Sustainability in the fashion industry, and what we are doing about it.
You may have heard the word ‘sustainability’ being used a lot over the past few years in relation to the fashion industry – but what does it actually mean in practice? Sustainability in the fashion industry is a combination of doing things in an eco-friendly manner that minimises damage to the environment and also doing things ethically so as to ensure that those involved in the production process are paid fairly and work in safe conditions.
THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM
Being more sustainable is a collective challenge for the fashion industry as a whole and many brands and manufacturers are stepping up to the mark, but many are not. We believe that we have a moral obligation to be as sustainable as we can be and it is a key factor in all of our decision making. The fashion industry now accounts for 10% of all global carbon emissions, that’s more than air travel and maritime shipping combined! It is often synthetic fabrics that are used to make sportswear products. Fossil fuels are used to manufacture these fabrics and materials such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon are among the most commonly produced of these. The production of polyester alone requires 88.9 million tonnes of crude oil every year. This corresponds to about 1% of the oil produced worldwide. And this is rising.
At Kehnobi we have employed a multi-faceted approach:
Quality over Quantity - A simple but effective method is to consume less by producing better quality garments that last longer.
This counteracts the “throw-away culture” that has become a stain on the fashion industry.
Increased use of Biodegradable fabrics - At present, whilst biodegradable fabrics can be substituted for non-biodegradable synthetic fibres in some applications, a combination of cost and durability often makes them impractical. Performance fabrics made from synthetic fibres are currently a necessity in the practical, cost effective production of mass market sportswear in particular. However. we have made a conscious decision to use biodegradable fibres in garments such as Hoodies, Polo Shirts, T-shirts etc which are core products in our range and this reduces the reliance on synthetic fibres significantly, without having a major impact on the cost. In addition, we are also working with a fabric supplier who are producing a biodegradable polyester fabric that is a game changing innovation for the industry.
Recycle or Resell - Rather than garments ending up in landfill, encouraging their reuse or recycling can also reduce the level of new products being manufactured. There is some debate over the exact benefit of recycling textiles but the process of recycling polyester for example consumes less energy than producing virgin fabric, and it diverts garments from landfill, at least temporarily. At Kehnobi we are developing a refurbish and resell programme that rewards customers to return used items which can either be refurbished or recycled, dependent on their condition. We also recycle all of our fabric off cuts ensuring nothing goes to waste.
Minimising Overstock - A hidden consequence of changing consumer behaviour is the growing problem of overstock. Social media and ecommerce in general has fuelled the desire for constant newness. Many brands have still not figured out a way to manage this efficiently. Due to lead times in manufacturing, brands worry about not having enough of what consumers want and they often overcompensate with huge stock orders which in the end won’t all sell. This is what leads to overstock, where brands have warehouses full of unsold clothes which will ultimately be sold at a hugely discounted price or, many brands have chosen to burn stock - Urban Outfitters, Nike, Burberry, and Michael Kors have all been exposed for doing this, often to protect their brand from items being sold at significant discounts. Overproducing and then burning unsold stock has a significant cumulative effect on the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. At Kitvendr, we made the decision to bring the majority of our manufacturing in house and we set up our factory in central Poland in 2019. This allows us to be flexible to customer demands and through our KNB Token initiative we are able to influence consumer behaviour in a manner that minimises our overstocking issues.
MODERN DAY SLAVERY
A final word on a problem which continues to blight our industry. Despite increased political and consumer pressure, many brands, often unkowlingly, still benefit from modern day slavery and child labour. The wages are well below the legal minimum, long and gruelling work hours, and unhealthy working conditions are a factor in allowing the fashion industry to move at the speed it does. At Kehnobi, virtually all of our manufacturing is now done in house and we use EU certified fabric manufacturers. We therefore have full control and oversight over the end to end manufacturing process.