The Fashion Lab
The Sustainable Fashion Lab is a national, multi-sectoral platform for collaboration and innovation that consists of approximately 80 leaders and 60 organizations who together, aim to address and transform the main challenges of Brazil’s fashion industry.
The starting point for a Transformative Scenario Process is the recognition that there is an unacceptable and unsustainable situation, that any player in isolation cannot change the system, that direct changes are impossible or insufficient, and there is the desire and will to change reality. The process of constructing scenarios is an exercise in suspending desires and setting answers; of looking beyond forecasts and projections, and being open to considering a range of possible futures.
Scenarios are stories about what could happen in the future; they are neither predictions for what will happen nor recommendations for what should happen. They challenge us to act and to create the future we desire.
Widespread setbacks due to economic and political conflicts, widespread individualism, and protectionist measures that dominate international commerce, lead to a fashion industry that is fundamentally focused on generating profit. Collaboration between different sectors is fragile. The Brazilian economy is in crisis and investment in education and technology is low. There are few social control mechanisms for poor working conditions. The situation is made worse by growing unemployment rates caused by the substitution of manual labor by automated production systems and intense migration flows in the continent.
The intervening State’s power looms over everything, as it seeks to regulate the actions of all other sectors. The State also holds the monopoly over Big Data and there is an increase in inspections of the fashion production chain, with a special focus on both work-related issues and environmental concerns. Low participation in public policy development stifles innovation and investments in technology, which are made by the private sector. Dialogue is weakened and inequality persists. Shopping malls are the preferred locations to experience consumerism but most purchases are done online.
Collaboration between state, business and organized civil society takes on a strategic role in the country, as it brings together different parts of the supply chain. Social and environmental issues gain relevance in the measurement of fashion supply chain impacts in general and among the companies in the fashion industry. High volumes of investment go into science and technology. There are fewer job positions available in the industry due to technology advances, but work relations have improved considerably. Brazil enters the age of fashion customization, through a pulverized production system and the spread of mini-factories. Consumers demand products that are more sustainable.
Consecutive disruptive technology advances and changes in consumer awareness transform the fashion industry. New materials substitute traditional raw materials, production processes are modernized, and professional training is diverse and in-depth. There is a massive reduction in the job positions available, but there is also a stark decrease in poor working conditions and new social protection mechanisms are introduced, such as shorter working days, to ensure more employment. The fashion industry moves towards a circular economy model, as the environmental crisis plagues public consciousness, leading to popular pressure for sustainable production systems.
"Dialogue is a way to find alternative paths and this requires all perspectives to shift slightly."
“We should all sit around the same table and have a conversation, get to know each other. We have whole segments of the textile value chain that don’t know one another, who live in their own worlds!”.
“To conduct this work we need openness and commitment from each individual, an honest environment and a lot of collaboration”.
"I am worried about the systems of exclusion and criminalization of people. On the other hand, I hold the hope of a renewed and sustainable value chain, which contemplates people."
The Lab stage of the project kicked off with the lab team creating a system map of the fashion industry in Brazil and identifying key leverage points to transform the sector. Thereafter, the Fashion Lab team organized itself in six working groups (WGs), each addressing one of the axes of transformation identified. Between 2018 and 2020, the WGs co-created and prototyped 18 multi-sectoral initiatives.