This article was originally written by Fernanda Bastos for ESG in Portuguese. Read the original article here. We published the translation for communication purposes.

"Fashion has a skill and a certain flair for innovation and change," says Professor Júlia Valle Noronha of the Estonian Academy of Arts

According to researcher Malcolm Barnard, fashion is what people wear. The concept seems simplistic, but it means that fashion, as a production and business, is governed by industrial systems and restrictions, involving social, cultural and environmental aspects. "We can say that fashion has an ability and a certain flair for innovation and change," says professor Júlia Valle Noronha, who has a doctorate in design from Aalto University and is an associate professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

This particularity of constantly challenging the status quo together with the fact that it touches deeply on emotions and socio-cultural and environmental relations, may suggest very promising future directions. "To try to understand some of these innovations, however, the important question to ask may not be exactly what fashion design is, but what can fashion design do? What are its affectations and its abilities, in terms of what it can actually affect?", explains Noronha.

This and other issues are being discussed at the III International Congress on Sustainability in Textiles and Fashion, which runs until November 11 at the University of São Paulo. The event is an initiative of Sustexmoda, group engaged with sustainable education and the search for solutions to deal with the impacts generated by the textile chain and the fashion industry in the economic, environmental and social spheres, coordinated by Prof. Dr. Francisca Dantas Mendes (Tita). The event is free of charge, has live broadcast and features several rounds of conversation, exhibitions, presentations of academic papers, and an upcycling contest of graduating students.

On Wednesday, during the first day of the event, the impacts of Agenda 2030 on the fashion chain and the importance of the circular economy were discussed. In the conversation circle on circular economy were, besides Professor Noronha, Niki de Schryver, business development and supply chain management manager at online platform COSH, Denilson do Carmo, tailoring specialist and curator of the Gerruza brechó, and Paulo Borges, founder of IN-MOD, National Institute of Fashion and Design and Creative Economy.

"I am here subverting the reasoning to enter into a discussion that I think is the most important that has to do with the issue [of circularity]: that of the disposal of waste. This is an issue that we do not face head-on", said Paulo Borges. According to him, the industrial age of production and globalization have increased the desire for consumption, thus generating a productive imbalance. "It is not just fashion, it is not just a matter of industry, it is an imbalance that is affecting the world in all areas. And the point is, what are we supposed to do about it? What are we able to do about it?", Borges provoked. For him, it is necessary to be a provocateur and a consumer agent at the same time in order to generate effective changes, to do something about it and stop being just a speech.

The future starts today

The panel also dealt with microplastics and human exploitation in fashion, two realities that need to be solved in the production chain. According to the World Economic Forum, the textile and fashion industry represents up to 5% of global emissions of greenhouse gases, being the third most polluting sector in the world, only behind the food and construction industries. There is an urgent need for the sector itself to seek more sustainable options for production, respecting the environment and the people involved. Technology can be a tool to assist in the adaptations towards a more sustainable future.

"If we look and track all the supply chain information from different materials present in the whole production chain, we will start collecting so much data that the cost, the ecological cost, of saving that data (for more than 40 years till consumer really return garments) and recycling will outnumber the footprint production cost, it will go beyond its purpose of ecological savings. I would like PHD students to research the carbon footprint of the needed data over the lifetime more before the EU implements the digital product passport," shared Niki de Schryver, development manager at COSH.

"One thing I am proud to be part of is this circularity: I go there, I help the institutions in my region. They help me by providing the raw material for my work and I help people access fashion at a more accessible price. One important aspect that I would like to sustain is this circularity", concluded Denilson do Carmo, curator of the Gerruza store.

What is circularity?

Circularity is a tool to reduce the produced waste and CO2 emissions. One of the proposals of SUSTEXMODA was to allow discussions about the effectiveness of this model to reduce climate impact. Many physics theorists, according to Noronha, study the issue of entropy and are critical of the way in which the economy currently operates. Following this argument, an entropic system has a certain level of disorder as it occurs in the current production system, where many consequences such as disposal, energy use and the creation of textile waste grows exponentially.

For this reason, many sustainability scientists propose a model that suggests a hierarchy of levels of transformation to combat the climate crisis. At the top are the low-impact interventions, which are the most widely covered in research and also in the industry because they are so easy to implement. An example would be changing the material of a batch of t-shirts from polyester to organic cotton. Although there is an impact, the industry remains almost the same.

There are also medium-impact interventions with a medium transformative capacity. For example, design for circularity usually falls into this category as it will have an impact beyond the fashion industry and there will be changes in design approaches as well. And the last stage would be the most difficult interventions to achieve, but that are able to really affect a transformation, including changes in ways of thinking, values and aesthetic perceptions - very central topics for fashion. In the discussion, the speakers encouraged viewers to reflect on how this proposal can also act on the deeper layers of transformation.

This article was originally written by Fernanda Bastos for ESG in Portuguese. Read the original article here.