By Asi Efros

“How do you feel about not having a planet to live on?”- I asked an aspiring 23 year old lingerie designer at Curve New York in August of 2019. I was pleasantly surprised to hear, “It’s messy, but we’ll manage.” Her courageous answer instilled hope considering Generation Z will be the first generation to suffer from global unsustainable practices.

The transition from “messy” to “manageable” has to start now. According to Stephanie Benedetto (founder/ CEO of Queen of Raw) “The fashion industry is the number two polluter in the world! And if we don’t make a change, by 2025, two-thirds of the entire world’s population will face shortages of fresh water and be exposed to hazardous chemicals from the fashion industry alone.”

The global lingerie market will reach an impressive $59.15 billion by 2024. Being a part of the intimates community we can manifest a real change and create the turning point on our way to a 100% sustainable industry.

What is sustainability? The original definition of sustainable development is: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  Bruntland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development (1992).

The lingerie market is exploding with new brands. Each lingerie designer before “going into the lingerie business” as well as lingerie conglomerates should answer the questions: “What is being created? Is the collection being developed, produced and distributed following main principles of sustainability? How much control does a designer or company have over all processes and materials, especially if lingerie is produced overseas? What components and fabrics will be included in the construction of the garments to make them recyclable? What is the carbon footprint of development, production, and shipment from the factories to the consumer? What is the life cycle of the garment and where will the garment finish its journey?

Do sustainably produced garments cost more? The correct answer is YES. A recent report published by PwC indicates that 21 % of respondents to a survey were willing to spend an additional 5% on sustainable fashion, which signifies the value of the sector. Psychologically we are more likely to “enjoy and treat with respect” lingerie we have paid top dollar for. The notion of purchasing better quality garments but less of them is at the base of the principles of sustainability.

In addition to changing consumers’ mentality, a proper legislature will be required to guide the processes in the right direction. Europe has been leading the industry by implementing ethical laws into practice.

Many new lingerie brands embrace sustainability as their main strategy and they are leading by example. Other brands and companies can join by reaching out to a myriad of organizations, coalitions, initiatives, and research programs focusing solely on sustainability and ethical methods of development and production.

First is Global Fashion Agenda – an assembly of industry influencers and leaders discussing the most pressing issues of social, ethical and environmental nature. Published by GFA is a document of paramount importance, the annual Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, navigating companies into a sustainable future and highlighting the fashion industry’s environmental and social conduct. 

Ellen McArthur Foundation provides insights and strategies on how businesses can embrace the circular economy while scaling their performance.

Fashion For Good is an industry-funded platform that is committed to sharing the best practices of the circular apparel industry as well as the latest innovations in that field through the Innovation Platform. The criteria of “Good Fashion” is described using 5 key elements – Materials, Economy, Energy, Water, and Lives.

“The Five Goods represent an aspirational framework we can all use to work towards a world in which we do not simply take, make, waste, but rather take, make, renew, restore.” — William McDonough, Co-founder Fashion for Good.

STG Study Hall is a conference centered on sustainability and backed by the United Nations. Their main role is an education in the realm of sustainable practices from software to manufacturing and waste recovery. Their Slow Factory Design Lab works with companies to find the best ways of sustainable practice implementation.

New Standard Institute is the youngest organization founded by Maxine Bédat. Once an owner of a sustainable fashion basics brand, Maxine realized that to affect a real change she had to take a different approach.

“A big part of the sustainability question is just how many garments are being produced and having to slow that down. There will always be a natural tension for a fashion company between sales growth and addressing these issues.” — Maxine Bédat, founder of New Standard Institute.

These are just a few relatively new entities providing valuable insights into an immensely complex issue of sustainability. One thing is clear…it will take an entire industry to solve this issue and implement the change. I’m very hopeful that future generations will have a thriving planet on which to live.

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