Product, Service & Design Innovation
Forum for the Future, Fashion for Good Examine Potential Futures for Fashion

New studies released today at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit dive into potential futures for the fashion industry — Forum for the Future examines four distinct, climate-changed scenarios; while Fashion for Good assesses the viability of three circular business models.

Forum for the Future presents 4 scenarios for fashion in a climate-changed world

Today, Forum for the Future and the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) at the London College of Fashion, with the support of C&A Foundation, launched Fashion Futures 2030 at the 10th Annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, to guide and inspire the fashion industry in its critical sustainability journey, and help companies and educators navigate an uncertain future.

As the world starts to wake up to the reality and challenges we face in the coming decade and we approach the deadline for action on climate change, the time is right to have those difficult conversations, to be confronted with — and inspired by — the possibilities and to take action. Fashion Futures 2030 is an open-source, interactive learning toolkit designed to disrupt the status quo and find new solutions. The toolkit explores what fashion and nature might look like within four possible future-world scenarios, created to help identify risks and opportunities, stimulate new ideas, test business strategies for long-term resilience, and plan for success. They are not meant to be predictions or favored visions, but rather serve as practical tools to help navigate an uncertain future. The scenarios are:

Living with Less: nature-based and globally connected — A decade of climate shocks has left many devastated by food shortages and extreme storms. This spurred powerful companies into action to ban dirty fuels as a route to cut carbon emissions. Slow fashion is the new norm, with sharing networks encouraged by social credit having shifted mindsets towards sustainability (view video).

Hyper Hype: technology-paced and economically stimulated — Advancements in AI technology have eliminated the need for manual labor, leaving many reliant on a small universal basic income. Government and business are working together to rapidly reduce emissions through zero-carbon investments. Fast fashion thrives as digital shopping becomes even more accessible and high-tech. Clothes are casual, genderless and disposable, as fewer people are inclined to leave the comfort of their homes, and are fully recyclable after just a few wears (view video).

More insights from Forum for the Future ...

Hear more from Dr. Sally Uren on Forum for the Future's School of System Change; as well as best practices in stakeholder engagement, partnership-building and catalytics — at SB'19 Detroit, June 3-6.

Safety Race: regionally located and culturally fragmented A global recession has led to a rise in nationalism and a break-down of the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving climate action to “The Environmental Truth” movement. Huge numbers of climate-related deaths have caused widespread unrest and conflict. Fashion is driven by identity politics; it becomes common to dress patriotically as a way of feeling distinct, and supply chains have regionalized (view video).

Chaos Embrace: people-centered and governance reinvented — After failing to act to mitigate climate change, the world experienced intense climate shocks, causing mass social unrest. As global leaders failed society, power was redistributed to local governments to focus on self-sufficiency and resilience. Materials are scarce, with fashion focusing on utilitarian garments that are kept and worn for a long time, mended, altered and worn again (view video). 

Industry professionals, fashion educators and students can use the Fashion Futures 2030 scenarios to explore how radically different the future can be, and use the wide range of practical resources contained in the toolkit to develop future-fit products and innovations, as well as business and communications strategies.

“The world is set for turbulent times with climate change, resource shortages, population growth and other challenges set to shape the 2020s and the future of fashion. At Forum for the Future, we are hearing that many business leaders are overwhelmed by this uncertainty, and by the expectations to take action,” says Dr Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future. “Where do we start? Fashion Futures 2030 considers four future scenarios, each based on solid research; current environmental, economic, social, cultural and technological trends, and consultation with experts. They take the guesswork out of shaping truly transformative plans that will deliver positive sustainability impacts at the scale and pace needed.”

Prof Dilys Williams, Director of CSF, says: “Fashion Futures 2030 asks us to question our addiction to the current fashion system — to see beyond the adrenalin rush and fleeting satisfaction that we are sold — to consider what we really want, whether that’s through a career in fashion, through education or our personal style choices. This toolkit examines where our current fashion practice might be taking us — and at the same time, enables us to consider the ways in which we might seek to change or support a particular direction. It’s a chance to be future makers, mavericks and pragmatists — and critically, to find ways to create a future where we can all thrive together.”

Fashion Futures 2030 was conceived by the CSF’s Dilys Williams and Renée Cuoco, through a commission by V&A Museum, as part of the exhibition, “Fashioned from Nature,” which was first exhibited at V&A Museum London in 2018 and is currently touring internationally. Through a longstanding collaborative relationship between CSF and Forum for the Future, Fashion Futures 2030 was informed by a fashion scenario-planning project, Fashion Futures 2025, originally undertaken in 2010 by Forum for the Future, with the support of the Levi Strauss Foundation. With the support of C&A Foundation, CSF and Forum for the Future have extended Fashion Futures 2030 from the version developed for the exhibit into these toolkits, which are openly available. They offer a means for industry practitioners, tutors, students and others to be part of an age of interdependence, where fashion honors our connections and distinctions. The Fashion Futures 2030 toolkit is available at http://ff2030.h5mag.com/scenarios.


Fashion for Good assesses viability of circular business models in fashion

  Image credit: Fashion for Good

Meanwhile, Fashion for Good, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy, today launched a new report, The Future of Circular Fashion: Assessing the Viability of Circular Business Models, that for the first time explores the financial viability of circular business models in the fashion industry.

The fashion industry is not sustainable in its current form; raw material consumption, pollution and waste contribute to the accelerating environmental footprint. The new study looks into three different models — rental, subscription-rental and recommerce — to assess the financial viability of each when adopted in four different market segments: value, mid-market, premium and luxury. With established brands and retailers being slow to adopt circular models, the report presents further incentives for implementation, helping to identify where circular models are attractive today and the critical levers to enhance their viability in future.

“We believe this study can drive the implementation of circular models and trigger much needed, in-depth discussions around this topic by presenting businesses with actual quantified opportunities related to the adoption of circularity by fashion brands,” says Fashion for Good Managing Director Katrin Ley.

The report finds all three of the models explored to be financially viable for existing fashion retailers, presenting a strong case to proceed toward circularity. Brands and retailers can use the findings to gain a deeper understanding of each model, helping them to build and scale new circular economy services. There has never been a better time to commit to the circular economy. Technological advances, infrastructure improvements, innovative startups, circular design practices, shifting consumer preferences and increasing regulatory pressure are creating an environment where established fashion retailers can pursue circular economy initiatives with confidence.

“With consumers increasingly buying from brands that have a strong purpose that aligns to their personal values and beliefs, particularly on environmental and social issues, it is imperative that retailers take action to create a more sustainable industry,” says Harry Morrison, managing director at Accenture Strategy. “Circular business models can deliver tremendous value to retailers, enabling them to eliminate waste, drive positive impact across the fashion value chain and improve their competitiveness.”

Leading up to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on the 15th of May, the report will be presented on the morning before the opening, with Ley and Morrison highlighting insights on key levers for success for retailers preparing for circular business models to signatories from the Global Fashion Agenda.

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