International Journal of Sustainable Fashion & Textiles

Hilda Niemelä Special issues Plate 2023

Special Issue: ‘The Future of Sustainable Clothing use Practice’

Guest editors: Kirsi Niinimäki, Aalto University, Finland; Cosette M. Joyner Martinez, Oklahoma State University, USA; Claudia E Henninger, University of Manchester, UK; Katia Dyan Vladi, University of Geneva, Switzerland

The current fashion landscape is in flux. From the recently released EU Textile Strategy to a growing number of industry reports, fashion’s dirty secret – its waste problem – has received increased attention (Berg et al. 2019; WRAP 2020a, 2020b; EEA 2022). However, despite this acknowledgement, it is unclear what actionable solutions will effectively solve the problem. For example, it has been argued that ‘extending the life of clothing by an extra nine months could reduce carbon, waste, and water footprints by around 20–30% each’ (EAC 2019). But how do we get there?

Impact per wear is recognized as the ultimate measure of sustainability for the fashion value chain. By using a garment longer, consumers reduce its per-wear impact. Admittedly, the current environmental and social impacts are by-products of a relationship with clothing that has become devoid of meaning, purpose, and connection in the fast fashion system. Fletcher’s Craft of Use (2016) illuminated a life with clothing found far outside the fashion system; a usership that is rooted in meaning and connection found within use practice. To view consumers as users is to highlight a powerful force for change. There, new narratives are shaped around behaviours that are employed by empowered agents.

This Special Issue seeks contributions that help fully articulate how clothing users extend the life of their clothes and address the problem of textile waste. We invite research studies and conceptual or theoretical papers that provide new understanding of clothing users as agents of change and how usership is fostered. During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behaviour shifted, with market reports indicating that they (consumers) are actively seeking more sustainable solutions and rediscovering their wardrobes; yet, with restrictions having been lifted, it is unclear whether this shift will remain or revert to old habits.

As such, we are seeking papers which offer alternative approaches and new views to sustainable fashion consumption. Papers may address the following aspects:

  • Focus on the use phase of apparel and the different opportunities to reverse the trend of quick wardrobe turnarounds towards slower, more mindful practices ending up to longer use phase.
  • Define mindful clothing consumption, mindful consumer practices as well as other spiritual notions relevant to consumption within larger necessity for sufficiency and degrowth.
  • Explore how the EAC’s (2019) suggestion of extending the life of garments by an extra nine months can be made into a reality.
  • Explore what consumers can do to reduce the impact their loved and pre-loved garments have on the natural and social environment.
  • Investigate how slower consumption, reusing, recycling, repairing could influence on consumers’ taste and fashion aesthetics.
  • Explore the practice of using less and counter-consumption movements that link well-being to fewer material possessions (in case of clothes and fashion) and sufficiency.
  • Explore actionable solutions to reducing consumption, by further drawing on a multi-disciplinary approach to research these solutions.

Very few studies provide comprehensive insight into the usership of clothes, and more specifically the role of the consumer as an agent of change. This issue has the potential to outline the key pathways to consumer-driven change, as industry and policymakers seem to ignore consumers’ agency. Much of marketing research has aimed to provide the industry with an understanding of consumer preferences for sustainability products rather than identifying alternative pathways that are less material intensive and wasteful. Moreover, there is a need to fully understand how consumers may enact important lifestyle changes with clothing and how those changes may propel meaningful systemic change. 

Submission guidelines

  • Abstracts should be submitted before 30 June 2023
  • Full papers to be submitted by 1 September 2023
  • Peer review process to be completed by 31 October 2023
  • Full paper deadline (if accepted): 31 December 2023
  • Special issue for issue 3.1 due to be published April 2024

All submissions must follow Intellect’s house style.

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