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With over a billion vaccinations administered across the world, consumers are gradually spending more time outside of the home and are ready to showcase their style to the world once again. However, as a more hybrid lifestyle emerges, with work, home, and exercise boundaries dissolving, the 2021 ready-to-wear landscape might bear little resemblance to that of 2019.
To find out more about the evolution of the ready-to-wear segment, we welcome back Hale Saraçoğlu, Head of Global Business Development, Fashion Ready to Wear at Lenzing Group AG, for another instalment of our “TENCEL™ Insights” Series.
Q: With a growing consumer need for versatile clothing, how can ready-to-wear brands remain competitive as spending begins to grow again?
Hale: Consumers have started to realise what really matters in the clothing they purchase. After months of working from home, consumers now want long-lasting, durable designs, and greater comfort. The pursuit of style has been demoted in lieu of durability and versatility with seasonal trends no longer front of mind in many purchase decisions. Simultaneously, consumers now have greater concern for the environment and are increasingly likely to forgo brands that don’t live up to their eco-standards.
For brands, this means seasonality should take a back seat. Timeless pieces designed with a consumer centric ‘value for money’ principle, should become the focal point of new collections. Designers should consider opting for fibers and fabrics that meet both durability and sustainability guarantees.
Q: What must brands keep in mind to uphold newfound sustainability practices in the world after the global health crisis?
Hale: It’s never been more important for brands to embrace sustainability, yet the global fashion industry still has a long road ahead to achieve a level where the majority of their processes and products can be defined as sustainable and circular. The industry’s waste problem has always been one of the biggest obstacles to adopting a truly sustainable future. With mindful consumption being an ongoing trend, we must continue to focus on reducing waste and environmental pollutants.
Brands should reduce the use of plastic-containing materials that can lead to micro-plastics pollution, and instead use renewable fibers that won’t lead to environmental pollution. Investing in recycling initiatives and using upcycled materials can help to close the loop and route clothing already in the value chain away from landfills.
Q: As we look to the post-pandemic future, how do you think ready-to-wear fashion will evolve to fit the new reality?
Hale: We have learned valuable lessons from our time at home. Fashion sensibilities are everchanging, but a prevailing trend that has emerged from the past year is that relevance is key. What’s relevant for consumers nowadays is the combination of comfort, wellness and sustainability. As we navigate towards a post COVID-19 world, we foresee these elements will continue permeating the fashion industry, especially for the ready-to-wear segment.
The next few years are of critical importance as ready-to-wear brands move toward eliminating their environmental footprints. Consumers have realized how much more eco-friendly they can be by wearing versatile garments, washing less frequently, and purchasing clothing designed for long-term wearability. Similarly, brands are beginning to design pieces to be worn longer and not thrown away, as well as producing fewer garments. Both brands and consumers should continue these habits and push the ready-to-wear market toward a more sustainable future.
Q: Is “complete” sustainability feasible yet? If not, what needs to change to make true sustainability a possibility in the near future?
Hale: Whilst “complete” sustainability is not fully defined in the industry and not yet a reality, there are a range of initiatives that brands can explore to reduce their burden on the environment. The sustainable fashion revolution is certainly gaining traction, with various industry players initiating and joining green initiatives to hold each other accountable.
With the plethora of choices available, brands and stakeholders should set their goals and design their supply chains together. The Fashion Pact, for instance, sets emission reduction targets according to the Paris Agreement and has received support from the likes of global brands such as Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Burberry etc.
At Lenzing, we recently joined hands with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Higg Index to launch a transparency program for manufacturers to reassess their production model and shoppers to gain access to a new level of visibility into a product’s environmental impact. Lately, we also extended our fiber identification technology to TENCEL™ branded fibers, providing physical identification of fibers at different stages of textile products such as the fabric and garment level. This further solidifies our commitment to implementing greater supply chain transparency along the entire textile production process.
Developing innovative technology plays a big part in achieving this. By using technology to enable closed loop production, carbon offsetting, and recycle clothing at a cost-effective scale, we can accelerate the fashion industry’s path toward “complete” sustainability.
Q: What role will sustainability play in this year’s major fashion weeks as we gradually return to normal?
Hale: The versatility trends that we experienced last year are a major indicator of the path ready-to-wear is expected to take in the years ahead. Fashion choices have become a reflection of society, and as I mentioned earlier, relevance is key. There will also be more scrutiny from consumers, who are also becoming more vocal to call out any surface-level claims or greenwashing.
We have seen large fashion houses make bold commitments and launch sustainable collections which pay closer attention to the material source and production methods. This trend is expected to continue as the fashion weeks begin. For example, Chloe debuted its Spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection featuring sustainable raw materials which were manufactured by World Fair Trade Organization members. Capsule and minimalistic collections will also continue to have a large presence.
All in all, it’s clear there is a conscious global shift towards becoming more environmentally friendly. Consumer demand will enable the fashion industry to commence widespread change and help brands become more sustainable quickly.