The fashion industry is experiencing something new: 3D printing or rapid prototyping. How does this innovation work? A laser machine cuts plastic material in thousands of small pieces, which can be used for different clothing. The Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen developed a 3D printed shoe that is completely recyclable. Because the blueprints are on the computer, the shoe can be adjusted and printed all over the world. Stocks are no longer needed and transportation costs are zero. Will we encounter Louis Vuitton bags from a local printer soon?
This example of 3D printing demonstrates that sustainability is slowly entering the fashion industry. To accelerate the development of sustainability in the fashion industry, the Dutch organization Rank a Brand developed a benchmark on more than 400 fashion brands. From the consumer perspective, brands were analyzed on their active CSR policy. Indicators in the research were labour conditions, carbon emission policy and environmental policy.
Fashion sub-sectors that scored under average were designer fashion and footwear. Positive scoring companies were Timberland and Stella McCartney. The main reason that designer brands are scoring below average seems to be that these brands want to maintain their status of exclusivity, quality and art.
Regarding the geographical scope, the French and Italian brands are lacking behind on sustainability, while British and Scandinavian fashion brands are scoring above par. The research underlines the importance of transparency. Transparent brands which provide a supplier list through their website are: Adidas, American Apparel, Bata, Dockers, Helly Hansen, Howies, Levi's, Nike, Patagonia, People Tree, Reebok and Timberland.
A number of brands in the research are collaborating with an NGO such as Made-By. Made-By is a European organization that promotes sustainable fashion and strives towards higher ecological and social standards in the industry. Finch & Beak developed together with GfK Panel Services, Solidaridad and Made-By the 10-minute guide 'Fashion is not for followers' that includes an outlook towards the fashion industry in 2015. For more information on eco-fashion or for advice on sustainable business principles, please contact Jan van der Kaaij, managing partner, at email@example.com or +31 76 522 28 17.