Producing too many clothes is no longer a good look. That was the conclusion of a task force of fashion industry forces who gathered last week at the DealBook Summit in New York City.
The group was asked by Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times fashion director and chief fashion critic, who moderated the discussion, to take on the oxymoron of sustainable fashion.
“At this point, it’s not about the chemicals,” Ms. Friedman said. “It’s about the sheer amount of stuff that we produce, that we buy and that we waste.”
The experts, whose work touches upon several aspects of the industry, agreed: Things must change, and it is no longer possible to wait to see who will step up to lead the transformation. Every part of the chain needs to participate, from investors to designers to consumers, said Ms. Friedman. And education, legislation and an evolution of the business model away from double-digit growth are essential.
According to the World Bank, if the fashion industry continues on its growth trajectory, world clothing sales could increase 65 percent by 2030. Contrast that, Ms. Friedman said, with the finding by the Hot or Cool Institute, a Berlin-based sustainability research group, that meeting fashion industry environmental goals would require consumers to buy only five new pieces a year.
Efforts now to promote sustainability include using less-impactful fabrics, such as recycled cashmere and lab-grown leather, and promoting what’s known as circularity by doing things like buying designer resale, a segment estimated to be a $100 billion to $120 billion business worldwide in 2022, according to the Boston Consulting Group. But the industry is producing clothes at record volume. The Chinese fast-fashion company Shein, which sells clothing items, like tank tops, for as little as $5, recently surpassed Amazon as the most-downloaded app.

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