Story | 06/03/2024 09:25:41 | 5 min Read time

4 ideas to copy: Brands that dare to rethink and reshape fashion

Fashion brands that put science first in materials and innovation, support innovation, tell people to buy less and build platforms for pre-owned clothes? These sustainability brand actions inspire business development director Mikko Lassila from UPM.

“The textile industry as whole is responsible for a significant portion of global CO2 emissions, 8 to 10 percent depending on the study one refers to. The industry can do a lot to mitigate and reduce their impact. Raw materials like textile fibres, their production, and feedstocks, have emerged as one field of study with more scientific grip.“
 

Mikko Lassila, UPM
 

Luckily there are already great examples of brands taking action, like these four:

1. Ganni: Put science first

“There was a time when fabric samples were presented by the fabric manufacturer’s sales rep. The designer felt those samples in their fingers and decided which ones they liked best. These sales reps held responsibility for textile material knowhow in the market. Now this has changed dramatically. 

Ganni is a great example of a brand taking ownership and responsibility, of the materials they use. And not only the existing materials, but also emerging future materials developed by startups and laboratories. 

At Ganni, materials and innovation are at the heart of the brand. They have, for example, categorized materials they use in their collections as ‘Preferred’, ‘Better’ and ‘Avoid’, and tell which material falls into which category based on scientific evaluation by third parties. 

Materials are important for brands on their journey towards more responsible business. In textile fibres, for example, there are huge challenges with enormous water consumption, microplastics and the use of chemicals. Recycled and renewable feedstocks are often preferred, but at the same time cotton production has reached its limits, quality has declined, and good alternatives are hard to find. We’ve run out of new places to farm cotton and we’re also running out of water that cotton requires massive amounts of. This means brands need to look for alternative materials, such as new man-made cellulose fibres like Lyocell. Thus, not only Ganni, but many other brands like Adidas, and luxury brand houses LVMH and Kering, all have their own innovation labs and material experts.”

Ganni is a great example of a brand taking ownership and responsibility of the materials they use.

2. Patagonia: Encourage conscious consumption

“Patagonia is a trailblazer of sustainability and an obvious choice for this list. They are pioneers of, for example, using recycled materials in their collections. 

It’s not typical for a company to tell their customers to buy less, but that’s exactly what Patagonia does. For years their guiding star has been ‘Buy only what you need’. The worldwide consumption of clothing is still growing along with the population growth and increase in disposable income of middle class, but there are also signals of people becoming more conscious in their consumption, especially regarding fast fashion. Utopic or not, I believe consumers are also becoming aware of this idea of not buying clothes they don’t really need.”

Utopic or not, I believe consumers are becoming aware of this idea of not buying clothes they don’t really need.

3. Marimekko: Make pre-owned an easy choice

“I think it’s vital that people learn to see the value of a piece of clothing even when it has been used by someone else. Marimekko Preloved online store is an inspiring example of how a brand itself can provide a platform for reuse of pre-owned clothes. Through Marimekko Preloved people can sell and buy Marimekko clothes from 1970’s to their latest collection. The fact is that a cotton dress made in 1970´s can be as good as new if it’s been properly taken care of. 

There are, of course, plenty of other companies doing this, Marimekko is by no means the only one. I’m delighted to see that selling secondhand clothes is not limited to premium brands. Overall, the secondhand market is growing fast and offers many opportunities for brands.” 

A cotton dress made in 1970´s can be as good as new if it’s been properly taken care of.
 

4. H&M: Support innovation

“I feel a bit divided to include a fast fashion brand on this list, but H&M has been systematically financing companies that develop solutions that address the problem of, for example, raw materials. They’re not standing still. 

In addition to cotton recycling that is already widely done it is as important to find and develop ways to recycle synthetic fibres like polyester. One of the startup companies H&M Group Ventures has invested in lately is an interesting company called Syre, which aims to bring polyester recycling to mass-scale and make new polyester from old polyester, and we all hope they will succeed. 

Polyester is a great material. It has, for example, made today’s high-performance sports clothes possible. At the same time polyester is fossil-based, so the industry needs to find alternatives for it. At UPM we make wood-based renewable MEG, which is one component of polyester and can be used to make 30 percent biobased polyester at the moment. It is a good start, but making fashion business more sustainable is also a long game in which all feasible solutions are needed. We at UPM have exciting opportunities to be part of the inevitable paradigm change of materials used in fashion industry.” 

Making fashion business more sustainable is a long game in which all feasible solutions are needed.

Photos: Nina Karlsson 

 
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