Innovation Via Access
Today part-time.lab goes live to the world. An innovation lab where minds band together to answer questions once seen as impossible via radical creativity and hybrid technologies, designing products and companies that will reshape our future.
A key aspect of our model is giving access to information, tools and resources to everyone across the globe to help begin this healing process. We understand going “green” is still a luxury for most and we will continue to work with the fortune 500’s to make this luxury an affordable necessity. For the earth to heal, we need to heal together.
As well as creating actionable solutions we also look to the arts as a way to question ourselves and open the conversation to everyone.
How did we get here? How can we do better? What can tomorrow look like?
As part of the launch comes the first action research project WASTE KNOT which looks into the fashion industry’s waste disaster and asks what can be done to change the mindset of consumers, brands and manufacturers for radical action to happen.
WASTE KNOT is our way to open the conversation of industry waste and overconsumption via a series of initiatives in partnership with industry leaders. The first of these is an art movement that targets the streetwear & luxury consumer market by releasing furniture pieces from clothing, accessories and e-waste created by your favourite brands. Each piece will live in both the physical and digital world allowing consumers to interact, ask questions and start a conversation for change.
How did we get here?
We begin with knowing sustainability is not going to give us a future on this earth. We need to look at the foundations and structures the damage was built upon and design with critical thinking and regeneration at the core. The window of thinking is closing, action is now.
The fashion industry feeds a culture of wasteful consumption with the average overall score of the companies assessed on the BOF Sustainability Index score 36 out of a possible 100, with significant disparities between engagement and action. Less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. This includes recycling clothing after use, as well as the recycling of factory offcuts. For recycling after-use clothing, expert interviews suggest that the figure could be below 0.1%.
There is a lack of knowledge, both with consumers and brands on what is required to change the direction of the harmful path we are on. We need a central information hub that connects to a system of intersections that continually grow and adapt as new information and technology becomes available. We need to work together, not compete or there will be no future.
Brands & designers need to be honest and talk about what they don’t understand as well as what is missing in their ecosystem to reduce their footprint. Through honesty, transparency and accountability we can change. Leading the charge of industry transparency is Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism movement, mobilising citizens, industry and policymakers through research, education and advocacy work. The latest report Fashion Transparency Index 2021 indicates the transparency among the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers sits at an average score of just 23% which is a clear and alarming sign we are in trouble and need to create a platform to promote honest conversations.
On top of solving the infrastructure we need to solve the already massive waste problem associated with the industry. Fast fashion has built a mentality of cheap quantity over timeless quality. Currently, 73% of the world’s clothing eventually ends up in landfills and the global fashion industry is projected to grow by 81% by 2030 with only 6% of major brands disclosing the quantity of items destroyed annually. We also need to solve overproduction. H&M announced in August 2020 it was sitting on £3.2billion of unsold inventory (and counting) as part of their 12–16 collections a year. This consumer hunger for the latest fashion has Zara releasing 24 collections a year with garment wear at only 3–4 times before ending up in the trash.
The other giant force in the original fast fashion category is streetwear, a category based around drops, hyper trend based designs and slapping a logo on products all often manufactured in cheap virgin materials. This mentality has created a waste monster and we have a leadership role to provide better educational tools for the next gen so they can avoid a lot of the issues our generation has created. This is not just around sustainability but better business practices and creating business models that allow them to continue to push the industry forward and redesign tools and processes that reduce and remove the high damage footprint.
“FREE GAME” — Virgil Abloh’s online resource for brands/designers in their earliest stages is a great starting point as a free knowledge sharing platform to encourage and inform the next wave of talent on how to get to market. The next steps are continuing the conversation of the industries footprint and how the simple process, such as selecting blanks can create a ripple effect throughout the streetwear community. If a voice as influential as Virgil’s used “5. HOW TO FIND BLANKS” as a position of change towards a better base layer we could have his die hard followers investing in more ethical and environmentally friendly products. If the platform included knowledge from his network and expanded beyond just clothing, it could become the masterclass of the next generation, serving fast, free, to the point knowledge that gives everyone the same opportunity to succeed.
How are brands reacting?
The North Face have set an ambitious goal of 100% responsibly-sourced apparel fabrics by 2025, and all footwear and equipment by 2030. Aside from looking into materials the brand
has been trialling multiple models to tackle waste, from The North Face Renewed a collection of clothing refurbished to The North Face quality standards to partnerships that can elevate the renewable model to go beyond refurbishment and actually create a whole new product. Their latest release RENEWED by RÆBURN with British designer Christopher Raeburn allows customers to buy repaired and reassembled pieces from the label in a bid to extend the lifespan of The North Face garments.
Nike, always a leader in innovation has continued to redesign and redefine what their offerings are as they head towards a zero carbon and zero waste model. Along with new material compounds and recycling shoes the brand has brought the conversation into the spotlight with their series “Talking Trash” a much needed platform that links influential talent with a sustainable mission. When we live in a world of meaningless short form content it is refreshing to be able to sit down and hear someone like Billie Eilish discuss climate change and how to think globally and act locally. It’s important for role models to vocalize their opinions of the future of our planet and get their fans to start questioning the systems.
“You don’t have to be called an activist to talk about what’s right”.
What is the impact of fashion in a digital world?
As fashion moves deeper into a digital space, especially the luxury market we need to start highlighting the effects of not just textile but also e-waste. According to a UN report, electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing form of domestic waste globally, with around 50 million metric tonnes being produced in 2019 alone, of which only 20% was recycled.
With the world living on mobile devices, users are capturing, editing and releasing content all within the palm of their hand. This has further increased the demand for the latest in technology. Apple is the tech of choice within the industry so we really need to look deeper at the brand’s recycle over repair model that encourages consumers to just recycle and buy the latest product rather than getting the longest lifespan out of a design. How many iphone’s, macbook pros and towers have you gone through as it was cheaper and easier to just replace than update?
There are some incredible pros when it comes to digital first design especially with programs such as Clo3d, from reducing waste (paper, cardboard, fabric) by removing the back and forth between production and designer. It also allows the teams to finalize colours, textures and graphics before hitting the production floor. This can even be taken one step further and 3d models can be used as a sales tool to avoid any textile waste with consumers ordering directly off a render. Combining this method with a pre-order model a brand would have zero overproduction and an incredible reduction in textile waste.
Looking beyond reduction of impact in production the digital world opens up a whole other conversation of digital only fashion and the future of a virtual integrated life. A life where AR can replace outfits in the real world and designer skins can be worn by your avatar in the digital world. As designers and houses enter these dual worlds it is an opportunity to discover new audiences, design beyond the limits of the physical and for once create a version of the brand without limitations.
Gucci has already produced a pair of virtual neon-green sneakers where users can “try on” the sneakers and wear them in other virtual worlds, including VR Chat and Roblox. Balenciaga presented its Fall 2021 fashion line in the form of a video game. Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, aimed to create pieces that he thought represented the future of clothing, where “nature and youth co-exist” to offer garments that can be repurposed and last forever.
Matthew Ball, Managing Partner of EpyllionCo says he has been working alongside Virgil Abloh to create a digital brand that allows consumers to better express themselves in a dual digital/physical world.
“I want to make virtual clothes to paint pictures physical clothes cannot, and let buyers access a new dimension of their personal style — no matter who they are, where they live, and the virtual worlds they love.” — Virgil Abloh
With the announcement of LVMH acquiring a majority stake of OFF-WHITE, Virgil is getting not only a new role within LVMH but also a seat at the table. “We’re not trying to emulate a model that already exists,” Michael Burke, the chief executive of Louis Vuitton, said of Mr. Abloh’s new role. Combining this with his push into digital fashion it will be interesting to see how much of an influence he will have to take more products into a digital world and what other technologies will be pulled into the LVMH universe.
It is also interesting to note in the same week as the LVMH acquisition, Kering Groups house Gucci released their physical collection with 100 Thieves of 200 backpacks constructed from recycled and eco-friendly materials. The backpack retailing for $2500USD sold out on the day and made it over to StockX the following day at the ask of $6250USD. With such success it will be worth paying close attention to see how the gaming community buys into the luxury physical market as much as they have the digital.