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Supply Chain Waste in Fashion: A Smart Woman Conversation with Carol Hanson

Smart women conversations blog photo Carol Hanson 9-2020

Fashion Sustainability an Interview with Image Consultant, Carol Hanson

by Yvonne DiVita

What follows is the content Carol shared with me before our talk with my comments in italics. The talk is at the end of this post. You may skim and move on to the video, if that's your preference. But the good information stated here, in writing, is worth taking 5 minutes to read and absorb. 

Waste happens at all stages of the supply chain from the cutting room, over production and then consumer behavior.  But don't let this post be your first and last stop. Make it your duty to find out more. Visit Edie.net where you'll find, as Carol says, "Brilliant and generally upbeat content about what is going on in the world to make it a better, more sustainable place. But they aren't afraid to share the stark facts, either." 

15% of all textiles produced end up on the cutting room floor! (this was eye-opening)

100 billion clothing products are manufactured annually (40% of which are marked down).

On average in the US – people throw away 70lbs of clothing/person/year. (who finds this a bit shocking? I do)

The U. S. is the largest exporter of second hand clothing  (exports over a billion pounds of used clothing every year). (I'm wondering if shopping at my thrift store is a good idea... I often see items that are brand new there!)

McKinsey & Global Fashion Agenda report – identified 3 areas to tackle – which is a bit laughable as it is practically the entire linear supply chain.

(1) Upstream supply chain (this means any parts of the supply chain involved in manufacture) – changes they can make include renewable energy, energy efficiency and waste reduction.

(2) Direct operations (the brands themselves) – again renewable energy, but one of biggest factors here is overproduction. Businesses are not realistic with their forecasting models, encouragement to buy more to get better prices, brands are being led by shareholders wanting growth. (yes, it's all 'profit, profit, profit' but we need to understand WE drive this need, also)

(3) Consumer behavior – rental, repair and re-purpose – some brands are encouraging this and micro businesses are establishing themselves as experts.  These can also be profitable sources of revenue for larger brands and major revenue streams for small businesses. As consumers we can also wash clothes less, on lower temperatures and reduce the use of our dryers.

  1. Buy less – sounds obvious but it’s the basic premise. Many people tend to buy more clothes than they need, are more likely to buy something new than go shopping in their own wardrobes when they need an outfit for an occasion.
  2. Buy quality – clothes that are better made may seem more expensive but if they’re worn longer and look better because they don’t fall apart/the fabric’s better quality are actually cheaper in the longer term (cost per wear).
  3. Wear clothes for longer (not just in terms of reducing laundry but see above buying quality - plus, use Tru Earth on your clothes. Yes, do it.). 
  4. Learn how to make more from your existing wardrobe. Boredom is often a reason for buying new stuff – learn how to create different outfits from your existing clothes and accessories.  Instead of browsing online or in store take time to play with your wardrobe.
  5. Repair clothes rather than throw them out – a friend of mine posted on FB yesterday that she’d repaired and revitalized two favorite pieces of knitwear that had holes in them. If you can’t do it, find someone who can!
  6. Repurpose – I bought a second hand jumpsuit in lock-down, decided the color wasn’t right and dyed it. My favorite walking outerwear are summer and winter gilets made from old jackets. (for those of us in the U.S. who don't know what a gilet is: A light sleeveless padded jacket.)
  7. Rental – I know not many of us need clothes for going out at the moment, so this may not apply for a while – but when we do, consider rental services. If you are someone who does get easily bored or needs a number of smart outfits this is a fabulous way of extending your wardrobe.
  8. Declutter – I know this might sound counter-intuitive but an overstuffed closet gives you no perspective on what you do have. Chances are that a lot of clothes in your closet you don’t wear – either because they’re not right for you, they don’t fit or you don’t even realize you have them! (Carol can help you with this especially - she's the go-to expert on helping you mix and match what you already have!)
  9. Laundry – use a good detergent, wash carefully (right temperatures), use delicate bag, turn dark items inside out to preserve color (especially black jeans), don’t use fabric conditioner, if you are using a dryer then use woolen balls to increase aeration and reduce energy costs. (turn things inside out to preserve color, who knew?)

And, as a last bit of encouragement, in addition to all of this we need to educate ourselves more about fabrics that are being used, what initiatives brands are taking to become more sustainable and we need to support these. Educate others – friends, peers, family and the next generation – they are the ones who are going to have to clean up our mess. So, share this post! (watch Carol's first Smart Women Conversations video here)


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