“Sustainability is the new black!” according to cynics who want to paint it as fashion’s latest passing trend. Of course we understand it’s easy to tune-out when our global circumstances require the use of the word ‘sustainable’ on a daily basis. But stick with it, sustainability isn’t going anywhere, and we have a remedy for any impending ‘eco-fatigue’. Thanks to rigorously conducted research, The Fabricant has scientific proof that digital fashion not only makes you look great, it also enables the traditional fashion industry to shift its behaviours to help relieve the pressure on our planet’s ecosystem. We’ve always been big believers in the power of data.
One of our founding ideas was that we could make fashion sustainable by harnessing technology to reduce the environmental impact of garment creation, and in time, fully transition to an industry that makes only digital clothing. We were told it was a very grand ambition, but if you’re going to dream you might as well dream big. So far, in collaboration with the forward thinking brands we work with, we’re taking steps that bring us closer to making that prospect a reality.
Knowing that beliefs are one thing and hard facts are another, we wanted to add empirical evidence to our mantra of ‘fashion should waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but imagination’. With this in mind, we collaborated with Imperial College London, a world-leading university with a reputation of excellence in science, engineering and business, to put together a sustainability report that would add numbers to what we felt to be true: that digital fashion, through its use of technological disruption, could positively impact the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.
The research paper, available to download HERE, compares the life cycle assessment of physical fashion versus digital fashion production, using the creation of a single t-shirt as its working example. Its findings were very telling:
- The life cycle carbon footprint of the production of a single t-shirt, from design to disposal, generates 7.8 kg of CO2. A digital-only t-shirt generates 0.26 kg: a reduction of more than 97 percent in carbon impact.
- Wetting processes during the life cycle of a t-shirt amount to 683 litres of water consumption — a digital-only product skips this phase step entirely.
- Environmental pollution caused by the use of chemicals in the physical design and production phase amounts to 12,300 kg. Digital-only generates 0.692 kg.
Beyond the creation of a purely digital product there are significant gains when physical fashion brands use digital interventions in their usual processes.
As the report notes with reference to a previous study:
- Digital samples replacing physical garments during design and development phases dramatically reduce the brand’s carbon footprint by up to 30% and help to achieve sustainability goals.
Whatever your feelings about the word ‘sustainability’, it is a reality we must continue to facilitate, whenever we can, however we can. Digital fashion has the tools and the scientifically proven facts to support its wider uptake. Only when more brands embrace the process can we begin to remake an industry that still has much work to do.
Our sincere thanks to Imperial College London and talented researcher Yihan Xiong, supported by Dr Onesmus Mwabonje and Dr Eva Sevigne Itoiz,
who led the detailed life cycle assessment comparative research, illustrating the environmental effects of physical versus digital fashion