Week of 30 November 2020
The sustainable fashion movement has really taken off in the last decade. Brands and consumers are becoming more conscious of what goes into their products and how they are made. But what makes fashion sustainable and can it actually be that? Let’s take a Deep Dive.

🤷 What is sustainable fashion? This is a complex question about a trend that has taken the world by storm, even though there’s still no universal definition for it. Is it using renewable or reclaimed materials to make clothing? Is it recycling and reselling clothes? Is it brands committing to net-zero carbon goals? Is it consumers buying less? Is it all this and more?

👄 With consumers becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and social responsibility, brands have had to realign their values or risk being left behind. But even as they jump eagerly on the sustainability bandwagon and launch “conscious” clothing lines, experts say most of these efforts are brands paying lip service to the cause

📦 The problem with sustainable fashion’s success is that it has actually contributed to the growth of brands that align with the movement. This means consumers are buying more when they should be consuming less, causing some brands to struggle to reduce their environmental footprint.

⛓️ Sustainable fashion's battle goes far beyond carbon emissions and waste pollution. To make proper progress, experts say industry players also have to make fact-driven changes to other stages of their value chain, including their low-cost manufacturing practices, overproduction habits and message to consumers to think before they buy.


“While [sustainable fashion] is a big opportunity, and yes, it presents a huge challenge, what exactly is sustainable fashion? The inherent challenge is, as an industry, in order to continue growing, we are driving consumers to purchase more, to consume more. And as we drive more consumption, we’re actually growing the carbon footprint of the industry.”

Imran Amed, founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business of Fashion




5.6 According to a study, products marketed as sustainable outperform those not marketed as such by 5.6 times.

4% In 2018, the fashion industry produced at least four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined carbon output of France, Germany and the UK.

By using a piece of clothing nine months longer, consumers can reduce its associated carbon dioxide emissions by 27 percent, its water use by 33 percent and its waste by 22 percent.

10 years A single pair of jeans requires a kilogram of cotton to be made, which in turn requires about 10,000 litres of water—or 10 years worth of drinking water for one person. 

20% The apparel sector is estimated to overproduce about 20 percent of clothes on average.

¾ Almost three-quarter of textile waste ends up in landfills or is incinerated, while just 1 percent is closed-loop recycled.


According to the World Bank, what percentage of clothing purchased in some countries is never used? 

A. 10 percent
B. 25 percent
C. 40 percent

Scroll to the bottom of the email for the answer.


In 2019, fast-fashion brand H&M was called out by the Norwegian Consumer Authority for greenwashing its Conscious fashion collection. The Swedish clothing retailer was criticised for not providing enough information about the sustainable nature of the apparel range and misleading consumers about the collection's environmental benefits. 


5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
  1. Does ‘Sustainable Fashion’ Really Mean Anything?
    Wall Street Journal

  2. How Green Is Sustainable Fashion Really?
  3. Fashion Has A Misinformation Problem. That’s Bad For The Environment.
  4. Can Fashion Ever Be Sustainable?
  5. Sustainable Fashion? There’s No Such Thing
    Financial Times


Does "Sustainable Clothing" Make A Difference?

Even as brands commit to creating products from recycled materials such as plastic bottles, there are other issues they aren’t addressing, including the problem of microplastics


In addition to its contribution to climate change, the fashion industry also has a huge impact on biodiversity loss. According to McKinsey & Company, different stages of the industry’s value chain have varying effects, but much of the negative impact on biodiversity comes from the production, preparation and processing of materials used to make clothing.

McKinsey & Company





Sustainable Fashion Pioneer Christina Dean Is Running Out Of Patience

Gen.T honouree Christina Dean, the founder of Hong Kong-based NGO Redress, describes the progress of the fashion industry, the urgency surrounding its transformation and how many of its problems are in our hands


Two Honourees To Know

Kuo ShihYun
Lablaco, the startup that Kuo ShihYun founded, is using blockchain technology to make second-hand luxury clothes traceable and their market more transparent. It has embarked on pilot projects with companies such as The Lane Crawford Joyce Group and Alibaba.

Liu Yuanyuan
Liu Yuanyuan co-founded Melephant Sustainability Technology, which has developed sustainable dyes from organic waste that can be used to replenish soil when disposed of. For its sustainability efforts, the company was among three organisations to receive 2019 K Generation Awards from luxury fashion group Kering.



Did you miss our Deep Dive on The Future Of Retail? Read it here


Flee From The Fleece
If you need a new jacket and really have to buy one, don’t get one of Patagonia’s best-selling fleece jackets. That’s not advice from us, but from the outdoor apparel brand itself when it printed those words in an advertisement in The New York Times on Black Friday, back in 2011.


Our Troubling Relationships With Machines

That's it for this issue. Have a productive week!

The Deep Dive is a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that’s shaping Asia’s future. This issue was written by Chong Seow Wei, with editing and production by Samantha Topp and Lee Williamson.

We’d love to know what you think of this issue, and future topics you’d like us to cover. Please send your comments to And if you missed it, don’t forget to check out last week’s Deep Dive, on The Future Of Retail.

The answer to the quiz is C (40 percent).

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