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A New Kind of Fast Fashion

1993 dance course prom. Marle made my dress. This was the normal procedure when we had a festive event in the family. The process was far from fast but I love it. Marle, our tailer, adjusted clothes for my parents, my brother, and me but also designed and assembled new pieces. The most exciting one for me was the dress for my dance course prom. I picked the fabric, a dark green satin. We jointly decided about the length of the dress, the cleavage, the shape, the stitching, and where the zipper would make the most sense.

Recently, when I spent some time at home, I checked my old closet. My mum had carefully hung all the clothes and prepped them with lavender sachets to keep the moths away. The green dress from Marle was still there. Many memories are attached to it. But, have I worn it more than once? No. It hangs like a souvenir in my old closet in the Bavarian countryside. What if many other girls could have worn it over the last years? There would now be a gallery of pictures of us all wearing the dress in different ways. Marle would be happy to see how useful her work was and how much joy it had brought to others. At the end of its life, the dress would be redesigned into, for example, a doll's dress and, along with other fabrics, into a sofa cushion cover. At the very end, the parts would then be professionally recycled and turned into a new fabric.

Something Needs to Change

Soon after my prom in 1993 fast fashion also reached the Bavarian countryside and made Marles work more and more redundant. I was a young woman and I love it. Liberation and an unseen possibility of creative expression with the way we dressed. Democratization of fashion at a large scale just started. We could all buy almost everything. No one in my circles wondered how it could all suddenly be so affordable. The affordability has multiple reasons. However, we do not pay the full price for fast or super-fast fashion. Neither we nor the companies who sell us the clothes pay for the health consequences of workers and their unborn children or the soil and water that are highly polluted after production. The fashion industry is after the oil industry, the second biggest polluter. As much as I love fashion, something needs to change in how clothes get produced and how humans and the environment are treated along the life cycle.

The New Fast Fashion

Besides the human and environmental aspects, I have become more and more overwhelmed by my closet in recent years: too much and too full. With Corona this has reached its peak. In the last year, I've actually worn maybe five percent of my closet. However, fashion brands will want to keep earning money. And - there is an answer to it. More variety in the closet and a higher circulation of what we already possess.

I am obsessed with the idea of creating a "Linkedin for clothes". The intelligence will lie in the clothes and their network. They will circle around: three months with Rosina, six months with someone else, and so on. Gradually, new pieces will be made to last since the fashion companies own them and they earn more the longer the life of a garment is. Machine learning will help to get more and more accurate with understanding the needs, style, and size of consumers. This is the new kind of fast fashion, with all of us having much less in the closet. Rather than owning, we borrow clothes for a period of time and therewith will enjoy our wardrobes much more.

Startup Innovation: What's Next

The great thing is that this exists already. Watch the show Shaping the Future of Your Wardrobe by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The two startups Hack Your Closet and Clothes Doctor who both target end-consumers are presenting together with H&M how they support a circular fashion industry.

Another startup that I am mentoring within SAP.iO, is Lizee. They offer companies the infrastructure for establishing renting models. The founders are very experienced in the circular fashion industry. Promising is that they are already working with many big cooperations.

My expectation is, that you will see offers around sharing and renting clothing from many different companies, including the big ones, in the next one to two years. I encourage you to go and try it, even when it still feels a bit strange. If we always do the same things, we will always get the same things.

Voluntary Challenges:

  • Sustainability: Consider having a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit properly adjusted by a tailer before giving it away.

  • Art: Draw a picture or write about a favourite piece of clothing you have had in the past.

  • Physical: For practicing to change your perspective, try a handstand - if needed on a wall. Be mindful of what you can achieve and make sure to warm up your body and shoulders before.

This blog post reflects my own private opinion.

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