Fashion Futures 2030
The 10th Copenhagen Fashion Summit opens today with a new urgency. “We need to move to a #circulareconomy", says Paul Polman, Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce and the B Team and former Unilever CEO. "We simply don’t have the time any more to not address important issues.” Copenhagen also opens as the industry absorbs the findings of the Pulse Report, released by Global Fashion Agenda and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, earlier this month, showing that progress in making fashion more sustainable has actually slowed - by a third in the past year.
Into the space for further action steps an inspiring collaboration between Forum for the Future and LCF’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion, who last night launched Fashion Futures 2030, an open source toolkit which explores how current trends, from climate change to nationalism and AI, could shape fashion in 2030 - and inspires practical means to address them. With the support of the C&A Foundation, Fashion Futures 2030 aims to guide and inspire the industry at a critical time in its journey towards sustainability by providing companies and educators with the tools to navigate an uncertain future.
Fashion Futures 2030 was originally conceived by CSF’s Professor Dilys Williams and Renée Cuoco as part of the V&A’s now iconic exhibition Fashioned from Nature, currently touring internationally. In this, four future world scenarios were posited. In one, for example, climate shocks left many devastated by food shortages and dirty fuels have been banned; in this world, slow fashion is the new norm, with sharing networks encouraged by social credit. In another scenario, advancement in AI means that most live on a small universal basic income while fast fashion thrives in digital formats.
The scenarios, created to help identify risks and opportunities, to test strategies and to inspire new ideas, now form the basis of the toolkit. “There’s a widespread acknowledgement that the industry needs to become sustainable and address really significant environmental and social challenges,” says Dr Sally Uren, Chief Executive of Forum for the Future. “Yet, at the moment, we’re only seeing incremental change. The toolkit, with its future world scenarios, are a way of truly allowing those in the industry who can make a difference to radically rethink what the future may look like.”
“Fashion Futures 2030 asks us to question our addiction to the current fashion system – to see beyond the adrenalin rush and fleeting satisfaction that we are sold – to consider what we really want, whether that’s through a career in fashion, through education or our personal style choices,” adds Williams. “This toolkit examines where our current fashion practice might be taking us – and at the same time, enables us to consider the ways in which we might seek to change or support a particular direction.
“It’s a chance to be future makers, mavericks and pragmatists to find ways to create a future where we can all thrive together.”
At the heart - of the toolkit, of the Fashion Summit, of every meaningful discussion around sustainability - is the need to address current business models. “[The Pulse Report] reflects how challenging the shift is that needs to happen,” says Dr Uren. “The prevailing business model is driven by producing cheap goods at high volumes which aren’t worn for very long. And at the moment, there’s way too much emphasis on financial success and very little on business model innovation. The toolkits will be useful because they’ll help business models measure sustainability outcomes, not just financial metrics.”
Few can doubt that awareness is rising. “There’s a great momentum and we’ve got to make sure that momentum turns into action,” emphasizes Williams. “The school strikes, Extinction Rebellion, the IPCC report and then now the UN Biodiversity Report: nobody can not realise that change needs to take place. A lot of people have been riding on the idea that they could talk about sustainability. Now, a lot of businesses are becoming more nervous again because they realise that what they’re talking about is not the same as what’s changing. At the moment, the growth agenda totally outweighs the efficiencies being made in particular materials or processes.”
“There’s a massive difference between raised awareness and how we make the transition,” agrees Dr Uren. “That’s where we’re hoping the toolkit will come in. Because the industry is stuck. It’s stuck in the prevailing business model. You’ve got a huge number of change makers who want to create something different but it’s difficult because it needs a systemic shift. It’s not unique to fashion but fashion shows the inherent un- sustainability of the current system in its starkest light because of the different aspects of what we know to be fast fashion. The macro economic system isn’t set up to deliver sustainable development.”
“What we are lacking is the will power. The question is: do we really care?” asked Paul Polman, at Copenhagen this morning. If this is the case, is change really possible? “Yes,” says Dr Uren, firmly. “We’re beginning to see it. You see brands with purpose driving impact which is greater than economic impact. That gives me hope and, as we start to scale the circular economy, there are going to be different routes to value creation that are over and above just selling more stuff. We’ll start to derive value from secondary materials, from rental models, from service models. The job at hand is to show that a different system can work. And it’s entirely possible.”
The Fashion Futures 2030 toolkit is available at www.FashionFutures2030.com
By BEL JACOBS