When it comes to sustainability in fashion, what most of us would think of is recycled garments. In fact, we don’t have to wear bottled cans and newspapers to be sustainable. Designers are now adopting a different approach to fashion design, creating designs that look just as appealing, starting with innovations in yarns and textiles.
In reaction to fast fashion that produces countless disposable styles and generates more waste, the call for sustainability has never been stronger. Therefore, designers are taking responsibility and initiative to come up with eco-friendly solutions with technological innovations, especially in the initial stage of fashion design.
In this new light, designers aim to make the life cycle of a product close-looped. Think of a piece of garment as a fish, for example. After the fish dies, its body is naturally degraded and thus earth to earth, dust to dust. And from the “dust,” another living creature can be born. Likewise, designers take into consideration all the phases of the product’s life cycle, devising sustainable solutions from the beginning of the creative process to the state of usage of the end consumers, and ensuring that the disposed pieces could be dissembled and reused. Simply put, they remain sustainable-minded throughout.
There is a shifting focus from the recycling stage to the production phase, for the latter is the primary source of pollution in fashion. Minimising waste is crucial. Producing fewer products with more functionality, and making products more durable in terms of quality is especially important, even when producing short-lived products.
So it’s about rethinking all feasible options and adopting more sustainable alternatives. Most of them come with technological innovations like digital printing, 3D printing, and zero-waste cutting. Innovations, in fact, originate greatly from history and nature, which is why a lot of designers look into the past for inspiration, like craftsmanship or traditional materials that are locally produced.
Sustainability is not an alternative, but the future. Riding this tide of environmental activism, more and more professionals and educational institutions are making endeavours to put it into practice. For instance, Chelsea College of Arts is the first in the industry to have an entire MA course focused on sustainability in textile and surface design.
What we can expect from this trend of innovations in fashion production techniques, besides a cleaner planet, is perhaps innovations in fashion styles, such as zero-waste cutting that might give rise to new silhouettes. And best of all, they are just as visually attractive.
Words: Yi Tang
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