The fashion industry is facing a waste and overproduction crisis if it continues on its current trajectory, one of the UK’s leading economic experts has warned.
Dame Vivian Hunt, a managing partner at the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, said “fashion has a long way to go to demonstrate its commitment to achieving net zero emissions”.
Hunt, who was previously named the most powerful black woman in Britain and one of 30 most influential people within the City of London, stated that recent investigations revealed that 12% of the fibres were discarded at the factory floor.
She pointed out the grave problems associated with overproduction and noted that 45% were sold at a markdown price.
Hunt was speaking at the Business of Fashion Voices conference in Oxfordshire – a two-day summit seen as the equivalent to the Cop26 climate talks – where she was joined by industry leaders including Tommy Hilfiger and Kris Jenner who, in true fashion style, watched from the front row.
Hunt told the audience sustainability could be style and substance, adding that “perfection is an elusive goal but progress is achievable”.
Voices is now in its sixth year and has attracted a number of high-profile speakers such as Stella McCartney or Alber Elbaz. It is also believed to have sparked some of fashion’s most important conversations over the past decade.
The climate emergency was the main topic of the week. Other topics included equality in fashion, mental health crisis and the need to better understand cultural appropriation.
Another speaker, Dame Vivienne, a designer and activist, blamed capitalism in some of the problems plaguing our planet.
“The whole world is in competition with itself to outsell itself, creating better and smarter weapons we are defending ourselves from our own aggression,” she said.
Westwood, who created a series of playing cards to illustrate her point, added: “War is a major polluter and our major waste. The temperature is rising. As we saw at Cop, without cooperation, nothing can be done,” Westwood said.
She referenced Cop26 in Glasgow and its failure to “keep the goal of 1.5C alive”, accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy and to phase out coal.
Ellen MacArthur (a British sailor who became a circular fashion economy expert) also used Voices to call on all parts of the industry to unite and work together. She said: “A hundred innovations in 100 sectors does not add up to a solution.”
The Business of Fashion founder, Imran Amed, who leads the event, said Voices aimed to bring fashion’s “big thinkers” together to create change. “No industry lies in a vacuum. Fashion is connected more than ever to the forces changing the world,” he said.