Sustainable experience design: linking values & fashion

By Paolo Barbesino, PhD and Qaalfa Dibeehi

Sustainable experience design: linking values & fashion

Sustainability encompasses both institutional responsibilities and personal choices, intertwining to shape a more eco-conscious society. The importance of individual actions in driving broader societal change cannot be overstated. This principle is evident in various aspects of our lives, including the fashion industry, which serves as a powerful lens through which to examine the interplay between personal agency and collective sustainability efforts.

Fashion and Personal Agency: A Reflection of Values

The clothes we choose to wear are more than mere garments; they are expressions of our values, beliefs, and the movements we align with. As Angela Davis insightfully pointed out, style is not only a form of communication but also a reflection of history and societal shifts. This concept has been evident throughout history, with fashion choices often signaling deeper values and lifestyle choices, from the adoption of trousers by women as a symbol of liberation to the use of sustainable materials as a stand against environmental degradation.

The Role of Institutions in Advancing Sustainability

Successful institutions are those that anticipate and align with societal movements, gaining authenticity and support from the public. Historical examples include Chanel’s promotion of trousers for women, Levi Strauss & Co.’s early adoption of desegregated factories, and Nike’s embrace of the wellness movement. These cases illustrate how businesses can thrive by authentically supporting and advancing social movements, particularly in the realm of sustainability.

The Growing Movement of Individual Action

The concept of sustainability is evolving, with a growing emphasis on the impact of individual actions. The rise of slow fashion and the use of digital tools for wardrobe tracking are examples of how individuals are seeking to understand and minimize their environmental footprint. By calculating the “cost-per-wear” (CPW) of garments, consumers can make more informed choices that prioritize sustainability and value over time.

Wardrobe-tracking apps and initiatives like the “75-day hard style challenge” reflect a broader shift away from fast fashion towards a culture of mindfulness and appreciation for what we already own. These individual efforts contribute to a collective movement that challenges institutions to acknowledge and address the environmental and ethical implications of their practices.

Sustainability Metrics: Beyond Fashion

The principles of sustainable consumption extend beyond fashion to encompass sectors such as food, transportation, and real estate. By adopting sustainability metrics, consumers can make choices that reflect their values and contribute to a more responsible and mindful society. This approach to “sustainable experiences design” has the potential to revolutionize consumer behavior, making the environmental impact of our choices as visible and manageable as tracking our daily steps.

In conclusion, the intersection of personal agency and institutional responsibility is crucial in advancing sustainability. The fashion industry serves as a poignant example of how individual choices, supported by technological innovations and sustainable practices, can lead to significant societal change. By embracing these principles, we can collectively pave the way for a more sustainable future, where every decision is made with intention and awareness.