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Transitioning the Fashion Industry towards Sustainability
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A growing body of literature addresses fashion industry's sustainability problems including resource depletion, toxic emissions, and unfair labour practices. The impacts of these sustainability problems only multiply with the ever-growing number of garments being produced. However, there is a difference between fashion and clothing consumption, which is often overlooked due to a lack of language but must be recognized to better understand the drivers of consumption. Based on literature from the fields of fashion, sociology, and political economy, this research identifies why mass-consumption of clothing has become such a resilient part of the global economy; it then goes on to explore how to reduce textile waste through innovations such as social innovation. Textile waste is a symptom of consumption, mismanagement of unwanted textiles, and a lack of technology in recycling the material. This dissertation proposes a circular economy approach to reducing textile waste. It does so by leveraging insights from Social-Ecological System (SES) literature to argue that solutions must recognise that the fashion industry is a complex social-ecological system comprised of interactions between interdependent subsystems. Moreover, this paper analyses innovations in the fashion system and uses social innovation theory to study social innovation cases to distinguish transformative approaches to textile waste and sustainable fibre production. While describing the role of the social entrepreneurs and system entrepreneurs in building these innovations, challenges are identified to scaling these innovations out, up, or deep to reflect the innovations’ status. To better understand the transitioning process of the industry, the multi-level perspective from transition management is used to recognize the system dynamics. This research uses qualitative and quantitative research methods (i.e., semi-structured interviews, life stories, surveys, and on-site observations). It contributes to the knowledge of how to transition the fashion industry towards sustainability. Additionally, it helps close the research gap on how to tackle textile waste while acknowledging the difference between the terms fashion and clothes, different sustainable fashion concepts, and the various stakeholders' roles in the fashion system.
Cite this version of the work
Sabine Weber (2021). Transitioning the Fashion Industry towards Sustainability. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/17615