TIMO RISSANEN (DESIGNER; ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF FASHION DESIGN AND SUSTAINABILITY, PARSONS THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DESIGN)
2013 is the year that sustainability in fashion enters the mainstream on an unprecedented scale. H&M's recycling scheme, while far from perfect, will bring issues around fashion waste to a large audience. What the scheme does not address can nonetheless be used powerfully: I hope this is the year we will begin serious conversations about over-consumption and the systemic transformation required to address it. Elizabeth Cline's book
was the perfect consumer-led opening to that conversation so let's not miss the opportunity!
2012 saw two devastating garment factory fires, one in Pakistan in September and another in Bangladesh in November. Look at it another way, in these two fires 400 people lost their lives making 'cheap' garments for us, under conditions that became unacceptable in the wealthy west following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. Bangladesh has had several similar fires over recent years but it wasn't until 2012 that these fires began to appear in mainstream news outlets. We are more aware of our connectedness through our garments with such tragic events, and there is now consensus that such preventable tragedies are simply unacceptable. This also applies for the use of child slave labor in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan. Judging by the successful campaign to encourage Zara to pledge not to use Uzbek cotton, we are seeing the end of passive, apathetic fashion consumption.
Within fashion and sustainability research, in 2013 cross-institutional collaborations are taken to new heights. Local Wisdom
, an international research project focusing on the craft of use of clothing led by Kate Fletcher at London College of Fashion
, brings together seven universities from around the world, including Parsons The New School for Design
in New York and California College of the Arts
in San Francisco. The two-year collaboration will present its findings in 2014 and 2015, without doubt pointing towards deeper engagement between the fashion industry and fashion consumers.
If I can offer one piece of advice for the fashion industry for 2013, it is this: Let’s work together to shed some of the secrecy and paranoia that has for decades paralyzed any potential for shared conversations about common goals. Let’s then start those conversations.