Fashion for good
2020-01-13 | By Huw Hughes
There are few industries with a worse environmental record than fashion. But the Fashion for Good Experience in Amsterdam is driving the cleaning up of the apparel business.
The stages of the apparel supply chain–including sourcing materials, designing, manufacturing, selling and transporting clothing–is energy-intensive, wasteful and is responsible for an enormous carbon footprint. A report by Quantis found the global production of clothing and footwear accounts for eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that one garbage truck worth of textiles is thrown to landfill or burned every second.
But as concern over the fashion industry’s environmental impact continues to grow, it’s possible to see real progress being made in certain areas of the business. For those living in or visiting Amsterdam, you have to go no further than the Fashion for Good Experience at Rokin 102 to see some of that progress first-hand.
“Our overarching goal at Fashion for Good is to change the fashion industry, to make it cleaner and more responsible, and if you want to change an industry, the consumer is as important as the companies and brands themselves,” says Fashion for Good’s communications manager Anne-Ro Klevant Groen. “Amsterdam is the perfect place to have the museum because people here seem to be very aware of the issue of sustainability and a lot of start-ups are situated here.”
Dedicated to sustainable fashion
The museum, which opened last year in the heart of Amsterdam, is in its own words “the world’s first interactive museum dedicated to sustainable fashion innovation,” and is supported by founding partner C&A Foundation and corporate partners including adidas, C&A and PVH Corp. At the heart of the museum is information about the core business of the organisation, their innovation platform, with for example Fashion for Good’s Accelerator Programme, a 12-week programme running twice a year that aims to find the brightest start-ups that are driving innovation in sustainability, circularity and transparency– those “on the verge of disrupting the fashion industry.” The museum puts their innovations on display for visitors to explore through a series of interactive exhibits and activations.
Engineering company Resortecs joined the latest Fashion for Good Accelerator Programme in September. The company, which won H&M’s Global Change Award in 2018, developed a stitching thread that dissolves under high temperatures (between 160ºC and 190ºC). This innovation promotes circular fashion and aims to optimise the recycling process– which remains one of the biggest obstacles in the fashion industry–by allowing outfits to be separated easily into individual reusable components to be reused, reducing the need to create new materials from scratch.
Worn Again Technologies, as the name might suggest, is advancing the clothing recycling process. The London-based textile recycling company has developed a chemical process that can separate polyester and cotton clothing into raw materials. The company, which is now scaling this innovative technology, hopes that the process can close the loop on the excessively wasteful fashion industry, and allow reusable materials to become part of a continual and circular production process.
A company a little closer to home is Amsterdam-based digital fashion house The Fabricant, which uses motion capture, 3D animation software and body scanning to create hyper-realistic digital fashion. The company believes that fashion doesn’t have to be physical to exist and envisions a future where people will buy clothes to digitally add to online photos of themselves. Sounds a little far-fetched?
Apparently not. The company’s first digital couture dress was sold for $9,500 at an auction during the cryptocurrency conference, Ethereal Summit, held in New York in 2019.
The consumer is key
But it’s not all about the start-ups. According to Klevant Groen, the consumer plays a huge role when it comes to the future of fashion, which is why the customer-facing museum was such an important step in Fashion for Good’s evolution. “While it’s great that fashion brands, retailers and manufacturers are coming together to make fashion in a more circular and sustainable way, in order to change the industry we need a different mindset from the consumer, too,” Klevant Groen says. “A lot of that comes down to educating the consumer and showing them that there are alternatives to fast-fashion. We need to learn to stop buying as much as we do now, to treat our garments better so we can keep them for longer, to be mindful of what we buy, its quality and who is making it.”
When entering the museum, visitors are given ‘Action Bracelets’–made of recycled plastic, of course–which they can use to interact with the innovative fashion garments on display. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) bracelet then curates a personal ‘action plan’ for each person, showing them ways in which they can become a more sustainable fashion consumer in their everyday lives. Suggestions include only washing clothes with cold water or not buying any new clothes for a month. Small efforts, perhaps, but the cumulative effect of such small commitments by a lot of people can be profound, and that, according to Klevant Groen, is the key takeaway from the museum. It’s about showing people that communication and collaboration is key to changing an industry, even one as enormous as the fashion industry.
“I personally see a lot of people accusing others of greenwashing (the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice), or not being honest. But I think that what is most important is that we change and in order for us to change we need to help and support each other instead of punishing each other,” she says. “I think you will grow and change faster if you are motivated and I don’t think being negative is the right way to go about that.”
The museum covers 844 square metres and 9230 metres of ECONYL yarn is used throughout.
Visitors can collect and commit to 33 engaging actions for personal change.
Choose a Good Fashion slogan, customise the design and print it on one of the museum’s Cradle to Cradle Certified™ T-shirts, all in real-time in the Design Studio.
About the author
Originally from Bath in the south of England, Huw Hughes is currently an editor for Amsterdam-based B2B fashion news platform FashionUnited. When he’s not working, Huw enjoys travelling and socialising, and has a weakness for good Dutch beer and good English tea.