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What’s really behind positive fashion?

What’s the latest trend in fashion? Reducing the industry’s environmental impact. With the second-largest environmental footprint after oil and gas, the fashion industry certainly has plenty of work to do. But with more and more designers and clothing manufacturers rolling up their sleeves and adopting positive fashion principles, sustainable clothing is truly in vogue. So, how does positive fashion really work? And how can logistics help make the industry even greener?

Sustainable fashion is always in style

The hottest color this season is green – evergreen! As designers seek to inspire and clothe consumers around the globe, there has never been a greater interest to make the fashion industry more sustainable. The fashion industry’s environmental impact has made countless headlines in recent years. Now, the old social pressure to do away with last season’s wardrobe has given way to a new trend – sustainable, long-lasting, yet timelessly stylish clothing. 

The need to go (ever)green is urgent. Fashion companies have a huge appetite for resources, consuming 98 million tons of non-renewable resources and 93 billion cubic meters of water each year. On top of that, the industry is the joint third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, accounting for about 5% of global emissions.

In fashion, 71% of carbon emissions occur in the production phase. And if you consider that around 20% of the garments produced are never actually worn by anyone, it’s clear that action is required. Forever pieces – like a timeless little black dress – can offer one responsible fashion solution to reducing waste and increasing sustainability. After all, the longer consumers keep and rewear the same clothes, the more resources are saved at every step of the supply chain.

What is positive fashion?

Sustainable fashion touches on every stage of the process.

Broadly speaking, the definition of positive fashion is sustainably produced clothing that benefits consumers, the planet, and local communities where the clothing is produced. It goes beyond simply using less fabric. Positive fashion (also known as sustainable fashion) means using innovative processes that reduce the overconsumption and waste of resources and adopting new business models like upcycling, repairing and reselling garments. Circularity is arguably the only way to phase out waste and pollution and ensure that products and materials are used for as long as possible. This responsible fashion approach is also encouraging more equal and diverse workforces, creating healthier and safer working conditions, and empowering local communities and craftsmanship for future generations.

93 billion

cubic meters of water used in textile production each year

1.7 billion

tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from textile production in 2015

160 million

tons of clothing will be produced each year by 2050


of the global carbon budget will be used by fashion by 2050

Sustainable fashion touches on every stage of the process, from the first sketch on the drawing board to manufacturing and supply chain logistics. Brands and consumers alike can do more to raise their awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion.  In this climate, sustainable fashion brands have an opportunity to leverage their influence at the manufacturing stage and to encourage consumers to extend the life cycle of the garments in their closets. 

Indeed, the fashion industry is leading the charge with an array of initiatives. For example, the British Fashion Council (BFC) has created the Institute of Positive Fashion to drive industry change and show its commitment to climate action. This cross-industry initiative, which we have joined, seeks to advance resilience and circularity in the fashion industry. The BFC is also working on a ten-year strategy to reduce the climate and societal impact of fashion in line with UN goals. 

Case study: Forever Pieces

But what does this look like in practice? It looks like Forever Pieces, a new collection of timeless clothing just launched by the Munich-based fashion label Mykke Hofmann, with support from us. The six-piece fashion capsule was created following an international competition held last fall that attracted 800 designers from 80 countries to hand in 2,375 sketches . As the fashion industry’s leading global logistics partner, we teamed up with Mykke Hofmann to advance versatile, resource-friendly, and timeless designs. The six winning pieces include a timeless blouse, a pair of extremely versatile pants, a dress designed to make anyone wearing it feel comfortable, and a trench coat that can be worn separately as a blazer or skirt when detached, as well as a zero-waste set of blouse and pants that can be customized in a variety of ways for comfort and style.

The Forever Pieces collection is produced at a factory in Serbia where women are given stable jobs with fair wages. What’s more, all proceeds from the sale of Forever Pieces will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest non-profit organization focused on supporting children without parental care and families at risk.

Each garment in the Forever Pieces collection also comes with a warranty certificate in the form of a climate-neutral non-fungible token (NFT), making these items a lifetime purchase. The NFT, which will be stored in a digital wallet on a blockchain so it cannot be lost or deleted, will allow the owner to extend the wearability of the clothing through certain repairs. Each NFT is shown as a collectable 3D animation of the owners’ Forever Piece.

How can logistics help support positive fashion?

Fashion is an industry with many moving pieces, creating challenges for logistics companies. Volatile demand, rapid trends, and tight lead times cause real headaches when getting garments where they need to be. Logistics companies can help by analyzing and streamlining supply chains, managing distribution centers, providing home delivery and express shipping services, along with reframing reverse logistics to facilitate emerging circular business models. 

As the logistics industry moves to reduce its own environmental footprint, green transport solutions are becoming more popular on and off the catwalk, as well. With our help, the latest fashion can make it to the venue on time for Fashion Week and reach customers just in time for their special event – all while using green logistics services that optimize brands’ carbon footprint and offset emissions.

Elsewhere, we help companies identify their impact on the environment and make changes with the DHL Positive Fashion Health Check tool. We’re also investing in research into the most important issues for the future of fashion. For instance, the “Fashion & Environment” white paper recommends ways fashion companies and designers can move the needle towards responsible fashion. And our white paper “Delivering on Circularity” delves into circular solutions for closing the loop in consumer goods industries, like apparel and textiles.

Positive fashion is a cut above

What’s clear is that sustainable fashion is more than just a fad. As consumers look for more ways to reduce their environmental footprint, buying timeless garments can help to reduce our individual impact. But the fashion industry can’t go it alone. Other sectors, like logistics, have an essential role to play in helping fashion brands steal the sustainability show.

Forever Pieces Collection

Introducing you to five young female designers– for a taste of the passion and vision that is sure to shake things up in fashion for a few years to come.

Published: September 2022

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