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9 key sustainable fashion trends to look out for in 2022

We know that fashion has a key role to play when it comes to tackling the climate crisis – with the industry responsible for up to 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. But despite there being countless conversations around the need for fashion to become more sustainable, much more work still needs to be done in 2022.

“This is a critical year for the fashion industry and for humanity to make meaningful changes in their environmental and social impacts,” Céline Semaan, CEO and co-founder of fashion non-profit Slow Factory, tells Vogue. “The bigger the brand, the greater the responsibility for their entire supply chain, all the way down to the raw materials, and the people involved.”

Re-examining the relationship we have with our clothes, as well as how to help the communities and ecosystems that have been damaged by the fashion industry to date will be crucial. “I predict the key trends for 2022 will be repairs and reparations,” Orsola de Castro, co-founder of campaign group Fashion Revolution, says. “Repairing garments when they break, and being prepared to offer reparations to the people, ecosystems and natural resources that have been marginalised and exploited for centuries.”

Above all, we need to see a real acceleration of action from the industry in the coming year – with legislation likely to play a key role in that. “I’m hopeful for 2022 that we’re continuing to move away from just talking to what are we actually doing?” Maxine Bédat, the director of New Standard Institute and the author of Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment, adds.

Below, we round up nine key sustainability trends to look out for in 2022.

Science-based targets are essential

With brands agreeing to step up their commitments as part of the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action at Cop26, more companies will be signing up to Science Based Targets this year – an organisation that sets out a roadmap to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. That can only be good news, with brands required to publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the new Fashion Charter agreement.

Resale, rental and repair will continue to grow

2021 saw an increasing number of brands take ownership of resale, including the likes of Gucci, Valentino and Oscar de la Renta, while Jean Paul Gaultier and Burberry also entered the rental market for the first time. The trend is set to continue this year, with repair being another major focus. Extending the life of items that already exist is crucial to a more sustainable fashion industry moving forward.

Regenerative, rather than sustainable fashion

The idea of regenerative fashion – which actually restores and renews natural ecosystems – will continue to take hold this year, as brands look at how they can actually have a positive effect on the planet. A key part of this is looking at how materials are sourced, and whether regenerative techniques are being used to produce fibres used in the industry, such as cotton and wool.

Supporting local industries and craft

We’ve seen a renewed emphasis on craft of late, including at Chloé, which collaborated with a fairtrade cooperative of weavers based in Kenya for spring/summer 2022. With the likes of Phoebe English working with farmers in the UK on the sourcing of fibres, expect to see more designers championing local industries and craft this year.

Plastic-free alternatives

Synthetic materials, such as polyester, are a major issue for the fashion industry. Not only are they derived from fossil fuels, they release millions of microplastics into our waterways every time they’re washed, and are non-biodegradable, meaning they stay around for hundreds of years.

That’s why new innovations like Natural Fiber Welding’s Clarus fabric – organic cotton that’s been treated to make it act more like a synthetic – is so exciting. Tom Ford’s $1.2million Plastic Innovation Prize, which aims to find a biologically degradable alternative to the thin plastic packaging often used in fashion, is also set to announce its finalists in February this year.

Eco-friendly dyes

The dyeing process can be extremely water intensive and involve harsh chemicals that pollute local waterways – which is why brands are increasingly looking at more eco-friendly alternatives. The use of natural dyes is set to grow, while Pangaia, for example, is currently working to scale up the use of bacteria-based dyes.

Digital fashion

There’s been a lot of talk about the Metaverse, and while digital doesn’t necessarily equate to sustainable (due the vast amount of energy needed to power massive data centres and servers), one interesting development is the rise of virtual clothing. Companies like DressX now allow you to purchase an item digitally, which is then superimposed on an image of yourself. It’ll be interesting to see if digital clothing can offset the waste created by the #OOTD (outfit of the day) culture.

More regulation

Regulation will be key when it comes to accelerating climate action – with the European Union looking at introducing Extended Producer Responsibility legislation for textiles. Already in place in France and Sweden, this would require brands to pay for the collecting, sorting and recycling of their products (giving them the incentive to produce more responsibly).

Campaigns for more legislation around workers’ rights will continue, after California introduced a new Garment Worker Protection Act last year, which guarantees hourly wages for garment workers, banning workers from being paid per garment. It also holds both manufacturers and brands accountable for wage theft and illegal pay practices.

“Degrowth” is the new buzzword

One word that came up a lot during Cop26 was “degrowth” – the idea that we cannot continue to have exponential economic growth, while continuing to live within the boundaries of our planet. Given that our current economic systems are predicated on continuous growth, it’s a controversial concept in some quarters. Interestingly, Ralph Lauren’s chief sustainability officer Halide Alagöz told a New York Times panel that the brand has found it can achieve “financial growth through degrowth of resources”.

This article was originally published on Vogue UK.

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