Words by Fiona Jenvey, CEO Mudpie
Fashion retailers and brands live in dread of people buying less, but what if instead of buying less we wasted less? Of course this would mean that products would need to be more expensive and longer lasting with more care taken over both design and manufacture.
How different things will be. In the 1930s, governments stimulated the ecomomy by encouraging excessive consumption. Consumer goods companies created products with built in obsolescence while the advertising industry drove the notion of desirability for goods that no one had ever needed before. Now the emphasis is on conserving our resources which means that the consumer goods industry faces two juxtaposing requirements: to make longer lasting sustainable products and to create consumer demand for products that sustain an economy which is built on debt. This dilemma means that the world economy in financial terms cannot afford to save the planet.
Consumers themselves face the same dilemma. Sustainability initiatives urge us to stop wasteful consumption, but if we do this how do we solve the need to consume when the worlds economy is based on debt?
Things used to be very different, a ladies overcoat lasted 10 years, cars made in the 1950s were on the road for 20 years and the old typewriters would still be working today if they hadn’t been replaced by computers.
An exhibition on sustainable design has just finished at the Design Museum in London, highlighting the full lifecycle impact of the products on display. These include a wooden radio, a parka made out of old parachutes, a clock that monitors energy consumption in real time and an ‘edible estate’ showing the potential to grow food even in the most urban of settings.
For retailers, manufacturers and brands a key objective is to create enduring products that deliver revenue and profit, a notion put forward by the Authors of ‘Cradle to Cradle’ the German Chemist Michael Braungart and American Architect William McDonough in 2002. They promoted the idea of discarded products being returned back into either a technical cycle where the materials could be re-used with no degradation of original quality or into a biological cycle where the material could in effect be returned to the environment to nourish the growth of natural materials.
Cradle to cradle is not a matter of tinkering, it requires different thinking and the creation of whole new technologies.
What would happen if a coat was passed down through several children- or was sold and re-sold through sevral used clothing stores? If the trend for vintage is anything to go by the idea is workable enough, but is this bad news for the manufacturer, retailer and brand? Not neccesarily, yes fewer coats would be needed, but what was made would be more expensive and much better quality.
Source: Wallpaper magazine and information that has previously appeared on mpdclick.com
Image source: magazine.enlightennext.org