Fashion has justifiably come under fire for its history of environmental and ethical transgressions. From being one of the world’s largest polluters across fabric dyeing and landfill disposal, to the persistent spectre of the “sweatshop,” fashion has struggled to shed the image of being a ruthless industry with exploitation at its core.

This legacy has not been helped by the rise of the fast fashion model, where quick-fix, low-quality, high-volume production has exacerbated the damage that fashion production and consumption are causing to vulnerable societies and to the environment.

There have always been brands that have swum against the tide and been successful (take Patagonia, profiled as part of our opinion piece on “greenwashing”), creating high quality products with impeccable ethical and environmental credentials. But the last five years or so has also seen the rise of digital-native brands and retailers who take a radical approach to sustainability: offering total transparency, so customers can see when, where, and by whom they clothes were made.

The catalysts for this new age of sustainable, open apparel production is being driven by two factors: changes in consumer buying behaviour, as more and more people shop with a conscience, and looming legislation. In the UK, where The Interline is based, the Modern Slavery Act is set to become even stricter in the near future, while similar policies are being put into effect elsewhere in the world – with fast fashion retailers in particular being called to account.

Make no mistake, though: the new era of sustainable fashion will be impossible to deliver without technology. To obtain the kind of detailed, real-time insights required to claim a compliant supply chain, factories must be connected, monitored, and managed. To demonstrate the provenance of materials, their sources need to be independently verifiable by consumers, not just NGOs.

In 2020, fashion is wrestling with its legacy and preparing for a very different, more accountable future. Join us in September when we examine what that will mean in theory and in practice.

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