The concept ‘conscious fashion’ has been around for quite some time now, possibly since Dr. Kate Fletcher coined the term ‘slow fashion’ in 2007. Over the last three years, we have also witnessed another concept entering the fashion stage, i.e. the concept of ‘circular fashion’. Circular fashion, which is based on the notion of a circular economy, was coined by two companies independently of each other in spring 2014, that is by Green Strategy‘s owner and H&M’s sustainability staff. With a growing number of fashion brands, retailers, organizations and sustainable fashion advocates now embracing the notion of a circular economy, some even refer to a circular fashion movement.
As the circular fashion concept continues to spread, a third concept is now emerging – the concept of ‘compassionate fashion’. Respect for workers, societies, animals and the natural environment has always been at the core of the ethical, slow and sustainable fashion discourse. Yet, the wider fashion industry is now opening up to a fundamental shift from simply being aware and conscious, to also feeling true compassion towards how workers, societies and ecosystems are affected across the supply chains. In other words, a shift is taking place where business owners do not only ask themselves “What should we do, based on our knowledge and awareness of any negative impacts?” to also asking “What do we want to do based on our heart-felt values and compassion for others?”. This transition from mere consciousness to genuine compassion means that companies begins to lead ‘from their heart’ as opposed to simply ‘from their minds.’ The ambition of such companies will not simply be to minimize or compensate for any adverse impacts, but rather to prevent any negative impacts at all costs, and to create positive outcomes and long-lasting benefits to others. This new approach originates in the precautionary principle and the idea of doing good, rather than just focusing on doing less bad.
Thus, while a mind-led company makes choices primarily with its rational mind, a heart-led company is guided by what it believes to be true, good and morally right – from the standpoint of all affected. Every action is aligned with the company’s core values, and the company feels an urge to make decisions based on its care and compassion for others. Some fashion companies have always been guided by their heart-felt values. Yet, now we can see an increase in such a company character, especially among newly established businesses and those led by younger generations.
Consumers too are expressing a growing aspiration to act according to their personal values and compassion for others (be it humans, animals, ecosystems or other cultures). This deeper care may be expressed in various ways; some consumers have a special bond to animals (thus taking a stand against for example sheep muelsing), while others feel a strong concern for the oceans and any health impacts on sea birds and aquatic organisms due to microplastics and chemical pollution.
In sum, while the call for conscious and circular business practices will remain and continue to grow, we are likely to see a new type of business model emerging within the fashion and textile industry – one that is fundamentally driven by the need to be and do good out of compassion for others and with choices and actions guided by the heart.
Note: All photos have been sourced from Unsplash.com. Author: Dr. Anna Brismar, Green Strategy