The Rise of Sustainability in Fashion

October 30, 2023

The global fashion industry, long criticized for its environmental impact and labor practices, is undergoing a revolutionary transformation due to the integration of technology and modern sustainability practices. The concept of fashion technology is not limited to  the creation of innovative fashion designs; it can also be leveraged to increase a brand’s sustainability efforts, like helping to reimagine the entire supply chain to make it more eco-friendly and socially responsible. We will delve into how fashion tech is redefining sustainability in fashion, exploring how technology is being used to both create sustainable materials and reduce waste. One approach that brands can take to manage their transactions and activities is using JOOR, the fashion industry’s premier wholesale management platform. JOOR serves more than 14,000 brands and 600,000 retailers, including Stella McCarteny and Selfridges, who have previously acted upon their value of sustainability to mitigate wasteful practices.   

Sustainable Material Innovation

One of the most significant ways fashion technology is reshaping sustainability is through the development of sustainable materials. Traditional textile production is resource-intensive and often involves harmful chemicals. However, advancements have paved the way for sustainable alternatives:

a. Biodegradable Fabrics: Innovations in biotechnology have led to the creation of biodegradable textiles like mushroom leather, pineapple leather (Piñatex), and lab-grown fabrics. These materials offer alternatives to traditional animal leather and synthetic materials, thereby extending the product life-cycle.  

b. Recycled Fabrics: Fashion technology has also embraced recycling, with companies using post-consumer waste to create new textiles. For instance, JOOR client Stella McCartney demonstrates this method by crafting leggings out of recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, in January 2023, the brand launched parka made from Econyl (regenerated nylon created from discarded fishing nets), that is both 100 percent recycled and recyclable. Using sustainable inputs to make clothing and footwear reduces the environmental impact of production.

c. 3D Printing: 3D printing technology allows for the precise creation of clothing and accessories, minimizing waste by only using the exact necessary amount of material. This technique is especially valuable for custom-fit garments. 

Waste Reduction

Fashion has historically had problems with excess waste, from fabric scraps to unsold inventory. Technology is addressing these issues in several ways:

a. Zero-Waste Pattern Making: Advanced algorithms are being used to create patterns that generate little to no fabric waste during production. This not only reduces environmental impact but also cuts down on production costs.

b. On-Demand Production: With the help of technology, brands can produce styles on demand, eliminating the need for overproduction and reducing excess inventory that often ends up in landfills.

c. Circular Fashion: Circular economy models are gaining momentum, encouraging consumers to return used items to brands for recycling or repurposing. Technology facilitates the tracking and processing of these items, closing the loop on fashion waste. For instance, that Stella McCartney parka accomplishes just this, because “you can either bring it back to a Stella McCartney store or you can use the QR code on there and post it, and we can then recycle it back into fiber and make it into another garment.” 

Eco-Friendly Production Processes

Fashion technology is also in the process of optimizing production processes:

a. Dyeing Techniques: Traditional dyeing methods can be water-intensive and polluting. However, advancements in digital printing and dye-sublimation technologies are reducing water usage and chemical waste in textile production.

b. Supply Chain Transparency: Blockchain technology is being used to create transparent supply chains, allowing consumers to trace the journey of their clothing from raw materials to finished product. More specifically, blockchain provides a digital ledger that keeps a clear and secure record of transactions in a tamper-evident manner for various parties to see. This transparency promotes ethical practices and ensures accountability.

c. Energy-Efficient Manufacturing: Sustainable factories are integrating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to reduce their carbon footprint. Selfridges, a retailer on our platform, has rolled out their Naked Click & Collect service, reducing their transit packaging and saving an estimated 7.7 tonnes of carbon emissions. 

JOOR: A Sustainable Platform for Wholesale in Fashion

JOOR is a digital B2B wholesale fashion platform that empowers retailers and brands to digitize their wholesale business, thus engaging in more sustainable wholesale transactions while improving the user experience. 

a. Sustainable Fashion Marketplace: In its Project Earth Report 2023, Selfridges states that they turned to JOOR when implementing their Material Transformation project, which refers to their aim of transitioning to more sustainable materials. Leveraging JOOR has enabled Selfridges to support data tracking by capturing detailed material information on all own-bought fashion products. They even explored JOOR’s business model to non-fashion divisions such as food, beauty and technology, which then inspired the expansion of their Material Transformation project to procurement and property. 

b. Virtual Showrooms: JOOR’s virtual fashion showroom allows brands to showcase their story and products with customizable drag-and-drop templates, engaging videos, high-res 360° imagery, and shoppable digital linesheets. This contributes to environmental, economic, and social sustainability in various ways; decreased energy and material consumption, since the need for physical infrastructure is eliminated, lower carbon emissions, with commuting to tradeshows or market appointments becoming less frequent or totally unnecessary, and less resource-intensive product revisions and recalls, as the ability to make real-time updates to product offerings provides flexibility, to name a few examples.  

It is clear that technology is ushering in a new era of sustainability in the fashion industry. From sustainable materials to waste reduction strategies, eco-friendly production processes, and consumer empowerment through JOOR’s advanced B2B platform, technology is redefining the way we approach fashion. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, fashion brands that embrace these technological innovations are not only reducing their environmental footprint but also staying ahead in a rapidly evolving industry. The future of fashion lies in the hands of those who combine style with sustainability, and fashion tech is leading the way toward a more eco-friendly and socially responsible fashion world. 

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