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What is sustainable fashion and what specialists are needed in this field


For millennials, money is not the deciding factor when choosing a profession. They strive to make the world a better place by working for companies that care about the environment. More and more young people are looking for their way in the world of sustainable fashion
In early October, the Second Breath Charitable Foundation, together with the Educational Platform Skillbox, held a public talk on the topic “Education in the field of sustainable fashion: challenges and prospects”.

The discussion was attended by the founders of sustainable brands, upcycle-designers and representatives of the fashion industry

Read about how we are changing the fashion industry today and what we can do to make young professionals more qualified and competent, read our material.

How much do our wardrobes cost the planet
When buying new clothes, we usually pay attention to the price tag. But behind every dress, pants or sweater is a price that goes unnoticed by most people: damage to the environment.

According to data published by UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation [1]:

Every year, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water – this is enough to meet the needs of 5 million people.
About 20% of wastewater worldwide is generated by staining and treating fabrics.
Of the total amount of fiber used to make clothing, 87% is incinerated or discarded in landfill.
The fashion industry accounts for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and shipping combined. At this rate, greenhouse gas emissions from the fashion industry will rise by more than 50% by 2030.
Every year, half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. Microfibers cannot be extracted from water, and they can spread through the food chain.

What is sustainable fashion and why it is important
Sustainable fashion is a term we use more and more often as we become more aware of the serious impact of our consumer choices on the environment. But what does eco-friendly fashion really mean?

Slow or sustainable fashion is clothing and accessories that are manufactured, sold, used and disposed of in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Production encourages the use of local, biodegradable fabrics and materials that have virtually no harmful effects on the environment. Thus, these tissues can eventually return to the ecosystem.

Sustainable brands focus on quality, using durable materials and finishes, as well as planet-friendly production.

Clothing produced by fast fashion brands is not designed for longevity: the goal is to get people to buy more and more often. By choosing eco-friendly brands that guarantee the timelessness and quality of their products, you can reduce the amount of waste generated, as well as the amount of clothes you buy.

“We’re used to consuming quickly. But now there are opportunities, there are alternatives, and there are more and more of them, “says Victoria Terra. [2]

Fast fashion reduces the cost of clothing due to low wages and the quality of production conditions for workers. Ethical brands do not use cheap labor in developing countries or child labor.

“We employ a lot of people from vulnerable segments of the population. And even if you don’t want to save the planet by handing over the thing, you provide them with work. If we look at the issue through the prism of sustainable development, then we are fighting both poverty and sustainable consumption. We promote production and unite stakeholders,” Daria Alekseeva shared. [2]

Unless the fashion industry accelerates its response to climate change, it will produce about twice as many emissions by 2030 as required by the Paris Climate Agreement.

From rising sea levels to extreme rains and stronger heatwaves, the effects of climate change can no longer be ignored by either society or the fashion industry, which will feel many consequences for their operations in the years to come. [3]

However, despite its relevance, in Russia a stable fashion is just beginning to emerge.

“Communication is changing a lot now. We began to understand that it is strange to raise our children in this way, it is strange to communicate so much with our colleagues, with our relatives, friends and so on. And this strangeness of ours is also felt in relations with nature and with the planet. A certain consumer attitude, from which none of us is happy, “says Olga Glagoleva.

How to Become a Sustainable Fashion Specialist
Some of the professions of the sustainable fashion industry are related to fabrics and design, others to supply chain management and ethical sourcing, and still others to the corporate social responsibility aspect. Here are just a few:

A typical day of a fashion eco-designer may consist of trend analysis, market research (e.g., spending time in vintage stores, malls, and fairs), design, technical drawing, graphics development, and sample launches. Its functions may also include contacting suppliers and supporting filming and shows.

Ethical Trading Manager
Its role is to research innovative and sustainable materials and then integrate them into production. It may also be responsible for maintaining a reliable, secure and transparent ethical compliance program that suppliers and businesses must adhere to.

Product Innovation Specialist
The functions of this position include conducting research to identify and successfully offer new assortments and promising products through material analysis and product development. He also manages relationships with external agencies, negotiates with factories and suppliers.

Sustainable Product Manager
This specialist must ensure that the samples and products meet the quality and safety standards of the business. In addition, it manages production and eliminates potential shipping issues. Knowledge of materials and product development innovation, as well as a thorough understanding of the supply chain and negotiation skills, is critical to success in this position.

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
This job is suitable for those who want to change the situation in the industry from the inside. The CSR Manager manages internal and external processes related to the definition and implementation of sustainable development strategies aimed at minimizing risks to business, reducing environmental impact and promoting economic and social development. Moreover, he is engaged in supporting and improving interaction with the board of directors, investor relations and press office, and company-wide awareness-raising activities, as well as ensuring the organization’s compliance with the law.

Sustainability Specialist
This role includes developing and implementing the company’s programs to promote ethics in the industry. Sustainability managers take control of the development, implementation, promotion and monitoring of environmental strategies in an organization.

“There is a huge amount of modern technology that is changing the future. Those who do not follow the changing world may be left without business. If you are a designer, in the XXI century you will not be able to achieve anything if you do not look into some other specialized specialties. All innovations take place at the junction of specializations and those who understand this will do something cool for this world, “Kristina Urusova is sure. [2]

Innovative solutions are born at the intersection of professions.

“If you are interested in the topic of sustainable design, it is better to use English words and delve into terminology in English. This will give you more opportunities to find something. And if you’re a designer and you want to talk to people about such topics, you have to be savvy from all sides. Where can I find this savvy? Probably not in universities. It should be your personal desire, personal interest to meet with such and such a curator, with such and such a teacher. In design, a modern person should look at the world in a versatile way, “Galina Larina believes. [2]

Is education in the fashion industry crucial to success?

There are many useful courses that will help you gain the knowledge necessary to work in the field of sustainable fashion. For example, international fashion management or fashion marketing, clothing purchasing, fashion design, trend forecasting, search and supply management, circular economics, entrepreneurship, textile science, human rights, sustainability, biology. The list goes on and on.

“Sustainable development is not a philosophical issue, not a matter of human choice. Our economic system is focused on consumption. And sustainable fashion is about reducing consumption. Young specialists should delve into the essence of the issue, into its economic part. If we don’t find eco-friendly, cost-effective principles, processes and resources, it won’t work. Therefore, I recommend new specialists to study economics as well, “advises Kristina Urusova. [2]

Another way to gain additional knowledge and experience is to surround yourself with people living and breathing in the industry. This allows you to create a network of professionals who share knowledge, experience and implement joint projects.

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