In less than 30 years, China has become the world’s second largest economy, pulling millions of people out of poverty. But at what cost? That of the massive use of natural resources, the degradation of the quality of the elements (water, air, soil), and the frenetic consumption of all forms of energy. For what purpose? Fuelling overproduction driven by the needs of the global economy. In response to this unprecedented ecological crisis (particularly in large cities), environmental stewardship has become a national priority. This driving force for development is also an opportunity for the country to assert itself as a leader in the energy transition on the international scene. IFA Paris, which has been present in Shanghai for more than 15 years, is witnessing a changeover that is under way, particularly in the fashion world.
The Paris climate agreement created a double surprise: that of the disengagement of the United States from all environmental chapters, but above all that of China’s commitment to work towards a greener economy.
Denim worker with pollution mask
We better understand the reasons for this with regard to certain statistics: 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China and fine particles kill more than 1.5 million people a year, while the textile industry alone produces 70,000 tons of waste a day… In other words, stopping the phenomenon is a major challenge for the biggest polluter on the planet!
The reforms undertaken in recent years have been confronted with a two-speed ecology: on the one hand, the actors of the fashion industry who are struggling to change their (bad) habits and, on the other hand, a well-off segment of the population that is gradually being woken by health and environmental problems. While the former have not been sufficiently sensitized and educated in the culture of sustainability, the latter are becoming aware of the urgency to change their way of consuming. While the Chinese middle-class, which has seen its’ purchasing power sharply increase and with it the desire to consume more qualitatively than quantitatively, the other categories continue to live in precariousness. Therefore, thinking about preserving the planet is of less importance to these underprivileged populations, who are more concerned about their survival than about their contribution to this noble cause.
As the majority customers of Chinese textile exports, the major Western groups (H&M in the lead), are engaged in the marketing of more ethical clothing, with a green offensive that is certainly less aggressive than in Western countries (due to cultural adaptations), but very much in the forefront. The Kering Group (Gucci, Saint Laurent, etc.) is helping to reform the system by awarding a Sustainable Innovation Award to elite Chinese start-ups. Encouraged by some environmental NGOs (“Redress”), sustainable fashion is slowly gaining ground. All these operations have been successful as Shanghai Fashion Week (SFW) is now positioning itself as means of promoting eco-labels, by awarding prizes to independent fashion designers.
IFA Paris, for its part contributes to this trend by incorporating modules on sustainable fashion into its programs and developing short dedicated training courses such as “Upcycling Fashion”, in order to enable this new generation of fashion designers to acquire an ecological awareness which should, in the near future, have an impact on the textile industry’s value chain.
IFA Paris, which is resolutely committed to a more sustainable fashion, will once again participate in the Fashion Revolution movement: https://www.fashionrevolution.org
Do you also want to get involved? Join our Short Course in Upcycling Fashion