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Sustainability in fashion: highlights from January to March 2024

By Simone Preuss


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Stella McCartney x NFW Credits: Stella McCartney x NFW

In the first quarter of 2024, much happened again in terms of sustainability efforts in the textile and apparel sector and related industries. For example, there was a lot to read - you should not miss the important reports mentioned below, changes in legislation, interviews conducted by FashionUnited with industry pioneers, as well as commentaries and background articles. Read through an exciting first quarter!


Anyone connected to the fashion industry should not miss the results of the “Fashion Accountability Report 2024”, published for the fourth time by non-profit organisation Remake. It measures the performance of 52 major fashion companies (with an annual turnover of more than 100 US dollars) such as Fast Retailing, H&M, Inditex, Kering, LVMH and PVH in six key areas: Traceability, Wages and Wellbeing, Trade Practices, Raw Materials, Environmental Justice and Governance. This year, C&A, US outdoor brand Cotopaxi, Macy's, US shapewear and apparel brand Skims and the Chinese online marketplace Temu were added to the list. Spoiler alert: they all still have a lot of work to do.

The organisation for cultural sustainability Black Pearl wants to make it easier for "everyone who wears clothes" with its “Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone“ to find sustainable fashion solutions for every wardrobe, from everyday wear to special occasions and red carpet events. It applied six criteria: Who makes our clothes and under what circumstances, how, where and from what are they made and where do they go when we no longer want or use them? And finally, what can we do as individuals to dress more sustainably?

The Material Innovation Initiative (MII) issued two reports during this period, one about “Brand Engagement with Next-Gen Materials 2023“, which highlighted a rise in collaboration between innovative materials companies and apparel, accessories, footwear and homeware brands: “From Gucci to Stella McCartney, major fashion brands are embracing next-gen materials at a rapid pace in 2023,” it concludes. Another report looked specifically at how next-gen silk could disrupt the materials industry.

At a recent symposium, global sustainability initiative Fashion for Good summarised that sustainable fashion materials are a business challenge that is based on trust. The Biofabricate Summit at the beginning of the year offered a potential to fashion’s future.

Insights of the New Cotton Project after three and a half years, summarised eight key findings that will be crucial for the industry to support the uptake of circular materials and successfully drive fibre-to-fibre recycling. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, meanwhile, achieved a breakthrough in textile recycling by developing a technique to produce new viscose from worn-out cotton sheets, and this article has put together six recycling innovations that could change fashion.

The fact that the Swedish textile recycler Re:NewCell AB had to file for bankruptcy at the end of February can certainly be seen as a setback for the industry. The company was unable to secure the necessary funds to successfully complete a financial reorganisation, according to a statement at the time. Renewcell had invested heavily in expanding its production capacities in recent years and ran into financial difficulties due to unexpectedly low demand for its fibres made from recycled textile waste. In August 2022, Renewcell commissioned the world's first commercial 100 percent textile-to-textile recycling plant in Sundsvall, Sweden. However, things are not over yet with Renewcell having received “multiple bids” for its business and assets. All offers are currently undergoing a review process, with a final closing expected in the middle of April. The specifics of the bids, including the identities of the bidders and the details of their offers, are set to remain confidential until then.

According to the global organisation Circle Economy Foundation, the circular economy is also taking steps backwards. Together with management consultants Deloitte, the organisation published its “Circularity Gap Report 2024". It shows that the global circular economy rate is currently falling from 9.1 percent to 7.2 percent, even though the number of discussions, debates and articles on the circular economy has almost tripled in the last five years. This means that everyone is talking about it, but only a few are actually taking action.


FashionUnited spoke to a number of pioneers in the industry who are breaking new ground in their respective fields - such as vegan label Melina Bucher from Germany, that even started its own ‘leather’ workshop — completely vegan, of course.

Simon Peyronnaud and Mathieu Khouri, co-founders of Losanje, shared their upcycling insights: Since 2020 upcycling pioneer Losanje follows the French model and revolutionises the way in which finished textile products are transformed from unsold or second-hand items. The company, which initially focussed on its own collections, has recently broadened its horizon, particularly with large companies, by introducing automation techniques into a traditionally artisanal sector.

FashionUnited also had the opportunity to interview Isabelle Lefort, co-founder of Paris Good Fashion. The association was initiated by the City of Paris and initially aimed to establish Paris as the capital of a more sustainable fashion by 2024, in anticipation of the Olympic Games. Lefort discussed the tangible outcomes of its actions in France and Europe, including the presentation of its proposal to the European Commission and the initiatives planned for the period 2024-2030.

To mark the Lunar New Year (Year of the Dragon) on 10th February 2024, three Chinese fashion brands joined forces with environmental non-profit Canopy. FashionUnited spoke to Canopy founder and CEO Nicole Rycroft about the biggest sustainability trends that will shape China's fashion industry in the coming decade, and how other Chinese fashion brands can adapt amid a global sustainability push. 

Legislation and background

In the first three months of the year, the EU Parliament spoke out in favour of stricter rules and implementing EPR rules more quickly in future in order to minimise textile waste and wastefulness. New European legislation also aims to improve the longevity and durability of products through the ‘right to repair’. This legislative framework represents a holistic approach to supporting circular economy, waste reduction and sustainable consumption in the European Union.

The New York Fashion Act has been discussed in the US Senate for two years. However, this has not stopped organisations from already starting to prepare retailers and brands for the potential integration of the law, as consumer demand for ethical and environmentally friendly products has increased. A Washington bill sponsored by state representative Sharlett Mena has been introduced at the beginning of the year in an attempt to regulate the fast fashion industry in the way of securing a more sustainably transparent future for the sector. France, on the other hand, is currently discussing a five euro fashion tax on every fast fashion item sold - Niki de Schryver from sustainability platform Cosh! comments for FashionUnited on how meaningful this is.

Do not miss our new background articles on topics such as Greenwashing, hidden product costs and the way to True Pricing, Upcycling and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

If you are still hungry for more, here are our suggestions for further reading...

Also read:

Circular Fashion
Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable Textile Innovations