Extending the life of clothes, a challenge for the fashion industry #562


The trade organization Alliance du commerce and the consultancy firm Deloitte have resumed the publication of their “Cahiers de la mode durable”, a practical magazine for the clothing sector informing on the eco-responsible challenges to be taken up to limit its impact on the planet. The third part, published a few days ago, focuses on extending the life of products, encouraging brands and retailers to question their operations in order to produce articles that will last and be used for longer.

This important challenge for fashion retailers “runs counter to the current trend of increasing clothing production volumes and decreasing wear life”, the document explains. Between 2000 and 2015, the global volume of fashion items put on the market rose from 50 to 100 billion pieces, while the usage rate of new clothes (the number of times a garment is worn before being discarded or given away) fell by 36%, according to data from the Ellen McArthur Foundation.

From the creation of the model to its end of life, it is a whole cycle that must be better anticipated. Moreover, sustainability is “a complex notion that includes several dimensions that are difficult to measure, whether physical (product wear and tear), usage (product functionality) or emotional (product desirability)”.

Designed as a practical guide, the booklet brings together figures and initiatives relating to the subject of the lifespan of clothing and footwear. For example, Decathlon surveyed 2,800 people to identify the recurring wear and tear and problems observed on its pairs of socks (shrinkage, pilling, holes, etc.). “Based on this information, specific tests were set up to evaluate and compare the durability of several models.

The document also points out the difficulties to be overcome. “At the design stage, the imperatives of durability can conflict with those of recyclability. Reinforcing seams to make a product more robust, for example, can hinder the disassembly needed for recycling,” says Yohann Petiot, the director general of the Trade Alliance, an organization representing department stores and fashion retailers.

Initiatives concerning the – difficult – calculation of a product’s sustainability are also mentioned, whether it be the scale drawn up by the eco-organization Refashion, the PEF method (product environmental footprint) instigated by the European Commission, or the need to integrate non-physical criteria to evaluate the lifespan.

This last point is the hobbyhorse of the En Mode Climat coalition of textile actors, which is evaluating “commercial practices that reduce the useful life of articles, by suggesting a bonus-malus system based on the rate of renewal of collections, the frequency and intensity of promotions, and price incentives for repairing clothes”.

Projects linked to secondhand, rental, refurbishment or product guarantees are to be tried out, as is currently the case with Kiabi, Devianne, Vaude, or Bocage. “By offering robust, adaptable, and repairable items, retailers will be able to decouple their turnover from the volumes sold, and explore new value levers throughout the product life cycle, thanks to models and services based on usage,” concludes Chloé Lamberger, sustainability director at Deloitte.

This third booklet is available to professionals free of charge on the websites of the Trade Alliance and Deloitte.

Fashion Network