Sustainability is not a new concept in the fashion industry. The past decade has seen the rise of eco-friendly brands such as Reformation, Veja, and Simon Miller. Luxury fashion houses such as Burberry have reportedly shifted towards a more ethical approach, and more household names like Gap and Nike have followed suit.
But what the industry is lacking most in terms of sustainability is a response from the biggest culprit of environmental waste: the low-cost, high-volume fast-fashion retailer.
So far, H&M has been the most vocal in its attempt to reach a more conscious customer.
The company’s 2017 Sustainability Report revealed that recycled or other sustainably sourced materials made up 35 percent of H&M’s total material use. The company hopes to only sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
But not everyone was convinced. That same year, Bloomberg reported that the Västeras combined heat and power station in Sweden, a facility that has pledged to become a fossil fuel-free facility by 2020, has taken to burning recycled wood and garbage—including 15 tons of discarded H&M clothing.
“Few, if any, brands have truly cracked sustainability,” said fashion expert Christina Binkley. “There’s no formidable oversight body to help the public determine how sustainable a product actually is. So while it’s great that brands are talking about it, the term is largely meaningless, and is often more marketing than truth in advertising.”
But perhaps the solution involves coming up with a clear definition of what sustainability really is. Asos, another fast-fashion retailer, hopes to tackle the problem by educating its designers from the bottom up, according to Vogue.
The company will be launching a pilot training program on circular fashion in partnership with the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF). The initiative is part of the 2020 Circular Fashion Commitments that Asos promised to achieve at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit last year.
The announcement comes just a week after the company pledged to ban cashmere, silk, down and feathers across its entire platform by the end of January 2019.
This month, 15 members of Asos’s core design team will work with CSF experts to complete a series of workshops, discussions and drop-in sessions emphasizing the full life cycle of products. The results of this pilot will then be used to refine and roll out training across all Asos design departments.