All brand-spanking new, 2016 is ripe with possibilities. But what does it hold for the fashion industry? We asked 35 eco-fashion movers and shakers, including an overseer of a multi-brand conglomerate, an award-winning filmmaker, a Greenpeace campaigner, an assistant dean, a fashion compliance attorney, a vegan footwear designer, a “slow fashion” boutique owner, and a few of our media comrades in arms to play soothsayer and offer predictions for the year ahead.
MARIE-CLAIRE DAVEU (CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER AND HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS, KERING)
This past year was pivotal with the agreement of an ambitious climate accord and the launch of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The milestones for a more sustainable world are set and the significance of private sector engagement has never been clearer.
In 2016, the world will be watching to see how we act and it’s the time to launch coherent and powerful actions.
Recognition of the fact that the future success of business depends on integrating broader social and environmental goals is paramount. I believe that a new business paradigm will start emerging that will include the following:
- A deeper understanding of how global business operates, particularly the flow of goods and materials across global supply chains and where change needs to happen.
- A push for “radical transparency,” which will demand more accountability for and monitoring of environmental and social impacts using tools like Kering’s Environmental Profit and Loss Account.
- An enhanced awareness and increased traceability of the elements that go into our products, particularly where they are from and how they impact the world in positive and negative ways.
- A new openness of climate-smart and innovative solutions across supply chains including technological but also around agriculture and material production.
- New and entrepreneurial collaborations in our industry, and also across different sectors, to ensure we can deliver on solutions and actions with multiple benefits to companies and to society.
In 2016, it is my hope that we will all embark on a new era of innovative “eco-solutions” with many exciting and powerful outcomes for all of us.
LIVIA FIRTH (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ECO-AGE; CO-FOUNDER, GREEN CARPET CHALLENGE)
2016 is going to be the year where we will take fashion back for what it is: beautiful clothes made with love and quality.
We will all adopt the “30 wears”rule (buy only things which you can commit wearing a minimum of 30 times), so that we get more fashion mileage per dress.
“Fast fashion” will slowly die as we will start realizing they have taken us for a ride for too many years, addicting us to buying too fast and too cheaply, and ending up spending much more money than we would normally do on things that not only do not last in our wardrobes, but are made with the suffering of the people at the end of the supply chain.
Fashion and disposability will finally not be in the same sentence, and we’ll be proud to wear the same things multiple times while sporting the beautiful stories of the clothes we buy.
SASS BROWN (AUTHOR; PUBLISHER, ECO-FASHION TALK; ACTING ASSOCIATE DEAN, FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY)
I am very hopeful for 2016, I think it holds great promise for a more ethical fashion industry, one that is small and diversified, not big and branded.
One populated by emerging designers, artisans and craftspeople around the globe, each with their own unique voice and character, each making their individual contribution to a more ethical fashion industry.
“Fast fashion “ and overconsumption are becoming highly unfashionable.
It’s far more chic to invest in well-made, well-designed clothing made ethically. Pieces you can cherish, that bring pleasure, and support local economies, emerging designers, and craftspeople, and tell the stories of every hand that went into the making.
I think the era of the mega-brand is coming to an end.
The model of constant growth and quarterly reports to investors showing ever increasing sales is simply unsustainable, and not the only measure of success. A
n ever-increasing number of designers are measuring success on the quality and longevity of their work, on their work-life balance, on reducing their impact on people and planet, while more and more buyers are finding value in knowing the provenance of what they purchase, not just country of origin, but the actual faces of the farmers, spinners and sewers, the names of those that touched their garment before them.
Really beautiful design can never be made at the cost of people or planet.
AMY HALL (DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, EILEEN FISHER)
As an industry “insider,” I see three game-changing fashion trends taking deeper root in 2016.
- Fiber recycling: This is the year when we will find out which recycled-fiber developer will be the first to offer viable fabric suitable for mass-market apparel. So many are reaching for the golden ring. And it couldn’t come soon enough, what with deforestation and water scarcity threatening the future of virgin fibers as we know them.
- Living wage: After more than a century of stagnant wages for our garment-industry workers, there are murmurings of change on the horizon, such as the London living wage movement, the U.S. minimum wage campaigns, non-governmental organization activism, and brand acknowledgement of the severe impact that purchasing practices have on supply-chain compliance. Garment workers shouldn’t pop the champagne yet, but higher wages are in the air.
- Fast fashion: Nothing we do will really matter until we can loosen the consumers’ grip on “fast fashion” and get her to think of apparel as an investment. We repair our cars, our iPhones, and our furniture. Why not our clothes? Is 2016 the year for this tide to turn? I wish I could say yes, but I fear we have more sales to make, more clothes to discard, more charity donation bins to fill and more trends to watch. Oh, like this one.
SIMONE CIPRIANI (HEAD AND FOUNDER, INTERNATIONAL TRADE CENTRE’S ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE)
I see many efforts by fashion businesses to show some degree of sustainability. Consumers want it, the human kind needs it, brands try to cope with it. Nevertheless they won’t produce many changes in the year to come, for two reasons:
- Sustainability is about undertaking a journey that requires time and a well-defined agenda. Results are often not immediately visible, however, when a strategy is put in place. This creates a solid ground for change, which some groups and brands are seriously engaged in.
- Unfortunately, some actors in this industry will continue to create superficial sustainability strategies. This acts as a facade that impedes any real engagement to move away from unsustainable practices. This worsens the impact of the industry on both people and planet.
At the same time, institutional subjects such as fashion schools, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations will promote dialogue around this theme.
This is important, but it often takes place with scarce reference to what really happens and can be done in the industry.
The same will happen with some governments and international organizations: lots of talk on sustainability in the fashion industry, unfortunately coupled with scarce result-oriented action.
SUZANNE MCKENZIE (FOUNDER, CEO, AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ABLE MADE)
This year I predict we will see a continued focus on the supply chain by the design and fashion community.
Increasingly, consumers want to know where their products are made, who made the products, and tje causes the company supports, but amazing product design needs to lead that conversation to reach the masses.
The emphasis will continue to be on innovation in material and textile design, production techniques, and fresh design with the story of sustainability intertwined into the product.
Design is king—and queen—and how designers weave the story of sustainability into the product will be the added authentic, cool factor.
Functionality and quality matter, but in the end, innovative and beautiful design, what the company stand for, the people who worked on the product, and the brand message all matter.
KATHLEEN TALBOT (DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY AND BUSINESS OPERATIONS, REFORMATION)
2015 was a monumental year for sustainable fashion.
There will be an incredible opportunity in 2016 to build on that awareness, engage more, and keep pushing for transformational changes in how we make clothes.
We want to continue to talk about the true costs associated with fashion with our customers and give them simple, fun ways to make real changes, like hosting a clothes swap, or line-drying!
We’re seeing brands big and small take a serious look at more sustainable practices. I think in 2016, we’ll see that trickle down to the supply chain.
Sustainable fabrics, dyestuffs, etc., will hopefully move from niche to more widely available—and we could start to realize economies of scale. So while we’re talking about true costs of fashion and making sure we are making and buying clothes more responsibly, we can also make it easier and more accessible to do so.
In 2016, Reformation is really excited to expand our RefScale tool to include not just water and carbon footprints, but also important “costs” like labor and waste.
We also need to address chemistry and toxicity. Fashion is the third-largest polluting industry in the world.
We want to be a part of solutions to clean that up, whether that’s helping to develop a closed-loop fiber to replace viscose, or innovating more-efficient dye practices.
JASON KIBBEY (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SUSTAINABLE APPAREL COALITION)
2016 will be the year of surprising alignment where brands, governments, activists, factories, non-governmental organizations, and sustainably minded consumers align around common goals.
All of these actors and stakeholders come together around a common language to measure and share the impacts of clothing and footwear on workers and the planet.
We’ll see early signs of agreement on how and when we must communicate this information to all stakeholders, including consumers.
Finally, there will also be agreement on simple a definition for impact: elimination of the most harmful practices within the industry while demonstrating measurable improvements of retailers, brands, factories, and materials every year.
SHANNON WHITEHEAD (FOUNDER, FACTORY45)
I predict that 2016 is going to be an even bigger year for the independent design movement.
Never before in the history of fashion has it been easier to start an independent clothing label.
Thanks to crowdfunding, e-commerce and social media, an aspiring entrepreneur no longer needs hundreds of thousands of dollars or celebrity endorsements to get off the ground.
There’s a growing list of resources at our disposal to create fashion in a sustainable and ethical way. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that any fashion business can be a sustainable one and that belief will continue to be adopted in the new year.
I’m excited to see how the industry continues to change thanks to indie designers across the globe.
ORSOLA DE CASTRO (CO-FOUNDER, FASHION REVOLUTION; CO-FOUNDER, ESTETHICA AT LONDON FASHION WEEK; CO-FOUNDER, FROM SOMEWHERE, RECLAIM TO WEAR)
If 2014 was eye-opening time, and we saw the fashion industry finally acknowledging that change must happen, in 2016, post-COP21, it’s time to prove that you mean it.
Watch out for “greenwashing” in every shade of green, from deep olive to fluorescent, and learn to know your true heroes from the ones donning a disguise.
That’s all it takes: think, learn, act.
That’s why we want you to become a Fashion Revolutionary: so you will be curious, you will find out and you will do something.
In 2016, the noise of all this thinking, asking questions such as #whomademyclothes, and all this action—it will be deafening.
MAXINE BÉDAT (CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, ZADY)
In 2016, “greenwashing” will be washed out, as we define currently vague terms like “transparent,” “ethical,” and “sustainable.”
As a result, consumers will be empowered to make more informed choices, which will push the industry forward.
NICOLE RYCROFT (FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CANOPY)
Like any other horoscope, my prediction for what the new-year will bring for fashion requires the stars to align. Luckily for our planet, in recent years, the stars have been shining as respected designers like Stella McCartney and brand icons like Levi’s have stepped forward to lead the industry on an array of ecological issues be it animal welfare, water conservation, or reducing toxics in the clothing supply chain. One issue that has quickly gained traction with global design icons and apparel powerhouses during the past two years is the aggressively emerging threat that viscose and rayon pose to the world’s forests, animals and climate. A little-known issue two years ago, many brands and designers have responded quickly to Canopy’s campaign to curtail the growing use of endangered forests in viscose and rayon fabrics. Canopy Style has seen remarkable momentum since its public launch in November 2013. With 100 million trees disappearing into fabric each year, and that number predicted to double in the next decade, expect to see more traction on this issue in 2016 with the following notable milestones:
- Another 20 to 30 global apparel brands and designers join early Canopy Style pacesetters, such as Stella McCartney, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Zara/Inditex, and Marks & Spencer, in eliminating the use of endangered forests from their fabrics by 2017.
- The first verification audits of rayon producers that will guarantee lines of rayon and viscose fabrics that do not originate from endangered forests. And parallel with that…
- The first clothing lines that are verified to be free of endangered forest hitting runways and stores—keep your eye out late spring for that!
As the understanding of environmental responsibility evolves and matures within the fashion sector, apparel brands and designers will do more than just “put their own house in order.” 2016 will also see:
- More brands taking a leaf out of Marks & Spencer’s book and bringing greater transparency to their environmental and social performance reporting.
- Breakthroughs in the development of new sustainable fabric options with increased use of recycled fabrics and non-wood fibers as a raw material, as well as more low-water and less-toxic production methods.
- Brands stepping right back through their supply chains to advocate for conservation of endangered forest—such as Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, the Great Bear Rainforest, Canada’s Boreal—and in defense of frontline communities’ rights to their traditional lands.
Throw in a hint of romance and financial fortune and we have an exciting 2016 horoscope for all of us lovers of both fashion and our planet.
BIANCA ALEXANDER (CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND HOST, CONSCIOUS LIVING TV)
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate 82 million pounds of textile waste per year, amounting to about 82 pounds per person annually.
Guess how much ends up in landfills?
A whopping 85 percent, or 70 pounds per person.
Given these numbers, and the heavy toll manufacturing new clothes—even if produced more sustainably—has on the Earth, our water sources, and greenhouse-gas emissions, the most promising eco-fashion trend for 2016 will be wearing secondhand clothing.
Instead of dumping old trends in the trash and replacing them seasonally with brand new threads, this year conscious fashionistas will help the Council For Textile Recycling reach its goal of zero waste by 2037.
This means only buying pieces that have lived at least one previous life cycle, taking better care of the garments we love, and regularly editing our closets by recycling —not throwing away— items that no longer fit or bring us “joy” (as per Marie Kondo).
In a time where creativity and originality are paramount, socially conscious thrift stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will offer consumers the chance to flex their sartorial muscles and construct quality, one-of-a-kind wardrobes no one else on the block could possibly mimic— and all at a serious discount.
What could be better?
Fortunately, this won’t hamper fabulous style. Old is new again on the runways, as designers reimagine vintage looks popularized in bygone eras from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
With historically timeless silhouettes at top of mind and the growing availability of swapping, bartering, consigning, and upcycling both online and via brick-and -mortar outlets (even H&M has gotten in on the action), rocking secondhand duds will be 2016’s most stylish antidote to “fast fashion” and what I’ll be wearing again all year.
CHRISTINA DEAN (FOUNDER AND CEO, REDRESS)
For 2016, the ongoing focus on waste reduction will intensify as unabated momentum continues about the urgent need for seismic change in the fashion industry.
So we’ll be hearing more about shifting toward a circular-economy model; but the critical question is whether we can scale up discussions into real and tangible action.
As part of the battle on textile waste and the race to capitalize on this valuable resource, we’ll see continued experimentation with recycled fibers and more entrepreneurs entering the arena.
If this all goes to plan and better recycling systems and technologies continue to develop, enabling the capture of wasted resources before they hit landfills or incinerators, we could be lucky enough to see textile-waste rates decline.
At the same time, most consumers are still in the dark about their responsibility to be part of the positive change needed, so the decline in textile waste is likely to be disappointingly slow.
CHRISTINA SEWELL (FASHION CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS)
From kicked, thrown, punched, and mutilated sheep across the wool industry’s main three exporting countries to emaciated cows smuggled into Bangladesh and the children forced to help treat their skins with a toxic brew of chemicals for leather to alligators and crocodiles held in filthy and severely crowded concrete pits and slaughtered by workers who stab them and dislocate their vertebrae—often while the animals are still conscious—it was a significant year for PETA exposés of the gruesome world of animals used in the clothing industry.
This is why luxury fashion house Stella McCartney recently pledged to begin developing alternative vegan materials for use in place of wool in future collections, trendy retailers like Free People and Abercrombie & Fitch continue to increase their “vegan leather” offerings, and high-street brand James Perse has joined the more than 110 other top companies that have banned angora wool from their shelves.
As more and more businesses and world citizens alike begin to understand that there is simply no way to use animals humanely and sustainably to cut a profit, we are positioned to see further progressive leaps in the fashion sector in 2016.
Consider that the well-respected Los Angeles Times has reported that, according to the California Fashion Association, “vegan is a new phrase that has now become a catchword for entrepreneurs,” and the Financial Review’s fashion industry analysis this year asserts that “another reason more designers are forgoing animal products in their designs is the technology exists now to produce a much broader range of eco-friendly and ethically manufactured materials.”
And they’re absolutely right. With the countless ethical, vegan options to choose from today, including bamboo, Tencel, hemp, acrylic, viscose, and cotton blends, which can all be used in place of wool; handsome and durable materials like cork, microfiber made from recycled plastic bottles, and vegan Ultrasuede derived from post-industrial polyester, which can be used as a substitute for leather; and the cruelty-free and eco-conscious synthetic down offerings on the market, such as PrimaLoft, PolarGuard, Thinsulate, and Plumtech, there’s simply no reason to spend our fashion dollars on cruelty to animals.
It helps that there are plenty of up-and-coming and established companies using innovative materials, such as Save the Duck and its Plumtech and Uniqlo and its Heattech, that are making waves with their chic vegan technologies, while millennial favorites such as Express, Patagonia, and The North Face are heavily promoting their animal-friendly options: Minus The (Express), Better Sweater (Patagonia), and ThermoBall (The North Face), as well. This shift is unavoidable as businesses realize that the existing model of exploitation is broken and that it’s too dangerous to risk falling behind the curve of social responsibility and innovation in this age of consumer consciousness.
All this means that vegan is the new standard in fashion.
GIUSY BETTONI (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, C.L.A.S.S.)
For C.L.A.S.S., 2015 has been a year full of innovations in terms of beautiful, performing and responsible materials dedicated to fashion.
Looking ahead to 2016, it will be surely keeping the pace! It’s also very clear to C.L.A.S.S., however, that innovation can be effective only when it goes together with communication.
There are so many new values in innovative and responsible materials that need to be clearly defined, sometimes certified, and then communicated in new and appropriate ways—not just to members of trade but also to the contemporary consumer who is looking for “good values.”
For C.L.A.S.S., the new opportunity and challenge is to support this new level of creativity, as well as facilitate communication among the myriad parts involved in fashion, such as design, production, and sales.
We confirm that the most important aspect for the next year is the process of sharing what we know and exchanging information across the textile fields, always with the objective to learn, share, and grow smarter business ideas that add value and beauty for the consumer.
This is one of the main reason why we have created the C.L.A.S.S. Education program, a key part of our plan, based on the purpose and commitment to better share knowledge with all the new upcoming designers and makers. Our goal for 2016 is to share our smarts, grow our influence, and extend our reach to professionals everywhere looking to make a difference.
Are you ready? We are.
KIRSTEN BRODDE (CAMPAIGN LEADER, DETOX MY FASHION, GREENPEACE)
I predict that more people will demand responsible business models from fashion companies in the near future and that sustainable fashion will begin to transform the industry.
The 33 global companies that have signed the commitment to Detox will deliver visible progress in the next year and break the business-as-usual attitude that has dominated the industry far too long.
We’ll see a rise in the repairing, lending, and sharing of clothing. These forward-thinking trends have the potential to slow down the resource-hungry and destructive disposable-fashion model that turned clothing into a throw-a-way commodity that is no longer valued.
This will all begin with small fearless innovators teaming up with Greenpeace to encourage larger businesses to follow suit and to offer customers more choices than buying new.
Specifically, the Detox campaign will focus on perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), hazardous chemicals that may severely harm our bodies. Released through the production phase of fashion and outdoor gear.
PFCs can be found everywhere, from drinking water to human blood. You can see why we are so concerned with these chemicals at www.detox-outdoor.org.
JUDY GEARHART (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM)
I predict—with all the highest hopes that a new year brings—that the fashion industry will begin to take a holistic approach to ensuring workers’ safety and respect for their rights, an approach that places workers at the center of the solution, not at the margins.
We have happily received great reviews of our recent report Our Voices, Our Safety, which features 60 long-form interviews with Bangladeshi garment workers.
Women’s rights leaders like Eve Ensler and policy makers like Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky understood immediately and deeply how complex the web of violence can be surrounding women workers and keeping them silent.
They also understood just how important it is for women everywhere to join together to help break that silence. In 2016, consumers will call for an expanding menu of options to buy clothing that is made ethically by brands working closely with factories to ensure workers have a say in their safety and a seat at the bargaining table, whenever they seek to organize and negotiate for decent wages and working conditions.
These companies will boldly embrace transparency, publishing their supplier lists, and enabling workers to communicate back up the chain when there are problems.
And an increasing number of consumers will also pay close attention to whether companies like H&M are keeping to their promises for safety improvements.
ANDREW MORGAN (FILMMAKER, THE TRUE COST)
I believe 2016 will be the a year marked by strategic partnerships and true collaboration.
The groundwork of awareness has been laid.
Now is the time to begin building better alternates, crafting more compelling stories and engaging with a wider group of people.
A window of opportunity has opened and time will tell if we choose to unleash the unprecedented potential for change we now face.
CARMEN ARTIGAS (SUSTAINABLE DESIGN CONSULTANT)
We’ll start addressing toxicity in the textile and apparel sector through green- chemistry initiatives that seek to regulate or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances and processes. E
ventually consumers will learn to identify and avoid certain fabrics and chemicals when selecting clothing.
Cultural appropriation will continue be a hot topic and the public will be less tolerant toward designers that copy other cultures.
On the other hand, we’ll see an increase in traditional textile production methods and ancient designs will be revived and reintroduced to village artisans by contemporary entrepreneurs.
Emotional brands will increase their presence and distinguish themselves by their karmic business principles and sensitizing the audience to their sourcing and manufacturing processes.
MARCI ZAROFF (PRESIDENT, PORTICO BRANDS; FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, METAWEAR; EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THREAD: DRIVING FASHION FORWARD)
2015 was yet another year of positive momentum for eco-fashion, with more exciting innovation underway in the year ahead. I’ll highlight three areas with which I expect to see major progress in 2016:
- Growth in Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic-cotton apparel and home fashions. With 84 percent of American consumers now buying organic food at least occasionally, and the launch of the Organic Trade Association’s new Organic Fiber Council, the OTA will be catalyzing brands, retailers, government and other non-governmental organizations (such as the Textile Exchange) to protect and promote organic fiber products as the next frontier of an organic lifestyle.
- Back in the United States, we’re coming full circle as more brands, online retailers and consumers begin to seek U.S. manufacturing sources and labels, with sustainability, efficiency, and transparency as key drivers in this growing effort. Companies such as MetaWear and Manufacture NY are now offering turnkey solutions to local, made-in-the-U.S.A. eco-fashion.
- The year of Fashion Positive. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has now completed its pilot phase, with more companies jumping on the C2C-certified bandwagon. From dyes to yarns to fabrics and finished garments, expect to see continued development of this cutting-edge new industry vertical measuring material health, material reuse, water stewardship, renewable energy, and social justice.
JAVIER GOYENECHE (PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, ECOALF)
I believe 2016 will be the year for many young companies trying to do things in a different way to arise, especially young labels with fresh energy who want to stand for something they really believe in.
Fashion cannot just be about looking good.
It also has to be about doing what is right and feeling good about it.
We need a new generation of brands searching for new ways to improve the impact on the environment while creating a great product.
LEAH BORROMEO (FILMMAKER, DIRTY WHITE GOLD)
I predict the revolutionary emergence of full communism and a sharing economy based on per capita need.
All major companies will discorporate in favor of a cooperative system where all roles will be valued equally, energy will come from sustainable sources and overproduction for the purposes of profit will be eradicated.
Relying on surplus waste to fuel fiscal macro plans and forecasts will become unlawful and Topshop will finally pay its taxes.
ANTHONY LILORE (DESIGNER, RESTORE CLOTHING; BOARD MEMBER, SAVE THE GARMENT CENTER)
If I could predict anything, I would predict goodness, wellness and peace for everyone in 2016.
However, predictions being the crapshoot that they are, all bets are off.
In my best and most educated guess, based purely on observance and the desire for the future to be better and more positive than the present, I believe in 2016 we, in the fashion-related industries, will see the market share of cleaner, new technology textiles like Bolt Threads and Evrnu increase.
We’ll also see big money and luxury brands stand increasingly behind the ethical fashion and Fashion Positive movements.
On the flip-side, the race to the bottom will, unfortunately, probably never end. The amount of available money (disposable or otherwise) the vast majority of consumers have for clothing, housing and food seems to be decreasing as we transition from an employee/corporate environment to work-for-hire in the gig economy. T
his being the case, and apparel being the necessity it is, I expect that we’ll also see the addition of clothing to social support programs, much the way food is for the hungry.
I believe the biggest change will be in the user experience and shopping experience as we transition increasingly from huge brick-and-mortar names and locations to creative, event-driven pop-up retail, experiential shopping, mobile, and ultimately, virtual-reality shopping.
DEANNA CLARK (FASHION COMPLIANCE ATTORNEY; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY)
Whereas “conscious consumerism” was a barely known term few of us were privy to 20 years ago at University of California. Berkeley, in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a notable increase in the use of the term by New York City consumers.
This points to what I predict will be a continued rise in conscientious decision making around consumption choices for 2016.
From clients to peers to the programming seen in the fashion schools, the expansion of ethics in the eco-fashion dialogue has likewise been on the rise.
Indicators point to new heights as more people join the conversation and broaden the message that accompanies eco-fashion.
RACHEL KIBBE (PROPRIETOR, HELPSY)
It seems to me that in the past few years the ethical-fashion sphere has really gained a foothold and will soon become a household name.
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious and demanding more transparency.
I think this year might look a lot like last year, actually, where ethical fashion just becomes more, accepted, demanded, and available.
This demand will continue to fuel innovation on the eco-textile front and continue to put pressure on legislatures to make positive industry change on governmental levels.
Increasingly new designers and retailers and making eco-fashion front and center to their company ethos. I don’t see this slowing down.
It’s exciting times for the ethical fashion movement and an object in motion, stays in motion.
JOHN PATRICK (DESIGNER, ORGANIC)
All-encompassing design will become the new norm.
Shelter, food, and wearables will become intertwined and we’ll see an extreme handmade aesthetic emerge that’s a hybrid from the new modern nomads taking up different lifestyles and locations.
Nothing will most likely be recognizable at first, but we’ll quickly adapt as it’s in our nature as humans to change.
I predict that genuine charity, compassion and creativity—the new 3 C’s—will start to take over all businesses large and small.
As the supply chains become even more transparent and fragile, both people and businesses alike will resort to ever more innovative and creative ways to survive a rapidly changing world.
One shining example of that will be Amanda Henderson’s debut collection of knitwear this February. Not to be missed.
FRANCISCA PINEDA (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BHAVA; FOUNDER, ETHICAL FASHION ACADEMY)
Thanks to 2015, the world has a slightly better understanding of the issues surrounding ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry.
This has inspired many new projects and collaborations in all areas. Innovation and inspiration is everywhere, and there is an air that anything is possible.
Creativity and determination abound but we must never forget that long-term value and endurance is key. In 2016, sustainability must equate to long-term thinking in every way.
Tedious branding and storytelling will evolve towards a more subtle and intuitive approach that will shift perceptions of luxury. True luxury is the reassurance that all desires, concerns, and requirements have been addressed, even before having to think of them for oneself.
Tireless attention to detail and preservation must be considered in a way that is relevant and accessible to the consumer.
In 2016, in order for sustainable fashion to move forward and maintain the momentum we all hope to see, customers need to feel and experience the value.
How brands choose to tackle quality and experience will be the differentiating factor in an increasingly fragile ecosystem where long-term thinking will prevail and short-cuts continue to prove volatile.
DAVID DIETZ (FOUNDER, MODAVANTI)
Last year, we saw the premiere of the movie The True Cost and the incredible reception it received.
Millions of people saw the darker side of fashion.
The added attention from the movie and countless of websites, blogs, and articles devoted to sustainable fashion will only spur increased impact innovation from the largest brands, cause new brands to produce the right way from the start, and turn dozens of mindful fashion bloggers and celebrities into sustainable-fashion advocates.
2016 will increase the interest and focus on the movement.
Yet, for sustainable fashion to really become mainstream, brands must make their clothing exciting and accessible.
This will lead to new innovations in recycled fibers, new plant-based fibers such as pineapple silks, improved manufacturing techniques such as “zero waste” technology, vertically integrated production, and more.
It’s an exciting time to be in sustainable fashion and an exciting time to representing so many groundbreaking brands with Modavanti.
LEANNE MAI-LY HILGART (DESIGNER, VAUTE)
I was that weird kid raising money for the local animal shelter and setting up recycling programs in grade school, then drinking that beany soy milk from the Chinese market when I went vegan, so there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing how far things have come, and feel the momentum of where we’re going.
For the past couple decades, it’s been something to see more people question what they purchase and consume led by social norms and pressures traditions, magazines, and advertising create.
And then in the past five years, it’s been amazing to see compassionate and healthy living start to accelerate and become more popular, where a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles (shoutout to the beautiful Gracias Madres!) is booked solid on a Tuesday night with mostly people who probably aren’t entirely vegan, but who are becoming more conscientious of what they’re eating and how it affects their bodies, the animals, and the Earth.
When I attended the Farm Sanctuary Gala this year at the Plaza Hotel, where Jon and Tracey Stewart announced their new animal sanctuary, I sat there really taken aback by what a mile marker this was for how far things have come and are going.
Thoughtful living and thoughtful business is becoming a priority, and after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, people are starting to think past food to apparel and how it affects the world. as well.
After food is fashion, which affects so much of the world’s resources, as well as workers’ and animals’ lives.
I’m so excited to see this conversation of ethical fashion continue to grow and tip and bring in more voices and more people who are excited to make a difference with what they buy and wear.
For Vaute, after bootstrapping for six years, we had our first investor fundraise in 2015 as one of the first private fashion companies to raise money publicly, made possible by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 and 2013, and CircleUp.com.
This meant I could reach many female investors and conscientious investors who want to make a difference with their finances and have an inspired vision for the future of fashion.
We were able to hire some key team members to keep up better with demand, develop vegan eco-conscious locally made sweaters in a waste-free process, test out two retail markets, and also launch gowns made of recycled plastic bottles.
This year, we’re gearing up to do our Series A raise and ready to set a new standard in fashion with the right partners.
It’s exciting times!
REBECCA BURGESS (FOUNDER, FIBERSHED)
Post-Paris and –COP21, we stand in a new era of global agreement and commitment about our climate.
AMY DUFAULT (WRITER; CONSULTANT; SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONTENT COORDINATOR, PRATT INSTITUTE’S BROOKLYN FASHION AND DESIGN ACCELERATOR)
As a consultant and sustainable-apparel writer, I am forced to read a lot.
HOWARD BROWN AND KAREN STEWART (FOUNDERS, STEWART + BROWN)
Hemlines and necklines aside, the future of fashion will be predicated on the whims and desires of a celebrity obsessed, overcrowded and connected world fueled by technology and the ability to customize to personal standards with near-instantaneous results.
And there will also be a gazillion new designers and brands trying to establish themselves in the fashion industry.
Otherwise, here are a few more predictions:
- Ruthless competition and relentless innovation in and amongst brands and designers.
- Products will be manufactured closer to their final destination. A resurgence of boutique domestic manufacturing and 3D printing will help to facilitate that.
- What’s the best way for a company to alleviate the problems associated with increasing minimum wage, rising resource costs and more supply chain transparency? That’s right, get ready for the robots to take over. They will never complain about their wages or working too many hours in substandard conditions.
- Natural resources will become more scarce and increase in cost becoming the new standard for ‘luxury.” Meanwhile synthetic fibers will become even more ubiquitous not because they are better but because they are cheaper, more disposable, and widely available.
- We are hopeful for the ‘”reverse industrial revolution” which utilizes carbon-based waste as the building blocks for FUTUREADi products.
- Geopolitical strife and climate change will accelerate and disrupt current manufacturing bases and channels resulting in shipping delays, accelerated risk, cost and worker rebellion.What happens when millions of low wage workers in developing nations are replaced by robots and become unemployed? Hint: it could be worse than Somalia.
- Fashion will continue on its current trend and become more transformative including wearable technology that will count calories, disinfect cuts, protect us from radiation and regenerate when torn or snagged.The fashion barriers between work and leisure will continue to breakdown. For example, your clothing will “perform” to purpose, whether in the office, at the gym, or for a night out on the town, in rain, sunshine, or a snowstorm, and this “look” will become even more socially acceptable.
- Apparel and accessories will become more modular. The temperature rose 20 degrees today? No problem, I’ll just remove the sleeves from my shirt, lower the neckline, and open the knit stitch to regulate air circulation.
- The bad news is that “fast fashion’” (i.e., the “race to the bottom”) will get faster, cheaper, more disposable and synthetic, and ridiculously trendy and superficial, while those in the race-to-the-bottom business become even more ruthless and cynical than they are today.The good news is that the rest of us will be making fashions that are more timeless, durable, and of heirloom quality.Garments will be more expensive and we will learn to mend and repair them while appreciating their unique patina.
These heirloom fashions will be worn proudly as a “badge of honor,” displaying the owners true individuality, aspirational ethics, and personal values, making that fashion item a coveted one to be passed down to the next generation and thusly loved and honored.
SAFIA MINNEY (FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, PEOPLE TREE)
It’s all about more of us voting with our hearts when we shop to grow ethical business and show conventional companies that we want business to be a force for good.
JILL HELLER (PROPRIETOR, THE PURE THREAD)
In 2016, people will continue to come together to talk about the issues involving fashion and sustainability—not only activists and academics but also manufacturers and consumers.
- The Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world’s largest conference on sustainable fashion, is scheduled to have its fourth gathering from May 10 to 12.
- The 2015 International Climate Change Agreement, which comes into effect in 2020, will see significant investment and steps forward from the organizations that are the biggest impactors.
- Pantone 2016 color trends reveal a blending of two shades: pink rose quartz and serenity light blue, a symbolic representation of all colors, all genders, all voices, depicting the spirit of the times.
- The role that fashion plays in self-actualization is key. People are always going to need fashion so it’s a question of “How can we make people pride themselves in the fact that the clothes they wear are intrinsically sustainable?” I’m very optimistic that the more we talk about these things the greater the positive change we can bring. Even if one person changes their opinion and purchasing habits, that’s one person more.
- Fashion brands will make transparent production central to its philosophy. Just as the slow-food movement prizes practices that are gentle on the land and the body, a wave of labels and retailers are focusing on socially responsible methods.
- Important films will be Fabien Cousteu’s Mission 31: filmmakers, activists and scientists break new ground in ocean exploration in order to help people protect, connect, and understand the ocean. Also, The True Cost, a feature-length documentary that explores the impact of fashion on people and the planet.
- Books on my shelf that I’m looking forward to reading in 2016 include What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping by Paco Underhill, Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear/em> by Elizabeth Gilbert, Simplicity by Nancy Braithwaite, and Recycled Home by Mark and Sally Bailey.