Fashion Updates | Sustainability

“Shanghai Fashion Week Embraces Sustainability: A Fashion Revolution towards Eco-Consciousness”

Published: October 12, 2023
Author: Fashion Value Chain

Amidst a global struggle with environmental challenges, the fashion industry is experiencing a remarkable evolution. It is shedding its wasteful practices and embracing a more eco-conscious ethos, shifting towards sustainable fashion. This movement extends beyond clothing; it represents a revolution that aims to redefine our connection with the planet. Not too long ago, fast fashion reigned supreme, with brands producing inexpensive, disposable clothing at an alarming pace, creating an unsustainable cycle of waste and exploitation. However, consumers are increasingly rejecting this throwaway culture in favor of a more sustainable and responsible approach. On the first day of the 2024 Spring/Summer Shanghai Fashion Week, which commenced on October 8, a gathering of fashion industry experts and observers came together at the Mspace forum to engage in discussions about sustainable fashion. The opening runway show was presented by the sustainable brand ICICLE, whose latest collection showcased a unique fusion of traditional Chinese ink painting and “fragrant cloud gauze,” a type of traditional Chinese fabric known for its intricate weave.

ICICLE, established in 1997, is deeply committed to the “Natural Way” and exclusively utilizes natural, sustainable materials such as cotton, wool, silk, and linen. Ye Shouzeng, ICICLE’s founder and CEO, expressed the brand’s mission, stating, “Our mission is to reclaim a simpler, more harmonious way of life that harks back to the days of blue skies and white clouds from my childhood. In a world where material abundance often comes at the expense of the environment, this brand seeks to bridge the gap between modernity and tradition by promoting a modest, sustainable lifestyle. ”At the heart of green fashion are its materials. Designers are exploring innovative alternatives to traditional fabrics, including organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and recycled materials. High-tech fabrics, such as lab-grown leather and bio-textiles made from mushrooms, are gaining popularity for their minimal environmental impact. Upcycling is another exciting trend, with designers creatively transforming discarded textiles and clothing into new, unique pieces. This approach reduces textile waste and breathes new life into old garments, showcasing the potential for fashion to be both eco-friendly and imaginative.

The eco-green project, Ulio Department Store, initiated by the sustainable fashion platform CanU, has opened to the public during the fashion week. Ulio offers a wide range of sustainable lifestyle and fashion products made from organic, zero-waste, upcycled, or recycled materials. A-LIST UPCYCLING LAB, a lifestyle brand, focuses on creating products without depleting natural resources through the application of organic and renewable materials. Their newest bamboo fiber shelving and pumpkin seed fiber cutlery are the latest additions to their offerings. The sustainable accessory brand GAKI_FIBER draws inspiration from the relationship between nature and humans, presenting marine-themed handmade crafts to raise awareness of ocean conservation and biodiversity. Memory Remake, founded by fiber artist Cao Cao, specializes in transforming discarded clothing into creative artworks, providing old clothes with a fresh lease of life.

Products at Ulio Department Store range in price from 500 to 3,000 yuan (US$69-411), covering clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, lifestyle items, pet supplies, and more. Some of the exhibited works follow the principles of a circular economy by repurposing surplus or waste fabrics, resulting in stylish and practical pieces. Mitsein, for instance, produces woven bags from the brand’s leftover scraps and edging strips, effectively repurposing materials that would have otherwise gone to waste. JACQUES WEI PETS uses 90 percent of materials from the brand’s production process, while HOHILIFE recycles coffee grounds to create household products. Cui Dan, founder of CanU, expressed their vision, saying, “We aim to continuously provide more sustainable products through this project, linking the supply and demand sides of the industry. We hope to educate consumers on the fact that sustainable products can also have design and aesthetic values, and gradually influence their shopping habits to choose sustainable products instead of short-lived fast fashion and trend-driven products.”

BOTTLOOP, a sustainable lifestyle advocate based in Beijing, also joins the green journey, focusing on recycling and reusing bottles while encouraging people to reflect on the relationship between
bottles and life through an artistic approach. BOTTLOOP recycles beverage bottles, converting them
into granules that can be used to create new beverage bottles or other products. The brand
integrates a blockchain system throughout the recycling process and takes an ecological aesthetic
approach. The founder and CEO, Liu Xuesong, emphasized their approach, stating, “It’s ultimately
about offering well-designed products with creative and meaningful concepts. ”While the path
towards green fashion is undoubtedly promising, it is not without challenges. Raising consumer
awareness about sustainability remains an ongoing challenge, and it requires concerted efforts from
businesses, government, mass media, educational institutions, and advocacy organizations. Another
obstacle is the lack of universally recognized sustainability certifications and standards, making it
challenging for consumers to identify truly sustainable products. ICICLE’s sustainability efforts, such
as using plant dying techniques, faced challenges in meeting national requirements due to the
absence of mass production standards for plant-based dyes.

Nevertheless, the fashion industry in China has made significant strides towards embracing sustainable practices in recent years. There has been a surge in green fashion brands and startups in response to growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Organizations like the China National Textile and Apparel Council have introduced eco-friendly certification programs to encourage sustainable practices in the textile and apparel industry. Brands are increasingly focusing on supply chain transparency, disclosing information about sourcing, production, and labor practices to build trust with consumers. Universities and research institutions are conducting studies and research projects on the materials of tomorrow. From fast fashion to mindful wardrobes, today’s sustainable fashion movement champions timeless pieces, quality over quantity, and mindful consumption. It encourages people to build wardrobes filled with clothing that lasts, rather than constantly chasing fleeting trends. This shift is a testament to the growing awareness of fashion’s environmental footprint.

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