New business models, materials sate Gen Z consumers, regulators
More and more fashion brands and platforms are adopting environmentally aware business models, utilizing biodegradable fabrics, and transitioning to low-pollution supply chains, according to industry insiders speaking at M Space, a forum convened at the Spring/Summer 2023 Shanghai Fashion Week.
The five-day event, which began on Sept 23, included a total of nine panel discussions and featured more than 60 professional guests. Discussions focused on environmental protection issues, and revealed that the Chinese fashion industry was becoming increasingly integrated into a broader shift in the country”s economy towards emphasizing sustainable development, driven both by State policy and shifting values among young consumers.
The textile industry, which has traditionally been high-polluting and high-emitting, accounts for about one-fourth of the carbon emissions produced by major consumer goods industries in China, according to the 2022 China Fashion Industry White Paper, released by global market research firm McKinsey & Co. Fabric production, preparation and processing procedures are especially energy-hungry.
China has moved to soften the environmental impact of the textile industry. The National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology jointly issued implementation opinions on accelerating the recycling of waste textiles in April, which includes promoting green and low-carbon production in the textile industry, improving the recycling system for waste textiles and promoting more thorough use and reuse.
Private sector entrepreneurs have been innovating to meet new consumer and regulatory demands. At the Shanghai Fashion Week, sustainable fashion brand Donsee10, which has in the past released clothing lines making creative use of little-known materials like cactus leather, continued its exploration of environmentally friendly clothing manufacturing, launching a knitted vest made of 40 percent paper fiber. Accessories brand Wanaccessory also released a bag series made of kraft paper, which uses a pulping process that produces highly durable and water-resistant material.
Huang Xiaomian, founder of Jinky Huang, a brand that has focused on developing products made of new materials like cork, shared his understanding of sustainable fashion at the forum.
“In my opinion, the most important thing in fashion design is fabric. While many people are working with traditional knitted or woven fabrics, I want to develop alternative, sustainable fabrics,” he said.
Huang explained that as a clothing designer, he had experimented with different materials for new collections before settling on cork.
“The cork originates in Portugal, and it takes 25 to 30 years to peel the bark of the trees. In this process, no trees are cut down. Cork is 100 percent biodegradable, renewable, and can be recycled. From traditional to fashionable pieces, anything can be made of cork, which is one of the reasons why I have chosen it as my preferred material,” he said. “Sustainable materials can be applied to all aspects of life. From my perspective, the era of sustainability has come.”
Another speaker at the forum, Lei Yuxi, founder and CEO of materials company NanoxArch, shared his view of his company’s position in the sustainable fashion supply chain.