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Sustainable Fashion Production: 7 Innovative Technologies

3D mobile body scanning, alternative fabrics, virtual sampling, fashion on demand — these and other technological trends are making fashion more sustainable.

One of the largest business sectors in the world is the fashion industry. Its cost is estimated at $3.5 billion. In addition, the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful and environmentally damaging businesses. About 20% of the world’s wastewater comes from clothing manufacturing, and 10% of carbon emissions. Just a few years after being made, three-fifths of the clothes produced end up in landfills or incinerators. Textile waste far outweighs the benefits of the industry, despite the fact that clothing is one of the basic human needs as well as an important means of expression. This trend is extremely dangerous and harmful if sustainable and environmentally safer solutions are not made in the fashion industry.

However, over the past decades, the situation has begun to change for the better, and the necessary changes in the field of fashion appear that change the existing model and pave the way for a more sustainable business model and ecosystem of clothing.

 What fashion technologies are used in sustainable fashion production?

Today’s consumer has changed from the past — according to McKinsey statistics, three out of five consumers now say the environmental impact is a key factor in purchasing decisions. Thus, consumers strive to minimize the impact of their purchases on the world. Due to this, technological trends in the fashion world are also changing. Eliminating the root causes of fashion’s struggle for sustainability is now key. Increasing personalization, encouraging reuse, solving industry size and fit issues, and introducing innovative technologies and manufacturing methods are key areas where fashion businesses can create the sustainable future their customers aspire to.

Reducing waste over the next decade is a key priority that the fashion industry is striving for thanks to the development of technologies affecting materials. Caring for the environment is becoming important for many companies that are replacing the materials of their products with more durable ones, or requiring fewer costs and resources. In addition, the economy of a closed fashion cycle is developing more and more actively, thanks to the development of new possibilities for processing clothes. Here are seven high-end technologies that are making more recyclable and transforming manufacturing to make fashion more sustainable.

  1. Virtual 3D sampling

Physical prototypes have been a pressing necessity in the life cycle, design, purchase, and sale for many years. Such samples are needed by a wide variety of representatives of the manufacturer’s company: from designers to salespeople. As a result, the number of samples can reach several dozen before the start of production, which shows that this approach is not environmentally friendly even at the design stage. But thanks to the development of 3d technologies, it becomes possible to carry out a complete digital analysis of the line. This approach reduces production costs and also reduces waste both during design and during production.

  1. Alternative textiles

The materials used in clothing usually degrade rather slowly and also require a lot of resources. For example, when creating an ordinary cotton shirt, a very large amount of water is required, which is enough for a person for 2.5 years. At the same time, many synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester require less water to produce, but they emit dangerous greenhouse gases as waste.

However, there are already safer and more environmentally friendly textile alternatives that include fibers derived from agricultural waste as well as recycled fibers. These new fabrics have several advantages. First, they are more biodegradable. Second, they generate less waste in production. Thirdly, such fabrics are more durable. For example, hemp, bamboo, and ramie are fibers that are widely used as an alternative to cotton.

  1. Automation and fashion on demand

The huge amount of waste and returns is the result of fast fashion businesses and mass production models. In the 1990s and 2000s, this approach and mindset dominated as marketers actively imposed mass consumption on consumers. However, in the last decade, thanks to the development of e-commerce, the situation has begun to change, and a completely new business model has appeared, in which the buyers decide what and how to consume. In addition, now they are concerned not only about their own experience but also about the consequences and influence of their choice on the environment. If earlier the goods were first produced and then sold, now the new model is becoming more and more relevant, in which the goods are first ordered and developed upon request, and only then produced. And although this approach seems more costly and time-consuming in the short term, thanks to automation, innovation in manufacturing, and guaranteed sales, all costs are offset over time.

  1. Mobile body scanning

Clothing sizes are determined on the basis of extremely limited information, which is why designers and manufacturers have to focus on a certain “average” body shape, and this, in turn, turns into difficulties for many consumers who cannot fit well. Thanks to the possibility of return and free shipping, users have the opportunity to shop online comfortably and affordably, and even if the clothes do not fit in size, the consumer still has the opportunity to return things. However, even this format remains not very environmentally friendly, because most of the goods end up immediately after returning to landfills, passing through a network of trade followers, leaving behind an impressive carbon footprint.

However, a great solution to the problem is a body scan, which, given the limited information on body sizes and types, simplifies the buying process. Thanks to scanning, the necessary information is collected, which allows manufacturers to create a wide variety of clothes, for different types of bodies, while not focusing on the proportionality of the scale. Thus, a better fit of clothing for the consumer is achieved, which means that this method reduces the number of returns, increases the accuracy of selection, and therefore, due to this, the negative impact on the environment is reduced.

  1. Virtual dressing option

Until now, one of the most effective ways for consumers to find out if clothes are suitable for them is to try them on. The problem is that very often the product is strikingly different from how it looks on the mannequin or in the image. Data exchange is really what fitting clothes are. Until recently, the only way for a consumer to do this data exchange was to try on several sizes of clothes, and this choice is often limited to a specific line and set of sizes.

However, over the past decade, the situation has changed for the better thanks to the use of modern 3-D technologies, as now you no longer need to waste time on the tedious physical process of fitting, and information is exchanged using digital technologies online. Thousands of data points for 3D imaging make it easy for consumers to choose clothes that will fit them immediately and accurately.

At the same time, the process of virtual dressing is made easier for retailers, who can collect and analyze user data in order to create the desired product even more accurately in the future. So manufacturers and sellers will be able to better understand the body shape of their consumers, and therefore increase the number of sales and the volume of purchases on the Internet.

  1. Giving the fashion circular direction

As retailers and manufacturers are increasingly aware of the huge waste generated by the fashion industry, new initiatives are being created to reduce waste and reduce environmental impact.

For example, through the use of renewable materials, as well as the recycling of old clothes into new ones, the concept of a circular economy is achieved. This reduces the amount of waste, and materials and products remain in use for much longer.

  1. Appealing to resale 

Due to the fact that clothes are practically not recycled and rarely wear out to the end, the American economy loses half a billion dollars annually. You can deal with the problem by recycling or re-selling goods. Resale is becoming an increasingly relevant trend and is already generating millions of dollars for many companies. It is expected that by the end of the decade, fast fashion will finally give up its position before resale, which will relieve the consumer of feelings of loss and guilt, and in addition, reduce the harm to the environment.

Digital transformation is becoming a key factor in changing the fashion world by reducing wasteful practices. At the same time, the psychology of consumer decision-making is changing, as modern consumers are becoming more conscious and strive to cause a minimum of harm to the environment. Thus, the benefits of 3D technologies, sustainable fashion technology, and digital transformations are beneficial to everyone: consumers, manufacturers, and the environment as well.