The consumer as game changer

Following the presentations, action points were formulated for achieving ethically and ecologically sustainable fashion. It is clear that the consumer plays a crucial role in this respect: the role of game changer. Customers have to become more aware of their responsibilities. Designers and manufacturers can help, for example by making sustainable fashion attractive to the public. After all, fashion is seduction. In this respect, Van Strien attaches great value to sharing: it small designers can relatively easily conceive and test new strategies that can then be adopted and elaborated by the industry.

But focusing on craftsmanship and quality can also encourage people to be more attached to their clothes. Greater care equals greater value. New digital developments can bring tailor-made clothes to a large public and clothes that fit better have added value.

Groenenwegen proposes a kind of leasing contract, in which the clothing remains the property of the designer or manufacturer. It is therefore in the interests of the producer to make clothes that last longer and can easily be repaired.

The audience agreed that consumers could also change their behaviour: buying less clothing and sharing, hiring or leasing garments. Clothing could be designed and made so that it can easily be altered. Aesthetics will always change – you cannot stop that – so you must ensure that the change is part of the clothing. Terms such as cradle to cradle, multipurpose, multifunctional and modularity were mentioned.

Groenewegen also sees possibilities in producing ‘smarter’ fabrics, for example, developing textiles that filter particles from the air or incorporating solar cells to generate energy.

Temptation

However, the big question remains: what can be done against the cheap brands such as H&M, Zara and Primark, which continually renew their collections? How can we get people to resist the temptation to fill their bags for very little money? It would help if these brands provided more and honest information about the clothes they sell. The discussion touched upon education and also politics: there should be more robust legislation governing the clothing industry.

Because it is clear that there is no shortage of alternative initiatives, techniques and strategies within fashion. It is possible to make fashion ‘better and greener’. Now all that is needed is to rally the troops in order to make these ‘new values’ common currency.

The well-attended evening was part of a symposium on the challenges that face the contemporary fashion industry in terms of design, production and distribution organised in partnership with the Erasmus University, the Willem de Kooning Academy, Kenniscentrum Creating 010, the ClickNL Next Fashion innovation network and Glamcult magazine.

Report by Lotte Haagsma

Better and Greener Fashion action points:

  • Leasing
  • Repairing
  • Restrict buying behaviour
  • Stimulate demand for cradle to cradle products
  • Build up from the yarn
  • Smart technology in clothing
  • Loose seasonal dictation
  • Modularity
  • Education
  • Make beautiful pictures
  • Social value
  • Tell stories
  • Inform on production chain
  • Government regulation on transparency
  • Bring back craftsmanship
  • Personalize the fit of clothing
  • Grow hemp
  • Produce locally
  • New production methods
  • New materials
  • Grow new materials

This Thursday Night was part of the programme What's Next? The Future of the Fashion Industry which consists of a day programme and an evening programme. This event was the evening programme. Read the report of the day programme.