Nurturing sustainable design and production processes could unlock global growth for South Africa’s fashion sector, as the industry looks to revive local textile and manufacturing capabilities that prioritise both social and environmental wellbeing.
This is the view of sustainability consultants Sarah Botha and Laura Llonch, who in collaboration with STADIO School of Fashion, have developed a 12-week online course tackling sustainable design and production processes for South African fashion designers and retailers.
Called Designing a Sustainable Fashion Future for Southern Africa, the course is designed to empower attendees with the principles of sustainable design and how these can be applied in a fashion business context.
“STADIO School of Fashion is honoured to collaborate with Sarah and Laura on a course speaking to the future of Fashion. These current changes and shifts facing the fashion industry will make an impact on the entire value chain and offering Southern African designers a platform and network to educate and engage on an international level through this course is a very exciting offer to add to our portfolio,” said Stephanie van den Bergh, STADIO’s Short Learning Programme Manager.
An estimated 1.14 million South Africans are employed in the R90-billion a year local creative industry – which includes fashion, design and craft. South Africa’s fashion designers contributed about R1-billion to the country’s GDP in 2019.
South Africa’s rich heritage of craft, design and fashion coupled with local retailers seeking to revive the dormant textile and clothing industry through local manufacturing, make for a unique industry opportunity for job creation and industry revival – one that is based upon sustainable design practices.
“Local retailers are in the early stages of addressing sustainability, compared to our local designers, who have more readily adopted sustainable design practices. However, the entire value-chain will need to be aligned in order to meet this challenge,” Botha says.
Globally, the fashion and textile industry generates approximately 4% of the world’s waste, contributing 92 million tons annually, with an estimated $400 billion worth of clothing ending up in landfills or incineration every year due to a lack of suitable end-of-life services.
In the UK alone the landfilling of clothing and household textiles costs an estimated $108 million a year, and less than 1% of materials used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.
“Despite fashion brands paying lip service to sustainability over the last few years, through marketing messages focused on eco-collections, there’s a clear need to upskill industry players with a deeper understanding of environment and social issues, and to help them to pivot their business models to sustainable design and production practices,” says Llonch.
The South African Government has already committed to pursuing circularity and sustainable consumption principles, through the National Waste Management Strategy 2020, which promotes the waste hierarchy and circular economy principles, while achieving both socio-economic benefits and the reduction of negative environmental impacts.
According to Botha, there are other economic and social drivers that make this course so important. The shortage of sustainable fashion experts has been aggravated by the accelerated demand across the spectrum for sustainability expertise to help the fashion industry reduce its carbon footprint by 2030 and cut its Greenhouse Gas emissions by 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2.
“Local players across the supply chain will need to be involved in order to mobilise a sustainable fashion system. Education becomes an important tool to help shift mindsets beyond the current take-make-waste approach in the fashion industry, into a regenerative system that reduces the fashion industry’s carbon footprint,” Llonch concludes.
The course is open to anyone over the age of 16, and will run once a week for 12 weeks from 2 October 2021.