The future of sustainable fashion: Craftsmanship now and then

Welcome to the first blog of our articles series that explores the question: What does the future of sustainable fashion look like?

That is a big question that depends on many factors. To understand them, we have to dissect the many movements happening in fashion and the world right now.

Craftsmanship has been announced as one of the most significant movements of our time by WGSN – a leading major design and consumer trend forecaster agency (1). How is that? 

Artisan looks go mainstream

Whether you are aware of it or not, this trend is everywhere and it is defining our daily choices. For example, industries such as crafted beers, artisanal gin, and maker spaces have been booming. In hospitality, local food, in-house events, and slow communal experiences are in high demand. In terms of coffee places, consumers have been demanding high-quality options. It resulted in the appearance of the third wave coffee movement phase in 2003.

Craftsmanship even impacts our home interiors with hot trends like woven tapestries and redefines our working environments. Co-working spaces demand for the new “creative class” have been exploding (2). In 2019, the average demand growth rate in top global cities was up to 17%. In Europe, Berlin sees the biggest demand with a 31% increase in demand (3). This growth is only further escalating due to Covid-19 (4)

In the fashion realm, two keys events from the early 2010s are significant in this transition (5)

Fast-fashion retaliation:

Consumers have become more aware of the human toll and environmental impact of fast-fashion mass production chains. Events such as the Rana Plaza’s garment factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 has brought to the forefront this realization. The factory owners ignored structural cracks in the building to continue production. The next day, the building crashed and killed 1,134 workers. 2,600 were injured. Famous fast-fashion brands like Mango and Primark used this factory (6).  

The 2008 financial crisis:

As millennials were looking for alternative ways to earn income, maker seller platforms like Etsy became very popular. By 2013, Etsy became a billion-dollar business (7). Coincidentally, due to the covid pandemic, Etsy now counts 10 million new buyers and 5 million reactivated buyers over the last 12 months (September 2020)(8). Many other vintage and hand-made seller platforms like eBay are also seeing significant growth. In fact, between July 2016 and June 2019, searches for ‘sustainable’ increased by 600%, while ‘used’ was up by 417% and ‘eco-friendly’ jumped by 344% (9).

Overall, this trend translates into a growing interest in functional and well-made clothing items with craft-making comes back in all forms and shapes.

  • On the catwalk, it shows through the use of techniques such as embroidery, hand-dye woven fabric, basketry, woollen plaid, knit, etc., and through references to it using accessories
  • It manifests through the rise of second-hand clothing, upcycling, DIY and repairing, donating, swapping and reselling, and fashion rentals on a consumer level.

"In short, craft has become a statement, an attempt to reset values and bring a soul back into fashion."

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A total makeover

At the core of a megatrend, which generally lasts  30 years is usually an unmet need. In this case, it is the need to reconnect to the objects around us and the community that created them in “IRL” (in real life).  Craft is used as a response to the automated lives, digital age and material culture we live in. It is an attempt to take control back and it as an antidote by focusing on:

  • The dexterity of human hands: there is a renewed interest to preserve past knowledge and disappearing artistry
  • Human creativity: To use it as an ability to create unique, smart and meaningful designs to fight obsolescence and modern problems (10).

In other words, this trend calls for a holistic revision of our products and services. 

It begins with finding new solutions such as building circular business models like Palanta and moving forward with more transparency, research and open collaboration. 

Craftsmanship demands to reconnect to the true cost and human value behind a purchase. More and more, smaller brands are popping up online. Atelier Félie is one of them. Its concept revolves around locally made-to-order products and transparency. The brand displays all costs and information about all agents in the production to bridge the consumer with the garment maker and the story behind it. We interviewed their founder to know their take on today’s challenges and opportunities in a sustainable fashion that you can read in the next part of the Future of Sustainable Fashion series.

To sum up, the rise in crafts democratizes inventions and innovations and encourages consumers to take part in the sharing economy. Be it through maker spaces, reselling platform or rental clothing. These industries are booming. Our need for human connection and authentic IRL experiences being locked down by the pandemic promises that these industries are here to stay. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wgsn.com/en/
  2. WGSN Anatomy of trend Mindset Whitepaper
  3. The Global Flex Market. The top 18 markets for flexible workspace in 2019 research report.
  4. https://www.theinstantgroup.com/media/2019/global_cities_2019_final_us.pdf
  5. https://coworkingeurope.net/2020/05/27/post-covid-era-full-of-opportunities-for-coworking-attend-coworking-europe-2020
  6. WGSN Anatomy of trend Mindset Whitepaper https://cleanclothes.org/campaigns/past/rana-plaza
  7. WGSN Anatomy of trend Mindset Whitepaper https://www.mrporter.com/en-us/journal/fashion/artisanal-handmade-craft-trend-1197972
  8. https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/11/20/how-etsy-can-fuel-more-high-growth/
  9. https://fashionunited.uk/news/retail/second-hand-fashion-hits-187-million-pounds-on-ebay/2019091045194
  10. https://www.mrporter.com/en-us/journal/fashion/artisanal-handmade-craft-trend-1197972https://sourcingjournal.com/topics/fashion-trends/artisanal-craftsmanship-takes-center-stage-in-this-fall-winter-20-21-trend-153099/
  11. WGSN Anatomy of trend Mindset Whitepaper https://www.mrporter.com/en-us/journal/fashion/artisanal-handmade-craft-trend-1197972

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