139. The Next Black: The Future of Clothing & The Quest For Climate-Positive Products

13 important lessons from this video:

00:01:33 “Fashion passes. Style remains.” Coco Chanel. While the 1.7 trillion dollar fashion industry moves faster and faster, the concept of clothing hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years; covering our bodies and signifying social code. It has, however, transformed from the modern traditional made-to-order, mass produced, standardized and fixed-price market.

Today, clothes are designed on one country, manufactured in another, and then sold worldwide.

00:03:05 Nancy Tilbury of London-based design Studio XO focuses on merging fashion and technology, and has dressed celebrities such as Arcade Fire, Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.
“Start with an effect, build a narrative in your mind, work out what it is you want your product/service to do, and everything else really falls  into place.”

(As you specialize) you learn really great tricks, and those tricks turn into a methodology. That methodology detemines your authenticity and what makes your work special.

00:07:47 Wearable tech is a concept in which “clothing and accessories incorporate computer and advanced electronic technologies.” Most of todays wearable tech are limited to head and wrist displays, but tech and mainstream clothing are becoming more and more researched.

Brands such as Adidas are developing technologically infused “smart clothes:” clothing that can monitor athlete’s performance in real time via their clothing.

The first versions of these +500€ hand-made shirts had electrical wires running through them. Today’s non-invasive technological devices are so small and discreet that you forget they are in your clothing monitoring your heart rate, respiration, movement, distance covered, calories burned, etc.

As people want to better monitor their health and understand and improve their body and lifestyle, and as these things become more accepted, expect to see more and more sensors in more and more clothes.

In the future entire environments will be constructed; designed to monitor everything about the human body.

00:13:35 The future of fashion will not only be technological, but also organic. With little more than green tea, sugar, acidic acid (such as vinegar), yeast and bacteria, Suzanne Lee of design consultancy Biocouture creates sustainable fabrics and turns living biological materials into wearable clothing.  Future versions of these biological materials could be grown to repel water or even to deliver nutritous moisturizers to the skin of the person wearing it.

00:18:17 The fasion industry is heavily reliant on precious natural resources such as cotton (grown and picked from fields) to nylon (derived from petroleum products). In each step of the clothes manufacturing process, bits and pieces are cut, trimmed, and disgarded along the way, creating a chain of wasted materials.

00:21:01 Fashion changes quicker and quicker, and as such there is no Research & Development in fashion. This has become known as Fast fashion, the move from catwalk to order as quickly as possible “to capture current fashion trends.”

Fast fashion has come about in part through clothing companies’ abilty to deliver inexpensive clothes made in countries where manufacturing costs are lower and turnaround quicker, and in part because low prices and continually changing options satisfies consumer needs.

Fast fashion has completely changed the face of the industry so much that between 2000 to 2010 human consumption of clothes has increased by a staggering 47%.

The cost of this consumption business model is having a detrimental effect to the environment. If clothing companies keep pushing fast fashion it is because consumers keep demanding it. Consumer demands and desires is thus where the change has to come from.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In her mini-documentary The Story of Stuff: How Our Modern Markets Economy is Destroying our Planet, Annie Leonard points out that even with non-food items, most consumer goods fall under two life cycles:

  • Planned obsolescence involves creating products specifically designed for the dump; created with the intention of being useless as quickly as possible whilst leaving the consumer with the belief that they are getting a good deal. Products ranging from plastic bags to take-away coffee cups, DVDs, cameras, computers and smartphones…
  • Perceived obsolescence involves convincing consumers to discard products which are still perfectly usable. Products ranging from the newest fashion trend to the latest iphone model…

Advertising, branding, and media communications play a huge role in consumer spending and perceived obsolescence. What’s the point of an advertising except to make us unhappy with what we currently have? Media communications also aid in hiding the extraction, production, and distrution parts of the markets economy.]

00:24:36  Climate change is like a dagger in your heart when the places you once knew

(icy, dangerous, snow-capped mountains you once climbed) are no longer there because they’re all melted; gone. Because of climate change, says Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Initiatives and Special Media Projects for Patagonia.

In 2011, going against everything you learn in a business school but a technique applauded in advertisers,  Patagonia launched an advertising campaign designed to communicate to consumers not to buy what you don’t need rather than buying for the sake of accumulating things.

Patagonia’s sales skyrocked as a result of this campaign.

00:26:42 During 2009′s recession, people adapted by redefining their relationship to ‘stuff,’ and people began to understand that if you invest more in high quality products which last longer, you’ll actually save money in the long term.

00:28:34 There are three types of products:

  1. (+1) Climate positive products give back to the climate as a result of the production, manufacturing and consumption process. It is extremely rare to find these kinds of products.
  2. (0) Climate neutral products neither help nor destroy the climate as a result of the production, manufacturing and consumption process. Yet another rare kind of product.
  3. (-1) Climate negative productsdestroy the climate as a result of the production, manufacturing and consumption process. Many products fall under this category, and the best they can do is try to get as close to climate neutral as they possibly can.

00:29:46 Every year, the chemicals used during the process of dyeing fabrics different colors, plus an additional 200 tons of toxic chemicals that escape waste water treatment exposes the equivalent of half of the Mediterranean Sea into our rivers and streams.

Those chemicals absorb into the fish you eat and seep into the earth which nourishes the food you eat.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the documentary How Your Technology Waste Destroys The Planet & Compromises Your Security that ever since the illegal shipments of illegal e-waste from industrialized countries began arriving in Ghana (approx. 2004), the cancerous toxic waste and fumes from these burning technological components are billowing up into the river and atmosphere destroying the water and air quality and settling onto the fruits and vegetables sold in the local markets, which detrimentally and irreparably affect the health and development of the local population.]

00:31:02 Still in the early-stage of development, Bangkok-based Yeh Group has created dry die, a climate negative textile dyeing process which dyes textiles using supercritical carbon dioxide using 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals, and without using a single drop of water.

It’s easy to place the blame on unethical brands and polluting factories in far away lands.  But to make the clothing industry anywhere near sustainable, the responsibility also lies with the consumers.

Consumers need to buy less and care more for what they already have.

00:35:44 From cell phones to cars to clothing, Ifixit is “the free repair guide for everything, written by everyone.” It is fundamental in learning how to repair and work on the things we consume rather than simply throwing them out. One of the fascinating things about repairing things you own is that you become more attached to them. This movement is referred to as slow fashion.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This cognitive bias is referred to as the IKEA Effect, “when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.” Rory Sutherland speaks more on this in his talk The Next Revolution Will Be Psychological Not Technological.]

00:39:35 Fashion’s more climate neutral approach may lead to fundamental changes in its 100 year old business model as consumers begin investing in more higher-priced and better quality clothes, or possibly even subscription-based business models where consumers pay to receive new clothing in the mail from brands they like.

This is the brave new world of fashion.

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