The Future of Fashion Retail: Love, Lease, Lend

This year, the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival and Zero Waste Scotland worked in partnership, focusing on the issues of sustainability to help engage businesses and consumers with making fashion more ethical.  I was invited to be a panelist within an event titled 'The Future of Fashion: Love, lease, lend' at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh.

This particular session expanded upon Zero Waste Scotland's work aligned to the Circular Economy - where materials are kept in productive use for as long as possible, moving away from our current linear approaches to design, production and consumption. 

The panel was chaired by Mark Shayler, sustainable design consultant and co-founder of Howies Do Lectures. Mark highlighted that future of retail will change significantly, and he anticipates design will be led by China with production based in Africa. The internet has had a huge impact on retail and we need to re-think our current approach to design, production and manufacture. High street stores are frequently closing, so what does the future hold for our local high streets? From the perspective of the circular economy, what can we do in Scotland? 

Mark went on to share a personal challenge of giving up fashion consumption for one year and highlighted that he found it a lot less challenging than he had originally anticipated. Prof Becky Earley has set herself a similar challenge this year #nonewclothes2015 and blogs about this frequently. 

The session opened with a presentation from Bert Van Son, founder of MUD Jeans one of the only fashion brands currently adopting a circular economy business model. Bert explained the philosophy behind the brand and their commitment to identifying a use for all waste within their supply chain. They have also use social media to capture stories from their customers using #mudstory. 

Edinburgh International Fashion Festival 2015

This was followed by a presentation from Claudia Domokos, co-founder of Rentez-Vous a luxury fashion leasing service with the tag line 'live fashion, don't own it'. Their online store has successfully launched in beta and they are capturing insights from customers, alongside building their portfolio of stock.

Edinburgh International Fashion Festival

Following these presentations, I joined Louise McGregor, Head of Circular Economy at Zero Waste Scotland and Michelle MacLeod, Marketing Manager at Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre.

Edinburgh International Fashion Festival 2015

Zero Waste Scotland are playing a key role in supporting SME's to adopt circular economy concepts and included a Pop Up exhibition within the event to demonstrated new business models. Michelle highlighted how Ocean Terminal are beginning to experiment with new retail models by launching a micro-manufacturing makerspace titled 'the Facility Project' with a shop and studio capable of housing up to 23 creators and small businesses. The Facility will provide these creators with the space to work, access to a increasing number of textiles finishing equipment and the ability to sell directly to the public.

There was a really positive atmosphere within the event and people were incredibly responsive to these new models and inquisitive to find out more. Following the panel discussion, people began to share stories of trekking charity shops, to gifting and repairing garments with their friends, demonstrating a desire to share and learn new skills.

The BBC also produced a lovely stand along feature titled 'Recycling Drives Edinburgh Fashion Festival' view here.

Sometimes it is the small changes that make a big difference. As designers, business owners, academics and consumers alike - we all need to be advocates of a more mindful and ethical approach to consumption. We need to practice what we preach, and it is only by challenging ourselves to become more resourceful, innovative and experimental with our own wardrobes that we can we truly learn. As consumers, we have the power to shift the narrative around fashion design, retail and consumption.