Fashion is changing faster than ever.
Technological advances have created an age of information, and we're now shifting into an era of specificity and analysis. Many of today's fashion brands follow the mentality of "it's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission." Yet, consumers want brands to maintain higher standards. From thoughtfully chosen materials to carbon footprint calculations, buyers want to know where, when, and how their clothing was made. Therefore, technology, science, psychology, and fashion are intersecting like never before. Tides are turning, and the future of fashion is collaboration.
Careers In Sustainable Material Production
Bioengineers, Textile Chemists, & Agricultural Consultants
As more customers become familiar with fashion's detrimental effects on the environment, there is a higher demand for responsibly made clothing. Synthetic materials, such as polyester, rayon, and nylon, cause pollution during production processes and shed harmful microplastics into our waterways when washed. This leaves companies seeking textile chemists and bioengineers to produce more sustainable materials, like plant-based alternatives to leather.
Other brands are forgoing virgin materials altogether and attempting to combat textile waste by upcycling or recycling already produced materials. Textile chemists are the ones engineering textile recycling systems to break down used clothing and create new fiber for future garments.
A 2019 paper published by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation states, "by keeping products and materials in use, GHG emissions associated with new material production and end-of-life treatment are avoided." This can only happen if fashion designers work in tandem with textile recycling systems to design clothing with the environment in mind from the very start. Designers will increasingly need to be well-versed in circular design as well as zero waste practices to keep up with the ever-changing industry.
Simultaneously, some brands are beginning to invest in regenerative farming. This helps to revive biodiversity in the US and further incorporate sustainable crops like hemp, wool, and organic cotton into fashion. Various sustainability leaders, including Fibershed, laud regenerative farming. The Bay Area-based organization believes that bringing production processes from global to local will significantly reduce fashion's carbon footprint and aid in job creation within surrounding communities (i.e., regenerative farmers, shepherdesses, agricultural experts, and field researchers).
Careers In The Fashion Supply Chain
Supply Chain Managers, Personal Stylists, & Authentication Experts
Today's fashion supply chains are broken, riddled with the unfair treatment of people and the planet. The current systems won't cut it in the future.
The "out of sight, out of mind" mentality is no longer acceptable as customers are demanding transparency from brands large and small. As fashion moves into this new decade, companies will need to equip themselves with supply chain managers dedicated to tracing those chains, frequenting factories, and keeping close partnerships with all involved in fashion production.
This goes for brands working with artisans around the world as well. Fashion companies will find it necessary to cultivate lasting relationships with makers while also utilizing technology to bring these traditional techniques into the future. Though slow fashion is on the rise, the industry's obsession with efficiency is here to stay.
Popular business models successfully balancing this kind of collaboration include resale and rental companies. MarketWatch expects the global rental market to grow by 10 percent every year for the next three years. Additionally, thredUP's 2019 Resale Report projects that the secondhand market will reach $51 billion by 2023.
With these changes comes an uptick in online personal stylists for sites like thredUP and Rent the Runway, as well as authentication experts at companies such as Vestiaire Collective and Fashionphile. While there's no question of resale and rental influences on the current industry, a separate question remains: Can secondhand clothing companies continue to scale without creating great environmental harm? That's where a sustainability manager comes in.
Sustainability managers take on the vital role of watching brands' environmental impact through efforts great and small. From changing the way the entire company operates to replacing plastic packaging, there are many ways this role functions depending on the brand. As we speed into the future, it will be a company's job to responsibly manage its supply chains in a way that benefits the individuals and regions within it, instead of just a few at the top.
Careers In Fashion Technology
Data Scientists, Transparent Stories, & Dynamic Customer Service
In combination with a growing number of online personal stylists, data scientists are in high demand within e-commerce companies. Despite the uproar about cookies and personal data tracking, consumers still enjoy personalized shopping experiences. Of course, personalized browsing can lend itself to overconsumption. But data scientists can elevate slow fashion to the mainstream conversation.
Younger customers are also craving convenience and interactive experiences. E-commerce sites are making sustainability easier to search for, aiding customers in discovering their personal style, and offering customizable options.
Customers want genuine connections with companies backed by a compelling story or offering dynamic customer service. Instead of breaking up customers into static demographics, brands will need to realize that consumers are more knowledgeable about the industry than ever before. The sustainable fashion movement has pulled back the curtain on fashion, and transparency is the only way forward.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.