Thinking in a Different Box
Designing a new system requires thinking in a different box rather than thinking out of the box and the courage to be vulnerable as we will need to base our merits on “not-knowing”, curiosity to step out of the known, to self-assess and report the findings, collaborate, be patient and act agile, calculate an extended benefit (and not solely as profits) for all. The modern day problems we are faced with beholds unaccounted opportunities for new ways of doing business and relating to one another. Businesses have assumed for far too long that the natural capital was free and that the social capital in the form of labor was merely a step in the cost calculation-well the new box is telling otherwise.
I have come been introduced to the understanding of almost 15 years ago and have witnessed both examples of progress as well as greenwashing. I also believe that we needed more work in understanding the infrastructure sustainability required before we could move on to circularity as they are not just words or a product or two in a collection. Circularity is a way of suggesting to re-imagine our relationships with not only the natural world but with all the stakeholders. There are certain steps to curate to decouple economic growth from unsustainable manufacturing and consumption in order to build the resilient systems against future crisis; climate being at the top of the list. Circularity demands vulnerability, accountability, creativity, curiosity, innovation, collaboration and arduous leadership.
Over 100 billion tons of resources enter the economic flow each year and a considerable portion is lost as waste and emissions. The demand for resources is expected to double by 2050 and scientists are warning us that unless we change our course, the impacts will be brutal socially, environmentally and economically. EU is working on its green commitment and its priorities will be investing in renewable energy, protecting biodiversity and transforming agriculture and businesses to encourage circularity across multiple industries. Re-cycling and carbon pricing, cross border carbon taxation, legislations to limit/ban the use of single use virgin materials are parts of the plan that EU is portraying based on circularity; driving further prospects on innovation and funding targeting to accelerate circularity.
The fashion industry is on circularity`s radar (and vice versa) and the long established linear system still needs collaborative projects which can ignite change at scale. The global fashion system has been hit by the pandemic; revealing the weaknesses as well as possibilities-unveiling what happens if a whole system comes to a stop, leaving many along the supply chain effected. What is it that makes the fashion cycle run and what would it take to make it immune to shocks, be resilient ? Should we not look for the fragilities in how we construct the system, the products, our relations to resource and stakeholders?
Brand-purpose is a good starting point and it paves an important path for the value chain and competition. The current global status is crying for genuine environmental and social purpose to make business better and that is what fashion can stand for if we target to design the system to be so. Sustainability competition is on the rise.
The connected consumers are demanding creative solutions that marry the brand value to seamless connected experiences as well as problem solving on routine basis. The definitions of the problems need to be investigated deeply. Businesses cannot simply make yearly budgets based on expected profits as they need to look further into the environmental and social values to foster as a part of their earnings. The fashion landscape is changing rapidly; calling for bolder ideas.
As we enter a new territory of no touch shopping both confirming to the rise of e-commerce as well as a no try-on policy since the beginning of the pandemic we will see further technological advancements of smart mirrors that provide style recommendations customized for consumers to solutions like Scircula that use data to identify, understand and solve fit-related problems before they become returns and waste. According to Scircula`s research around 64% of new customers who experience a return on their first purchase will not buy from that brand again. By eliminating sizing guesswork and providing accurate size recommendations by garment, based on a brands customers unique body shape and size, increasing fit confidence, positively influencing buying behaviors have a direct impact on earnings. Brands who use the clothing software, Scircula Supply Chain, have reduced garment returns by 34%, achieved cost savings of 18% across their value chain and reduced their carbon footprint.
Unspun the San Francisco- and Hong Kong-based custom-fit technology company, has partnered with Weekday for a customs jeans program called Body Scan Jeans. The customers can make an appointment for a contactless scan, the scanning technology will provide the information for the custom fit jeans which can be selected from the 2 styles and various fabrics providing an example of thinking in a different system than what we are normally used to and where there is a solution to inventory and waste. This new perspective provides the companies to focus on a fresh understanding of ROI in the form of Return on Information, which can help on the circularity journey.
Fashion industry relates to our global humanity; individually as well as collectively as we dress up to express, to rebel, love, declare our diversity as well as uniqueness using creativity and technology and supporting millions who work for the industry. Circularity in fashion is not only about consuming less, consuming better but also supporting, sustaining the people who grow, supply resources, design, make and market fashion.