One of the challenges for sustainability is gaining acceptance from consumers. While consumers seem to be aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry, the fast fashion industry seems to keep on growing. The skeptics believe that the consumers are not willing to pay the extra cost for conscious fashion. Though, is that the only factor at play here?
We are all too aware of the kick that a new shirt gives to it’s wearer or the cloak of confidence that the well fitting suit bestows. It seems that this “high” is real for most humans and actually can even go a step further. Researchers at the Kellogg business school in 2012 did an experiment, to establish the "lab coat" effect. In the experiment they observed that folks who wore white lab coats were able to solve problems faster and with more confidence. It demonstrates the phenomenon called the “Enclothed Cognition”. This phenomenon just establishes that the clothes that we wear impart their wearer with part of their personality.
The sustainability purists argue that we should follow the minimalist path and buy only the most essential articles. This extreme minimalism requires a significant amount of self-control to pass on the “high” of buying new clothes. Looking at it from an Indian perspective, the challenge is even more daunting. With a young population that desires to make it’s mark, the tenets of minimalism are almost impossible to follow.
This is similar to the challenges of pollution from fossil fuel, where starving a growing economy of energy has not been possible. Every individual, person or whole nation aspires to grow and forcing them to adopt a minimalist life for the greater good is not realistic.
This is where technology needs to come to the rescue be it in the field of energy or fashion. Technology enables many facets of clean energy today. It enables both energy conservation as well as move from fossil fuels to renewables. Similarly, in fashion, technology needs to enable both conservation as well as the re-commerce and recycling of garments. For conservation, we do need to provide consumers with viable options of garments that meet the tenets of durability as mentioned by Ellen McArthur foundation in their vision statement on fashion sustainability.
The following are ways technology can enable conservation:
- Promote the need for better, stronger fabric and construction that can enhance the life of the garment
- Ensure the supply chain partners have right certifications that ensures social sustainability aspects like better pay and working conditions for workers
- Promote the movement towards sustainability and classic styles through leveraging social media
- Providing a platform to make it easier to rent or resale clothes
Providing these capabilities in a phased manner to our consumers can help them enjoy the benefits of conscious fashion. It might just help them solve the dilemma that they face currently.