“The system is changing radically and forever. Fashion, which reflects our essence, in its infinite and opportunistic change will have to learn and make its own new codes and terms. Environment, circularity, reuse, savings, transformation, optimisation: these are all key concepts for the future of the world and humans.” This is how, at the end of the presentation at the Patagonia Store, Matteo Marzotto introduced the book by Francesca Romana Rinaldi (Egea Bocconi University Press), of which he also wrote the preface. The president of Dondup spoke about the challenges we face, the paradigm shift of which Italy can be a forerunner, even by taking a leading role, promoting responsible innovation thanks to its extraordinary balance between skills and tradition.
The book written (in English) by the director of the Master in Brand & Business Management and the New Sustainable Fashion short course at the Milan Fashion Institute (inter-university consortium comprising the Bocconi University, the Catholic University of Milan and the Polytechnic Institute of Milan) analyses the changes that companies must urgently consider in order to tackle the environmental and social problems that lie behind the value chains of the fashion industry.
At the G7 Summit held in Biarritz in 2019, 32 fashion brands signed their commitment to the “Fashion Pact” (a gradual alignment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which focuses on three gaps related to the environment, biodiversity and the climate). There is still a long way to go, but the book expresses the hope for the future of fashion, with a time horizon postponed to 2030.
The book references many company cases to highlight that numerous good practices are being adopted and that companies are gradually moving away from greenwashing to become truly strategic. The book also presents the main findings of more than 50 interviews with opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, associations, and policy makers. Among the strengths of the book is the creation of a new model of circularity in the value chain called the “Renewed Fashion Value Chain.”
Questioning the future of the industry in 2030, the author states that the necessary changes can be summarised in six points: having traceable and transparent value chains; involving consumers in a circular economy to prolong product life; reading and interpreting data so that technologies can increase human creativity; granting consumer centricity, engagement and inclusivity; transitioning from suppliers of products to suppliers of services; making profits without harming the environment or society.
The starting point is the word “sustainability”, which must take on a new meaning. An empirical, case-oriented and interview-based approach that will help to explain how responsible innovation must be seen not only as a driver to update business models, but also as the only way to ensure medium and long term economic sustainability. Chapter One starts with a discussion on the current state of fashion companies and on their important social role. The idea that the integration of ethics and aesthetics may not be enough is also discussed, introducing the concept of responsible innovation. The characteristics of consumers interested in sustainability are then analysed, exploring the many definitions of this consumer segment, the various clusters in existence and the specific communication tools for talking about sustainability in the fashion industry, according to the different consumer expectations. Chapter Three reinterprets the linear model of Porter’s value chain towards a Renewed Fashion Value Chain, and introduces the business models that will be available in the fashion industry by 2030. Another chapter focuses on transparency and traceability, aimed at creating sustainable value chains in the fashion industry, examining their role as crucial enablers of a more responsible production and consumption model. Chapter Five is dedicated to technologies for traceability and supply chain protection, with a particular focus on anti-counterfeiting. Chapter Six looks at how to manage circularity in fashion. The findings of the most updated reports on the application of circularity in the textile and clothing industries are presented, and the best practices underlying the opportunities and challenges of circular fashion are discussed. There are interesting opportunities of Collaborative Fashion Consumption (CFC) such as rental, subscription and recommerce services). Chapter Eight outlines the B-Corp certification and the legal status of Benefit Corporations. It analyses concrete examples to allow a deeper understanding of the application of these tools. It also examines the innovative ways in which sustainability is incorporated into the everyday business practices of some key players in the fashion industry. Finally, it discusses the future of fashion towards 2030 and presents the views of several opinion leaders. It also discusses some emerging technologies, such as wearable devices, blockchain technology, augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Fashion companies will need to involve consumers in their circular value chains, offering different ways to prolong product life. They must put the needs of consumers much more at the centre through product customisation, on-demand collections, a multi-channel approach, transmedia storytelling and one-to-one communication. Fashion companies will have to make the transition from producing and distributing products to offering more personalised services such as repair, rental and re-commerce, according to principles of ethics and responsible innovation.