Episode 84: The Wellbeing Wardrobe, how we can realise a post-growth fashion industry




  • "Wellbeing Wardrobe" research report
  • Emphasizing the need for systemic change within the fashion industry
  • Breakdown of the roles and responsibilities of the three key stakeholders
  • Exploration of the four guiding principles of the "Wellbeing Wardrobe" concept


Welcome to episode 84 of the Fashion Unearthed Podcast. Today's podcast is on something I'm really into, which is systems change. Sounds a bit boring, but I love all the nuts and bolts and levers that go on behind why things happen and the systems and processes behind things. I'm a firm believer that if we don't change the systems, we'll never make fashion truly sustainable. Today, we'll go into a research report done recently on how exactly to move through this liminal space that everyone's in this process of change into a better way of doing things in the fashion industry.

Before I get into that, I wanted to mention that I will be doing an online webinar, my first webinar on the 31st of October at 12:00 PM Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Where I'll be talking about Reinventing Retail, and how businesses are adapting and evolving. I'll be showing some examples of other businesses as well as some insights into what's happening at the retail level in London in terms of visual merchandising and different inspiring things happening, so that as a business owner, you can be inspired, hopefully by some of the initiatives. Also, walk away, there are some new ideas on how to keep things moving in your own business. If you do need a bit of knowledge about what's happening in this space and are feeling a bit stale and not knowing what to do next, you can head to my website, belindahumphrey.com, and you'll find the registration for Reinventing Retail in the shop.

Today I wanted to talk about a report called Wellbeing Wardrobe, a Wellbeing Economy for the Fashion and Textile sector. The concept of Wellbeing Wardrobe was developed by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, in collaboration with Rasmus University in Rotterdam and London University. The research was funded by the European Environmental Bureau, and the idea stemmed from the vision of a fashion industry that is oriented towards a well-being economy. It was commissioned because of a sentiment that many of the current sustainability initiatives in the fashion industry are still based on growth but called green growth. They still put economic opportunity before environmental concerns. Essentially, businesses are still tinkering around the edges without fundamentally overhauling how they operate.

While some may argue that some of the initiatives provide some progress, they ultimately fail to create enough change for the industry to reduce material consumption or prevent the unnecessary disposal of clothing and textiles. In real terms, this means that the carbon emissions are still increasing as well as the use of natural resources as well as biodiversity loss. The aim of the report was to explore how we can achieve a post-growth fashion industry, one that isn't obsessed with growing all the time. They found that this will require far-reaching reforms beyond the fashion industry and a reconceptualization of societal roles and responsibilities. It led them to focus on the well-being economy, and they applied this to the fashion industry using the concept of a well-being wardrobe to examine a new way forward for fashion in which we favour human and environmental well-being over the growing consumption of fashion.

Fashion Revolution covered this report as well, and they had a great diagram that illustrated really clearly the four principles and what sits in each as well as what is within the control of the individual, the industry, and the government. I'll put a link to both of those in the show notes on the podcast section of the website if you want to dig a little bit further. But essentially, the Wellbeing Wardrobe identified four guiding principles for a sustainable, thriving fashion and textile sector. The first one is establishing limits, a well-being economy approach, limits resource use in overproduction and consumption and shows people how they can still live well while respecting these boundaries. Some examples of this include slow fashion, increased attention and support to repairing clothes and campaigns, to raise awareness of reusing and refashioning garments. The second principle, promoting fairness is about equitable wealth distribution systems to ensure global and intergenerational fairness, things such as being sustainable and responsible, purchasing decent work and pay for all workers and regulating for transparency and due diligence.

The third one, create a healthy and just government. This one encompasses robust participatory deliberative processes that emphasize inclusivity, open dialogue, and diversity. These are key to creating lasting change. This looks like stakeholder engagement across every level of the fashion industry, stopping greenwashing and supporting processes that create strategies for a well-being economy. The fourth principle is embracing new exchange systems. Innovative exchange models can ensure the fashion industry thrives while meeting human and environmental wellbeing needs by providing dignified work regenerating the environment and strengthening community bonds. They say they see a number of these systems of exchange taking hold already, B Corp, ecopreneur swapping and secondhand shopping. These are all examples of innovative practices aimed at creating a sustainable and equitable fashioned ecosystem. You're probably familiar with a lot of those things within those four guiding principles, but they've just been organized into relevant little groups.

The next section of the report broke it down into the three key stakeholders, to illustrate what's in control of each of the three groups. The first group they talked about is citizens and consumers. They can embrace sustainability in the fashion industry by focusing on sufficiency, things like a sufficient wardrobe, responsible consumption, and promoting new systems of exchange. For the second group, for brands that make the majority of our clothes, there needs to be a focus on adopting sustainable practices that revolve around quality, durable design, and using natural materials while also promoting circular approaches, including repair, reuse, and resale. But above all, there needs to be a dramatic reduction in the number of new clothes produced. Finally, the third stakeholder or group is the government or policy. It plays a pivotal role in advancing wellbeing approaches such as through regulating the implementation of EcoSign sustainability labeling and extended producer responsibility.

Coming in here is the banning or banning of the export or destruction of unused or waste textiles and considering how to introduce resource clothing and pollution budgets. I think this report is helpful in that it spells out four key principles or areas that need to be focused on to realize a healthier, more sustainable fashion industry for everyone, as well as what the three key stakeholders can do to do their part. Which brings us to the end of today's episode. I hope that's given you something to think about, and I highly recommend looking up the report, especially that little diagram. Because if you're anything like me, putting those big concepts into a visual always helps to organize everything in my brain. Don't forget about the Reinventing Retail Webinar that you can register for in the shop on the website. As always, you'll find the show notes and any links for today's episode on the website belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. Thanks so much for reading. See you next time.


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 


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