Apparel Ecosystem 

 Conversations around sustainability have been around forever and have been accelerating since 2018. ♻️ The pandemic sparked widespread conscious consumerism and reignited sustainability work, especially in fashion. The fashion industry is one of the largest pollutants and I am happy to see that sustainability has moved from perk to a top priority for a lot of businesses. While there is still a ton of greenwashing that is happening, I’m pleased the conversations are translating into action and not just a soundbite that’s part of a marketing campaign. 

I digressed slightly but I think it’s important to acknowledge all that I mentioned above. One of the main reasons I wanted to write about this is to help raise buyer awareness. While I cringe at the price of lattes these days I also think your t-shirt or any item of new clothing shouldn’t cost less than your latte… 🤷‍♀️

The apparel ecosystem can be a gauntlet to navigate from raw materials to end-of-life use. There is a dizzying amount of details to keep track of and the complexity of the ecosystem has served as a shield to limit conversations around change. Lack of Industry knowledge or understanding can impede one’s understanding of the ecosystem. To be honest, it can be rather difficult to navigate even for people who are in the industry.  

In the graphic below I highlight the apparel ecosystem in a general way which also highlights the lifecycle of a garment. The details vary based on several factors like materials, size of the company, style of a garment and the list goes on and on and on. 

Many of these steps in the process are overlapping or take place simultaneously depending on many of the variables I mentioned above. Did you know… that it can take over a year to develop a collection or even a single garment? The timeline varies based on the resources of the business and the size of the collection.

A word of caution when working with experts it’s especially important for them to understand what’s applicable and transferable from big brands to small businesses. They should also be able to acknowledge gaps in their knowledge and expertise. It really is impossible for anyone to know everything. Work with people who are ok admitting what they don’t know but are willing to figure it out or have a network to get you the support you need. 

3 Crucial Phases: 

Phase 1 – Trend forecast, design (material & product), raw materials, sourcing, pre-production, sales & marketing (b2b).

Phase 2 – Production, sales, marketing (b2c), logistics (warehouse, shipping, customs, packaging, etc).

Phase 3 – Channels of distribution (retail, eCommerce, etc), consumer use, care, and the second life of the product which can include resale, recycling, and upcycling.  

Note – Please check out Remake and Fashion Revolution for resources and to get educated on the atrocities in fashion or check out my blog & video on the 7 forms of sustainable fashion which also highlights some of these despicable practices that range from the use of toxic chemicals, Child labor, wage theft, depleting natural resources and more.