How can we advance the idea of sustainable fashion consumption? When you start to look at the problem from the outside, it seems deceptively simple. Like many sustainable products, all we need is more durable, ethical garments that meet the needs and wants of consumers.
But any apparel brand will concede: Fashion is a unique animal.
Some would argue that fashion is not just another product industry; it is a platform for identity-making and social distinction. It is an art form and a commodity, a means for expression just as much as a means for protection from the elements. It is for these reasons (and many more) that, for years, people have separated fashion and sustainability, arguing that while sustainability may drive consumer decisions in some realms, fashion must be the exception.
The reality is that we need fashion to be sustainable, and not just for environmental reasons. Fashion is one of the few industries that wield tremendous cultural power in creating trends and influencing thinking. If fashion leads in sustainability, its fans are sure to follow in other aspects of their lives. And since clothing touches each and every person, the impact would be global.
So what does sustainable fashion look like, and what kind of behaviors do we expect from the sustainable fashion consumer? The Danish Fashion Institute and BSR have launched the NICE Consumer Project to answer those questions. Following expert collaboration within the industry and public consultation through a series of webinars and workshops, we plan to bring recommendations to the EU presidency and start incentivizing business and consumer actions toward sustainable fashion.
We invite you to read our NICE Consumer research, which outlines the desired behaviors we would like to see from consumers, the direct barriers to achieving these actions, potential solutions to overcoming these barriers, and a discussion of the actors responsible for implementing these solutions. We don’t pretend that this paper is an answer to building a sustainable fashion industry, but we do hope it is a way to break the ice and inspire conversation.
For more information about the NICE Consumer Project, follow us on Twitter at @niceconsumer or email us. Join us for our first NICE Consumer webinar, “Introducing the NICE Consumer Project and the Draft Framework on Sustainable Fashion Consumption,” from 4 to 5 p.m. CET on March 13.