2020, a year of sustainability in the fashion business

Summary of the Annus Horribilis

The year 2020 will remain in our memories for the coronavirus crisis, Annus Horribilis for the over 72,000 deaths in Italy alone and the lockdowns that blocked the country disrupting the production chains, including textiles and fashion.


It will also remain in our memories for the generosity of many companies. Textile companies and fashion brands have donated to hospitals and civil defence and reconverted part of their production to face masks and PPE. With the reconversion, textile companies have learned new skills and technological expertise to develop future materials and processes. 


COVID was also an opportunity to question the business models that have characterized fashion consumption and production in recent decades: fast fashion, the delocalization of processes in low-cost countries in search of cost advantages. to the detriment of the quality of the products and the safety of the workers involved. 


Are we ready to go from fast to slow fashion? Difficult to say but authoritative voices have outlined the lines for the new fashion: well-made products designed to last, less compulsive and more thoughtful consumption, greater awareness about the value of materials and the manufacturing history behind the garments; preference for shorter supply and the value of proximity to optimize logistics. In short, a real revolution that promises essential changes in the fashion industry and consumer behaviour. 


An example of this new paradigm is the Fashion Pact, launched in 2019 by François-Henri Pinault, of Kering, at the G7 summit in Biarritz. More than 60 have joined the Pact so far from different fashion and market segments and 14 countries representing over 200 brands well known to consumers. It is a  super alliance representing around one-third of the global fashion industry. The Fashion Pact signatories converge on three macro objectives: defending biodiversity and the oceans, fighting climate change. These objectives translate in a call to action focusing on low impact raw materials, the transition to energy from renewable sources, and the reduction of plastic in packaging. 


In 2020 the fashion business commitment to sustainability not only grew, but it also became “systemic” and strategic. Within such a framework, the awareness about the importance of accountability and transparency has been growing. Publishing a sustainability report has become a must-have for several fashion companies.  


Indeed, something is changing in the fashion brands’ narrative of sustainability. The awareness of greenwashing adverse consequences on the brand reputation has led to a more sound consideration of more sophisticated measurement tools for the environmental performance of goods and processes.


Yes, fashion is getting more responsible.