Sustainable fashion is a movement that aims to bring about attention and change to ecological and social implications in fashion production and distribution.

The fashion industry is considered a large contributor to negative environmental impacts. Consumerism, ever-decreasing prices and quickly refreshed collections have made fashion disposable. This fast cycle of fashion production, consumption and disposal creates environmental pollution and waste and puts strain on our planet’s already delicate ecology. Moreover, the need for lower and lower prices are pushed down through the supply chain and force production facilities to reduce costs. This leads to poorly paid factory workers and omission of compliance standards.

As consumers become more aware of the social and environmental impacts of their fashion shopping choices, a slow but certain shift towards sustainability is taking place in the fashion industry. The use of eco-friendly fibers in garment manufacturing, recycled materials, fair wages and responsible labor employment in factories is becoming more commonplace. Leading fashion brands are holding themselves accountable for their fashion production and supply chain decisions. Forward looking brands are communicating these values to their customers in a transparent manner to appeal to conscious Generation Z shoppers. As a result, sustainability in fashion is turning into a competitive advantage.

Sustaining sustainable fashion is not easy.

While many brands desire to be transparent about their supply chain, raw material sources and practice fair trade, the cost of sustainable fashion is invariably high. That is unless they have a way to minimize wastage and inefficiency across their supply chain operations. This involves closely monitoring production processes internally and externally, among partners, suppliers and distributors – made possible only through the right technology.

How fashion technology delivers sustainability

Fashion technology, such as cloud product lifecycle management solutions (Fashion PLM) make fashion production and distribution more cost-efficient and ecologically sustainable. Here are just a few ways in which fashion technology helps achieve sustainability.

  1. Reduction of Sampling Waste

Every year, every season, by every fashion brand, truckloads of fabric and barrels of fuel are wasted in ‘getting samples right.’ Multiple rounds of sample developments are shipped back and forth across the globe to get to an approved pre-production sample. All this waste, just because a sample isn’t delivered correctly the first time.

The fashion industry can reduce this huge waste by implementing technology to improve the sample development process and this starts with ensuring sample specifications are complete and accurate with a detailed digital techpack. Using solutions like a cloud plm, brands and combine line drawings on Adobe Illustrator, 3D designs, measurements, constructions and digitally collaborate with vendors, overcoming the challenge of time and distance between fashion brands and suppliers. Critical details can get lost in endless e-mail trails and inbox overload. Cloud technology makes it easier to ask and answer questions, make changes and keep stakeholders on the same page. This means sampling errors can be reduced if not eliminated, and an increase in first time sample approval hit rates. All this results in fewer samples.

  1. Elimination of Air Shipments and Reduction of Carbon Footprint

The world of fashion is chaotic. You are constantly working on new developments, tight deadlines, production challenges and still need goods to arrive on-time. You are continually at risk of late deliveries that could be a result of delayed approvals, material quality issues or vendor capacity constraints. When an order is delayed, in order to ensure that goods still arrive on-time (to avoid markdowns and meet seasonal demand) you end up having to ship goods by air. This use of air shipments to cut lead times is a last resort yet exercised far too often in the fashion industry. This significantly increases carbon footprint and freight costs that serve brands and their supply chain no benefit.

Technology solves this problem by proving a framework for time and action planning and monitoring. This helps you produce styles on time by providing visibility of product development and production milestones and ensuring critical milestones are not late. With more time you can ensure that goods are delivered by sea and air shipments are eliminated.

  1. Transparent and Ethical Sourcing

As a brand, you typically do your due diligence of your immediate first level vendor factories through physical inspections and compliance checks. However, this is a continual process and doesn’t stop at one inspection. When compliance inspections result in findings that a supplier needs to implement, you still need to follow up to ensure they are actually implemented. Furthermore, it is no longer enough to inspect first level vendors but tier II suppliers as well. To source ethically you also need to ensure that your next level suppliers (the suppliers of your suppliers) are also abiding by the same set of standards for their factories and worker conditions. How do you manage all this, track it regularly, and stay up to date?

The right fashion technology helps automate the due diligence process, mandates compliances, alerts stakeholders in case of non-compliance, and maintains a ready record of documents and inspections across your supplier database. This helps you ensure that the products you deliver are manufactured in a sustainable manner by ethical factories across your supply chain.

Conclusion

While sustainability in fashion doesn’t come easy, it can undoubtedly be achieved with the help of technology that understands the fashion industry’s specific needs and adapts itself to your business. WFX Cloud PLM helps do just that for leading sustainable fashion brands like Spell & the Gypsy, Everlane and Whitestuff.