Here’s a roundup of some of the finest sustainable fashion stories that hit the news in December.
December 1st, 2023
The word “jugaad” in Hindi captures a wide range of meanings, from quick-fix hacks to ingenious inventions born out of necessity. It also captures the concept of resourcefulness - something that is very important to the concept of circularity. Why create new stuff from new inputs (only to create more waste) when you can create new stuff from existing/old stuff?
Fashion for Good began a two-year Sorting for Circularity India project in 2021 and recently shared findings and released a toolkit to revalidate textile waste in India. This all took place in New Delhi at the Reimagining Textile Waste conference.
The conference also saw the launch of the Re-START Alliance (Recover by Sourcing, Tracing, and Advancing Recycling Technologies), a textile recovery alliance established by Fashion for Good, Laudes Foundation, IDH, and Canopy. The alliance aims to scale a formal textile waste supply chain and associated infrastructure and policy to enable technology commercialisation and will launch officially in Q1 2024.
December 4th, 2023
While many country leaders were left to play the politicking game at COP28, some industry leaders came ready to the world’s largest conference on climate change - with swanky new achievements to share.
Stella McCartney unveiled the first-ever garment made using biological recycling at the global forum held in Dubai. In collaboration with Protein Evolution, artificial intelligence and biology were combined to produce the raw material for recycled polyester. The final product? A parka jacket bearing the parachute-style present in many of McCartney’s other collections.
If anyone’s going to be making consistent breakthroughs in alternative materials, it’s this British fashion designer. She’s the reason vegan leather became chic after all - especially among society’s upper echelons.
On top of that, AI has become all the rage since ChatGPT made a splash in December 2022. And with this new application, it’s only further showing its potential prowess to help drive sustainable change.
Source: Protein Evolution
December 5th, 2023
With all the mixed reactions to what was - and wasn’t - achieved at COP28, this move is monumental for fashion in the EU.
More than a year in the making (rules were first proposed in March 2022), a provisional agreement was finally reached that would no longer allow businesses to destroy thousands of unsold clothes. Or even footwear.
It could have massive repercussions for fast fashion - a multi-billion dollar market in Europe. But let’s not forget that means less damage done to our planet. More importantly, not being able to simply get rid of deadstock - via incinerators or landfills - means brands will need to design better products that last longer.
It’s all part of a greater plan to improve the region’s textile industry, which is reported to have the fourth-highest negative impact on the environment.
Aside from the ban, other rules are incoming, including mandatory digital product passports.
December 6th, 2023
Last year was a breakout year for artificial intelligence (AI). Generating text, images, and even short videos with simple prompts became possible for many. One announcement that may have been missed in all of the hullabaloo (despite it being from Google) was that AI had enabled the discovery of millions of new materials. If new materials are being discovered, how does that change textiles?
Recently, we’ve heard about how AI can be used to determine the composition of materials to simplify recycling. But colour-changing fabrics?! Hong Kong-based Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence in Design (AiDLab) has developed a colour-changing textile embedded with a tiny camera making use of artificial intelligence. The fabric, which is knitted with polymeric optical fibres (POFs) and textile-based yarns, can be illuminated in a range of different hues. To change the colour, you make a gesture with your hands such as a “thumbs-up” sign or a “heart” sign.
Professor Jeanne Tan, who works at Polytechnic University's School of Fashion and Textiles and heads the research team, notes the POFs are made of polymethyl methacrylate which is recyclable and the structure of the textile enables easy separation of POFs from yarns for recycling.
Where will AI take us by the end of 2024?
December 13th, 2023
COP28 wrapped up with an agreement called the UAE consensus which will kickstart a “transition away from fossil fuels” towards net-zero emissions by 2050. COP agreements have typically referred to emissions so a direct reference to fossil fuels was groundbreaking. After all, the President of COP28 was Dr Sultan Al Jaber, who also acts as CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. So a little like turkeys voting for Christmas.
However, not everybody was happy. With good reason too. “It’s great in hitting all the buzzwords — just, equitable, action, science — but it’s not very specific on what that means and how to achieve it,” said Fabiola Schneider, assistant professor at Dublin City University and co-lead of environmental rights advocacy Green Watch. Shneider also noted that the wording for fashion was limited as it only considered fossil fuels as energy systems in the context of fashion. Synthetics, such as polyester, are derived from the petroleum industry after all.
Funding the transition has been a difficult nut to crack. At first glance, there was plenty to cheer about. Outside of the UAE consensus, a further $85 billion in funding was pledged during the two-week event. This includes the UAE’s $30 billion catalytic private finance vehicle, Altérra, and $792 million worth of early pledges for loss and damage. To put this number into context, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that global fossil fuel subsidies reached $7 trillion in 2022.
A complex transition is unlikely to be smooth. Let’s carry on chipping away and celebrate the small wins.
December 29th, 2023
Talk about ending the year on a high note.
Over the last twelve months, the Hertfordshire charity Helping Herts (HH) has been putting on sustainable fashion shows to support child welfare throughout the UK. But they weren’t your typical showcases of whatever brands were trending. Nope. They featured many local businesses and secondhand shops, promoting the idea that sustainable fashion is about choosing clothes that last. Not those that damage the planet and its people.
This December, it seems it’s all paid off. They’ve managed to raise £16,000 through the sustainable fashion shows alone. If you consider their other fundraisers, the total comes to £340,000, blowing past the organization’s 2023 goal.
The greater news is the giving doesn’t stop there. The fashion shows are running events, so HH is constantly looking for partners who can give product support and other sponsors.