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It’s time for a fashion industry reset

British and American fashion councils are both calling for a slower style of business.

The past several months of lockdown have given everyone a chance to mull over how to do things differently, and the fashion industry is no exception. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council have joined forces to create a set of recommendations for how fashion could change going forward in a post-pandemic world.

It is a well-known fact that fashion is notoriously harmful to the environment. It's said to be the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil and gas sector, emitting enormous amounts of carbon for all the shipping of textiles and finished products, the water-intensive production of cotton, and the toxic finishing processes for countless fabrics that get flushed into waterways with little to no treatment. Then there's the rampant waste caused by fast fashion's cheap, quasi-disposal styles. So it's clear that something needs to change, but what and how exactly?

The new recommendations call for a new way of doing business that's a fairly radical departure from the norm, but at the same time logical and reasonable to implement. All of the suggestions revolve around the concept of slowing down, as the current “fast, unforgiving pace” makes life hectic and stressful for designers, brands, and retailers.

“We strongly recommend designers focus on no more than two main collections a year. We firmly believe this can provide our talents with the time they need to reconnect to the creativity and craft that makes our field so unique in the first place. A slower pace… will have a positive effect on the overall wellbeing of the industry.”

A slower-moving fashion industry would mean:

– A delivery cycle that better aligns with the seasons and when the customer actually needs new items. “One of the quirks of the industry is that winter clothes are often delivered to shops in summer season and vice versa” (via The Guardian).

– Fewer collections overall, ideally two main ones per year. This would mean foregoing the “cruise or pre-collections that fall in between the two main annual collections … often debuted in lavish locations such as palaces in Marrakech or on the Great Wall of China.”

– Biannual shows kept in global fashion capitals, not far-flung exotic locations. This would spare journalists and buyers from having to travel incessantly: “This too has placed tremendous stress on the industry and significantly increased each individual’s carbon footprint.” (In-between season collections would not warrant a show, but simply debut in showrooms.)

A focus on sustainability will improve everyone's fashion experience, the councils say:

“Through the creation of less product, with higher levels of creativity and quality, products will be valued and their shelf life will increase. The focus on creativity and quality of products, reduction in travel and focus on sustainability (something we encourage of the entire industry) will increase the consumer’s respect and ultimately their greater enjoyment in the products that we create.”

It sounds exactly like what critics of the current fashion model, as well as certain forward-thinking designers, have been saying for years, but now it's finally coming from within the industry itself, which is hopeful news. It doesn't seem too farfetched, either, with a recent UK survey finding that many shoppers are more inclined to buy second-hand, prioritize quality, and make things last (suggesting they'd be more comfortable with an upfront investment in a pricier piece than they would have, say, five years ago).

Hopefully this will become a reality. Read the councils' message here.

British and American fashion councils are both calling for a slower style of business.