On the morning of June 4, the author attended a sharing session hosted by c.l.a.s.s., a fabric platform based in Milan, Italy, at the branch store of Spanish brand Ecoalf in Mitte, Berlin. This platform analyzes and observes the rise of a new generation of designers, consumers and supply chain patterns, and even how sustainable fashion can adjust its way forward in the future. This platform has also provided experience sharing since its inception in 2007. Facing the future Generation Z consumers, c.l.a.s.s. said, “Knowledge is power. Please take the knowledge route.”
First, let me mention about the venue of this event. The earliest batch of fabrics used by Ecoalf, a Spanish brand which was conceptualized in 2009 and founded in 2012, were made from PET bottles recycled in Taiwan. Later, the founder of this brand turned to his attention to observing the situation of the area where he came from, a seaside city in Spain. In order to search for usable “waste” using the same concept of PET bottle recycling, and eventually discovered fishing nets used by fishermen.
According to Yayoi, the store manager of Ecoalf in Berlin , these fishing nets have to be replaced with new ones every five to six years. However, recycling them incurs costs, so most fishermen do not recycle them after using them till they have to be discarded, and sink them to the bottom of the sea. Therefore, the founder of Ecoalf discussed with local fishermen so that he could recycle these fishing nets. The fishermen not only did not need to pay for recycling them, but could also earn additional money, while garbage would not remain at the bottom of the sea. Why not? As a result, the number of fishermen currently participating in this effort has grown from three fishermen to over 3,000 fishermen. The Thai government even took the initiative to contact the brand after learning of this approach, in hopes that the brand can travel to Thailand and “collect” fishing nets. So far, the brand has developed over 300 types of fabrics using fishing net as a material. The success of a brand requires a little bit of luck, a little bit of creativity, and most importantly：Power of Observation.
Three elements of the future sustainable in fashion industry: Design, responsibility, and innovation
This is the content filled in three circles drawn by c.l.a.s.s., where the final goal is to produce products of increased “value”. Since the theme of this session revolves around recommendations regarding the transformation of business models among sustainable fashion operators through the analysis of future Generation Z consumer behavior, one of the three elements, namely design, was specially discussed. It was mentioned that what designers care about is also brand perception among consumers. In the future, the choice of brand made by Generation Z, who grew up in the era of information explosion, the power of brand name, will become increasingly vague; hence, transparency and traceability will become increasingly vital steps. Besides, Generation Z who speak their minds, show two types of reactions when it comes to various types of sustainability gimmicks from existing brands - “not nice-looking” and “I don’t believe it”. For designers, what they should care about in the future, if they want to capture Generation Z consumers, is: Where does the fabric come from and where should it go?
Three future sustainable fashion trends: Awareness, shifting lifestyle and DIY
According to the results of the European Parliament election in the end of May, the number of seats won by the environmental protection-oriented European Greens (EGP) increased significantly from 51 seats to 80 seats, thus becoming the fourth largest party in the European Parliament. Take Germany for instance, the number of seats won by EGP in Germany grew by 11.3%, where one-third of Germans aged 30 years old and below voted for EGP; while EGP clinched the number one spot in terms of percentage of votes obtained from voters aged 60 years old and below in big cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, a twofold increase from 2014. It can be seen that concerning the issue of environmental protection, the future generation is no longer “easily deceived”, but “reasonable persuasion” is required to convince them instead. The c.l.a.s.s. platform still comprises the element of e-commerce, but will gradually be transformed into an “education” and “consulting”-oriented knowledge platform. With regard to Generation Z, the founder of the platform gave a piece of advice: “At the core of creativity and success is knowledge.”