Sustainability – no longer an option for the luxury fashion industry

Organic, recycled, upcycled, pre-owned, fair-trade, circular economy – Buzzwords that we here and see all around us. The trend towards sustainability is more urgent than ever. The fashion industry is known as being one of the most unsustainable industries but the retail revolution is more active than ever. Especially in the e-commerce sector the shift is apparent as leading retail platforms such as Farfetch have published their ambitious 10-year sustainability plan.

Taking a look back at sustainability in the fashion industry in 2020, we observe that brands have been occupied with adapting their sales strategy towards online retailing and dealing with the shift in Demand in products. All of a sudden a consumer would primarily shop online and only purchase loungewear during lockdown. All of those circumstances led to cancelled orders and shifts of sustainability plans.

This was and still is a big challenge for every fashion company. But those challenges took away the attention from the sustainability aspect. Especially the retail industry was growing at an accelerated pace like never before in 2020. 

In 2021, the Outlook for sustainability in the luxury fashion sector should shift. 

Céline Semann, CEO of Slow Factory Foundation, as one of the contributors to the book Open Source Fashion Cookbook argues that a new definition of luxury includes the respect for human rights and the planet.

„Fast fashion groups are continuing to grow, expand and capitalise on the sustainable movement — not necessarily by slowing down, being more mindful or by investing in impact-driven initiatives but by increasing production of organic cotton and take-back programmes, which ultimately continue to encourage overproduction and overconsumption.”, she argues. 

The industry thinks of sustainability in the wrong way! Is there a way to be profitable without charging the consumer immensely higher prices and expanding production!? It is apparent that the need for a more fundamental change of businesses is required. Rather than superficial marketing campaigns and charging premium prices to customers for a sustainable label, the organizations need to adapt their business models, centring themselves around a sustainable supply chain, requiring the use of organic fabrics, the use of renewable energies and many more aspects.

Farfetch‘s ambitious goals to improve their operation has been published recently. Their tremendous success this year comes with responsibility to lead the shift towards sustainability in the front lines.

„As a platform for the luxury industry we are uniquely positioned to enable positive change in many different ways. That’s why we called our sustainable business strategy ‘Positively FARFETCH’ – because we want to be, not just any platform, but the platform for good in luxury – a platform that enables and empowers everyone we work with to think, act and choose  positively“, states CEO José Neves. Those important words have the ability and momentum to shape the luxury fashion industry towards the sustainable development goals published by the United Nations. 

Farfetch aims to reduce their carbon footprint to zero by 2030 by reviewing their supply chain activities, focusing mainly on packaging and transport issues. By ensuring the right size of boxes to ship in clothes reduces waste production whilst using renewable energies to power their productions. Farfetch thinks ahead to offset their environmental impact by supporting renewable energy products and investing into Forest Stewardship certification materials.

The trend towards second-hand purchases is a topic that the online retailer doesn’t leave out of their sight. By introducing  “Farfetch Secondlife” and “Farfetch Donate”, the consumer has the ability to prolong their clothes’ lives.

By Antonia Kuffler

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