Why regenerative fashion is more than just regenerative agriculture.

I was recently asked by a journalist writing an article for a popular magazine in fashion to answer the question: Why is regenerative Agriculture so important for the fashion industry?

Photo: Tim Davis


There are many advantages of regenerative agriculture, and I am glad to see that even bigger fashion houses are diving into the topic recently. From an environmental perspective, regenerative agriculture can sequester carbon in the soil and contributes to the restoration of biodiversity. From a social perspective, it promotes indigenous practices and, at its best, contributes to the financial independence and empowerment of small farmers.

But what I love most is that the transition takes time and therefore long-term commitment and investment from brands. This can lead to a real shift in thinking towards slowing down and longevity, for regenerative agriculture can only be a part of systemic change in fashion.




But apart from regenerative agriculture, how could a regenerative fashion system look like for different parts of the supply chain and beyond?

I would like to give you an overview by following the steps of our current supply chains.


Company vision & strategy: In order to follow a regenerative approach you should have your vision and targets clear at this point. What is the impact you would like to create?


Design & Material sourcing: A new season in fashion is generally kicked-off with a design brief and according fabric selection. Use this phase to reflect on the application of your product and it's interaction with the environment during use phase. Will it be washed often? Is it exposed to a lot of friction? Do we consider the entire lifecycle when designing?

In general I would say, in order to become regenerative you need to design for the biosphere with durability in mind. Designing for the biosphere means designing with other species in mind and considering the impact your product might have on them or on the system they live in. Bio design also means that all materials sourced are biodegradable and produced and processed with renewable energy and without toxins. By the way material extraction, processing and production of the upstream supply chain is the biggest lever to decrease C02 emissions, as about 2/3 of all emissions occur here. (https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/retail/our%20insights/fashion%20on%20climate/fashion-on-climate-full-report.pdf)


If we want to use materials to make the fashion industry sustainable in the long term, regenerative agriculture is one of many levers at our disposal. We are not only talking about materials such as cotton, wool, flax, hemp, ramie and linen. But also fibers that are not yet used for textiles or old, little represented fibers, whose cultivation could regenerate ecosystems. In addition, I see huge potential in biotech materials made from living cells produced by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and mycelium, or artificial spider silk. And in the field of synthetically produced cellulose fibers, there is also a lot going on, be it manufacturing processes that do not require chemical baths or the production of these fibers from textile, agricultural or paper waste. Agricultural waste alone could cover 2.5 times the industry's global fiber needs, according to the study the nature of fashion by the Biomimicry Institute. Using Byproducts of agriculture or food industry can make space for farmland to rewild. (https://24rdmo160xr11sgco31bxj30-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Nature-of-Fashion_2021.pdf)


If we want to use materials to make the fashion industry sustainable in the long term, regenerative agriculture is one of many levers at our disposal. We are not only talking about materials such as cotton, wool, flax, hemp, ramie and linen. But also fibers that are not yet used for textiles or old, little represented fibers, whose cultivation could regenerate ecosystems. In addition, I see huge potential in biotech materials made from living cells produced by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and mycelium, or artificial spider silk. And in the field of synthetically produced cellulose fibers, there is also a lot going on, be it manufacturing processes that do not require chemical baths or the production of these fibers from textile, agricultural or paper waste. Agricultural waste alone could cover 2.5 times the industry's global fiber needs, according to the study the nature of fashion by the Biomimicry Institute. Using Byproducts of agriculture or food industry can make space for farmland to rewild. (https://24rdmo160xr11sgco31bxj30-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Nature-of-Fashion_2021.pdf)


Garment production: During garment production, regenerative business practices should focus on equitable stakeholder relationships and provision as well as collaborations of different stakeholders.


Sales, Use-phase & End-of-life: Your responsibility as a brand does not stop when the products leave your warehouse. Have you heard about the concept of Extended user Responsibility? It means that the producer of a product is responsible for the end of it's lifetime. If we extend this responsibility into the use-phase, your task is to educate your consumer how to care for the product to make it last and lower the impact derived from washing for example.

Possibilities here are repair services, engaging with consumers about care and maintainance, hosting repair events, communicating on care labels, website and your social media channels.


Are there small scale tailors or creative Upcycling designers that you could collaborate with? Be open for new and engaging concepts to offer to your customers. In order to keep products in use as long as possible, you can implement innovative business models like rental or resale. Which model is the most suitable for you depends on the application of your product. But always keep in mind: These business models do only work if products are designed to be durable and timeless. At the End-of-life a garment should be recyclable and biodegradable, as it is impossible to create closed material loops. Garments will get lost, fibres shed and disperse and these materials should be safe for the environment.


Now that we have explored many action points on how to transform towards a regenerative fashion brand, let me give you a beautiful example of a regenerative product:



Do you sell puffer jackets in your winter collections? If not, I am sure you own one.

Conventional puffer jackets are filled with down. But down is mostly plugged from living ducks. An alternative is a synthetic fibre fill, but synthetic fibres produce microfibers. Now imagine your jacket would neither shed microfibers, nor be responsible for animal cruelty, but save butterflies and their habitats. Wouldn't this be an amazing story?

Monarch butterflies are a signal for ecosystem health, but their populations have been plummeting to 10% of their population 20 years ago. Monarchs travel 3000 km to lie their eggs on milkweed plants. During this migration corridor the monarch pollinates flowers on it's way. Textile Artist Alaya Rasile-Digrindakis developed a padding material made of milkweed floss. This natural hollow fibre is very lightweight and it also has amazing heat retention. It is hydrophobic and hypoallergenic. These are perfect properties for insulation material for puffer jackets. Imagine this is the story of your jacket: it saves butterflies and regenerates entire ecosystems.


And this is where a systemic perspective comes into play: microplastics are a symptom for a system's root cause. I believe the root cause of microplastics is the disconnection between humans and nature. Our mechanistic world-view made us believe we are separate or superior to nature, but we are not. So in order to change this entire system, we don't only have to change the perception of clothes from disposable to a durable and cherished product. But we also have to heal from consumerism and find our place in nature again.

I know, this is a lot and it might feel like a hell of work. But keep in mind, that change happens one step at a time. We can do this, if we do it collaboratively.

What are your thoughts on regenerative fashion?

Let me know in the comments below.

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