The Hidden Cost of Fashion
Since fast fashion has made apparel increasingly replaceable, apparel has also become increasingly disposable on a global scale. Clothing and footwear don’t just disappear. When something ends up in the trash, it loses any future productive value and most likely sits stagnant in a landfill. Even when they are donated for someone else’s use, this just pushes the eventual discarding of them down the road.
So what’s the solution? Certainly, everything we do as individuals can make an impact. But for step-change improvements, we need to think bigger. Leading members of the fashion and footwear industries believe that the true solution is transforming the model set by fast fashion. It begins with consumers and producers becoming more conscious of commodities and their lifespans. Welcome to the concept of circularity.
Awareness and action are the driving forces behind circularity, which has begun to direct the trajectory of the apparel industry. The circularity model means that the entire lifespan of a commodity must be accounted for with the maintenance of our planet in mind, meaning all products should be designed for eventual reuse and to minimize waste.
First, raw sustainable materials are obtained, processed, and manufactured. Then, the commodity is transported, retailed, and delivered before it finally begins providing use to the consumer. Once it is worn out, a truly sustainable commodity can’t just be discarded. It should be, in a way, reincarnated—transformed into something new and useful. So, the circle continues to turn, preventing as much waste as possible from escaping the loop and clogging our environment. This new model, developed as a bioethical solution to fast fashion, is beginning to take hold.
Conscious consumers understand the difference between performative environmentalism – like greenwashing– and thoughtful, actionable sustainability. We all deserve a reality where the cost of doing what’s right is reflected on the climate change receipts.
It may seem paradoxical: how can the same industries that engineer and produce products with relatively short lifespans simultaneously be at the forefront of sustainability discourse? This seeming contradiction is what innovative new companies are looking to solve as trailblazers in circularity.
Footwear is constantly in contact with the surface of the earth, giving shoes a materiality—or mortality—fundamental to their character. No matter how well made or well cared for, no shoes will last forever. But with the help of sophisticated technology to understand where shoes fall in their circular lifespans, along with a commitment to bio-based, recyclable solutions, we can begin moving towards more intentional production and consumption.