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How Technology is Making Fashion More Sustainable

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Regular contributor, Dakota Murphey, discusses how the rise of technology over the years has paved the way for brands and consumers to both live and buy more sustainably. Dakota has more than a decade of experience in business growth, working independently as a business consultant for a number of years.

In today’s day and age, we not only have devices that can access the internet at all times of the day from wherever you are in the world, but we also have cars that both run on electricity and can even be driven without the need for a driver.

This unprecedented rise in technology has affected industries of all shapes and sizes – from the construction industry to the pharmaceutical, finance and legal landscapes.

The same has also been true within the fashion industry, with more and more clothing brands being seen to utilise technological advances within their processes and ideologies. In doing so, this has also enabled many brands to work more sustainably, producing a variety of garments with much more of an eco-friendly conscience.

And this is something that is especially important today. After all, despite the coronavirus pandemic stealing all the headlines in recent times, climate change remains a pressing issue in dire need of addressing.

Not only are sea levels rising on a regular basis but deforestation is destroying the habitats of much of the world’s wildlife and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at their highest level for 800,000 years.

In other words, something needed to be done to stem the flow of climate change and, thanks to technology, it now can be.

In this article, we will take a detailed look at some of the ways in which technological advances have enabled the fashion industry to work more sustainably, highlighting some of the areas brands are looking to adopt both now and in the future.

Automated fashion

The rise of fast fashion over the years has been one of the biggest contributing factors towards climate change, pumping vast amounts of waste into landfills and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

However, thanks to the rise of e-commerce and social commerce over the past ten years, consumer behaviour has now drastically changed, with many more people caring about where the clothes they buy are sourced from. This, in turn, has led many consumers to buy secondhand clothes, watches and accessories, often utilising postal repair, upcycling or preloved-based services in place of buying new products.

Because of this, many fashion brands are starting to adopt more of a ‘fashion on demand’ principle, only manufacturing clothes when they are actually ordered. This, in turn, helps keep batch production costs down, reduces the number of returns likely to happen and, ultimately, enables businesses to function with a more eco-friendly conscience.

Alternative textiles

The materials that are commonly used to create clothes often use large numbers of resources and biodegrade at an incredibly slow pace.

Each cotton shirt, for example, uses the same quantity of water to create as one person drinks in almost three years, while materials like nylon and polyester emit a variety of dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Because of this, many brands are consistently on the lookout for new ways to create clothes that utilise either recyclable or sustainably sourced alternative materials.

Designers like Stella McCartney, for instance, now use a wide range of innovative materials in their designs, including a bio-based fur that emits up to 63% fewer greenhouse gases than conventional synthetics.

Similarly, Piñatex – an eco-friendly alternative to leather – and muskin – a vegetable leather created from mushrooms – are two other forms of sustainable materials currently being used within the world of fashion.

Virtual dressing

In light of the pandemic, millions of people worldwide were left with no choice but to stay at home, turning to the internet to find new clothes.

This, in turn, left many of the world’s fitting rooms empty and led to the gradual adoption of ‘virtual dressing’ – a 3D technology designed to digitise the trying-on process, allowing users to determine how clothes will fit them with just a few clicks of a button.

By embracing this technology both during and after the pandemic, brands have since seen a 48% decrease in return rates, which has kept their carbon footprint substantially lower as a result.

It has also removed the need for consumers to pump harmful gases into the air by driving to the shops, enabling them to try and buy clothes from the comfort of their own homes.

Final thoughts…

The rise of technology over the years has paved the way for brands and consumers to both live and buy more sustainably – a consumer-based trend that is likely to only continue as time moves on.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.