfranchisement of hemp
Increasingly, companies like Patagonia are beginning to shed light on the true benefits of growing industrial hemp for everything from clothing to building materials. As this shift begins to take place, we believe that we’re set to see a lot more clothing produced from hemp in the coming year and beyond. Which is great because not only does hemp grow rapidly and require little water and no pesticides or herbicides, but it also breathes incredibly well and holds up superbly over time.

To date, hemp has been incorrectly associated with marijuana that you smoke — despite the fact that you can’t get high off the industrial hemp that’s used for clothing and the like. In 2017 though, we expect to see misconceptions such as these continue to drop off, as people realise what Patagonia has been trying to tell us: that cultivating the stuff can actually benefit the environment, by helping to improve soil health by replenishing vital nutrients and preventing erosion.

5) A move towards value
Last but certainly not least, one major thing that we are looking forward to in 2017 is a move away from fast fashion, as consumers begin to realise the true cost of clothing produced in this way. Already key luxury players like Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele have begun to speak out about the fact that fast fashion is negating the dream of luxury. And, as a result, we are also expecting to see a move back towards quality over quantity.

The Business of Fashion tends to agree here — and they certainly know their stuff. In 2017, BoF says it expects to see general growth improvements across all fashion segments except for discount. In particular, they predict a spike for the value and affordable-luxury segments — “as more consumers trade down from luxury to affordable luxury and trade up from discount to value.” This is a significant revolution from years past, which have been primarily dominated by a race to the bottom. And as discount begins to pale in significance, the value is diverted back towards important social and environmental issues that desperately need to be addressed. With that in mind then, let’s bring on 2017.

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