What if sustainability starts in your closet?

Reviewing a list of hot topics and trends from 2015 onwards, fashion technology and sustainability are amongst the most popular ones.

As commented in The Fashtech Ecosystem: Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing Augmented and Virtual Reality and Internet of Things are some of the technologies that are changing the way customers shop, interact with the product and brands.

Meaningful Fashion Brands

Sustainable and Meaningful Fashion Brands

SUSTAINABILITY FROM THE SUPPLY SIDE: Technological innovation is at the heart of sustainable development 

Organizations have adopted technologies to improve their inventory accuracy, visibility and traceability, obtain real-time data and use AI analytics to better forecast or allocate, while keeping track of their omnichannel customers, amongst other benefits. Technology, specially Industry 4.0.,  is changing the way fashion retailers design, source, plan, move, stock, deliver and service products.

In previous articles, we saw how Supply (companies) is transforming the fashion business into a more sustainable ecosystem as new generations demand for sustainable products, including recycling and upcycling. Demand is continuously evolving and we see a growing concern over healthy and authenticity. A clear example is how brands like Nike, Patagonia, The Reformation or Stella McCartney are embracing activism. Fashion politics is the new black while customers are more and more concerned about environmental issues and show preference for purpose-driven brands. 

How is Fashtech speeding up sustainability in Fashion?

Blockchain is ensuring transparency across the value chain. RFID, real time inventory visibility.  The benefits of 3D Printing in fashion and sustainability are many and include lower transportation costs due to additive manufacturing and customization, energy cost reduction and material savings. Then, IoT allows companies to understand customer needs and track product usage like Nike+ which measures and records the distance and pace of a walk or run (Read more about Sports and Fashion in the Ironman era here).

So, there is no doubt that companies that innovate and invest on fashtech will speed up their sustainability value proposition, from eco-friendly fabrics to more efficient processes.

Avery Dennison x EVRYTHNG

The result of the partnership between Avery Dennison and EVRYTHNG (IoT Cloud-based platform) was that every product was ‘born’ digital with the ability to capture real-time data, enhance consumer experiences, and make more efficient manufacturing and selling processes.

SUSTAINABILITY FROM THE DEMAND SIDE: What if those technologies could enhance sustainability starting from our closets?

This video made me think about the possibilities of using IoT, for example, to enhance environmental, social and governance (ESG) habits from the demand side. This is about redefining customers behaviour in the second most polluting industry: Fashion. It´s all about thinking in a sustainable way from beginning to end with a customer centric approach. Companies are not the only ones to be sustainable, it´s all of us.

What if instead of buying (X) items a year, we purshased half the amount? Wouldn´t you pay more for a long-lasting product that ensures environmental and human sustainability?

Sustainability App closet brands fashion retail circular

What if we had a closet and every garment had an RFID label powered by IoT to track usability? Linked to a mobile application we could see a list of the most used items and their attributes (e.g. brand, color, size, price, days of usage).

  • What pair of shoes do you use the most (e.g. number days, miles/km)?
  • What are the best product attributes I should look at when buying according to my preferences, sales history and usage?
  • What is the most sustainable pullover according to x, y, z parameters?
  • What is the reason of not using an item? (e.g. color, quality, fit, size, total look)

How many times have you packed your winter clothes when spring is coming and realized that you didn´t use many pullovers, jackets or shoes? Our closet has items barely worn but we keep buying new items every season. Technology could help us to make our planet more sustainable, starting in our closet.

What if an app could show us that 4 pair of shoes contribute to 80% of the total usage (in hours, days) in a closet of 20 pairs? Then you could filter according to different attributes like “occasion” (e.g. sport event, cocktail party, work), quality (e.g. cashmere, cotton,linen) or features (e.g. long-sleeve, french collar, slim fit).

If the retailer includes the information in the label, the customer could see how sustainable the product is. For instance, type of fabrics, supplier location, carbon footprint, sustainability programs or initiatives of the brand, and so on. The objective is to promote an ethical consumerism, understanding the impact of things we buy and own.

Inside your closet: Units by brand, usage by brand (illustrative)

Sustainability App closet brands fashion retail

The app could then recommend us what to shop according to product usage, telling us what are the colors, fabrics, patterns or fit that we use/ wear the most. Even total look recommendations or how to combine different garments. At the same time, inform about unused products that could be recycled.

But I´m not saying that our closet must be a 100% rational utilitarian asset, because fashion is not only about covering physiological needs, as described in Maslow´s Pyramid. Some categories are more seasonal than others, and fashionability also impacts on usage patterns. Basics will, by definition, be used far above than a suit/ dress for a ceremony, for example. Also, some categories like accessories cover intangible needs like status or self-fulfillment and their ROI is therefore, different. The main idea is to compare products with similar attributes or needs and see how we could make better decisions when shopping apparel.

Product traceability and supplier information (illustrative)

Sustainability app efficient closet supplier information fashion retail

Companies could benefit from the app not only tracking product usage, like Nike+ is doing, but also having customers feedback and recommendations on products (e.g. color, fit, quality, size). In an ideal scenario, where customers would share their data (e.g. product location, usage), fashion companies could be able to know how the closet of their customers is, helping them to segment their demand and competition in a level that is far away from nowaday´s understanding.


“Think. Then buy”, Adolfo Dominguez latest advertising Campaign. * Every Spaniard buys, on average, 34 items a year and throw away 12-14 Kg of clothes.

Sustainability should be an attitude and come from the demand side too, like Adolfo Dominguez (men and womenwear brand) is proposing in his latest campaign or Patagonia suggested in 2011 ago with the “Don´t Buy this Jacket” ad.

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