Fixing Fashion: A Framework to Make Sustainable Fashion the Industry Standard

This is a great article forwarded to me yesterday!

Often I am part of discussions on the best way to ‘fix fashion’. How do we move such a massive industry from the unethical, environment destroying beast that it is, to one in which sustainable fashion is just the industry standard? You know the drill – clean and clever and kind business.

People feel quite strongly that their own area of expertise offers THE best solution. This is an enduring reality of any specialty area, and why evidenced based decision making was introduced into medicine & healthcare in the 1970’s (more on how this relates later). Recently questions have been raised about the actual impact of hashtag activism (notably #whomademyclothes). While the development of sustainable fashion brands and the rise of ethical consumerism have been critiqued (and counter critiqued) as an approach that will not work because it fails to address the complex global politics that are involved in making the industry what it is.

It is true that no single solution will work to fix fashion
Like all wicked problems, wicked solutions are required. Yet all solutions are important and make up part of the puzzle in creating an industry where sustainable fashion is the standard. How do we know? Let’s draw some parallels with public health – the specialist area that researches and delivers programmes to prevent large groups of people from getting ill (think preventing lung cancer before it happens by taxing cigarettes). Those committed to changing the fashion industry (in fact any industry) could learn a lot from public health. What years of research investment, experimental trials and implementation of policy have proven is that health is impacted at multiple levels that range from individual to economic & political, and hence improvement occurs when action is taken at all levels. In this slightly ugly diagram (public health could learn a lot from fashion & design) you can see a pyramid shape model where actions at the base of the model (the economic & political level) have the largest impact on health for the least individual effort compared to those actions at the top of the pyramid. We know this because we have science (oh how I love science!). What is important to note is the science also tells us action on ALL levels is needed to achieve the greatest health gain.

Drawing on this model from health we can propose a framework for fixing fashion – a framework where solutions to achieve a sustainable fashion industry (both those that are in practice and some that are not yet in popular usage) are arranged by both the individual effort they require (for consumers and designers) and the size of the impact they are likely to have in terms of sustainable fashion development.

The full article here:


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