A recent Royal Society Study for the Promotion of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has urged the UK Government to invest in sustainable fashion. The report finds that the lockdown has dramatically altered consumer habits and attitudes as it has forced changes in their way of buying fashion – 35 % of respondents said they intend to buy fewer clothing items in the future, and 28% more than usual reuse or recycle clothing. 68 per cent of women sought more repair and reuse opportunities and less advertising and social media pressure to buy clothing. Fifty-eight per cent of the public said they had purchased less clothing during the lockdown.
For the future, the report calls for more government investment in sustainable fashion. It calls for the creation of a dedicated green ‘Beyond GDP’ resilience fund to support burgeoning circular economy innovation within clothing and textiles (and other sectors) in order to enable greater regional resilience, to stimulate local demand and create high skilled local employment. This should also ensure that any job and training support program announced later this year supports growing circular economy jobs within fashion.
In addition, government should introduce stronger environmental standards on the industry including an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme to incentivise waste reduction and improved design for durability and repair, and a reduction in VAT on repair services.
Consumers do need to be motivated to keep up improvements in their actions. The RSA is launching the poll as part of its Regenerative Futures initiative, one of the five Bridges to a better future post-lockdown. Part of this program involves working with communities to develop interventions that change our relationship with fashion, from new ways of manufacturing to service repair and network reuse.