Influencing the Influencers: Accelerating the diffusion of sustainable high fashion clothing


This project focuses on interdisciplinary opportunities for a systemic transformation of the fashion industry; a ‘one-goal’ approach, looking to drive the notion of circular fashion, with greater sustainable microfibre production, increased transparency within fashion supply chains, alongside a proposal for new government legislation, backed by a media-led consumer awareness campaign. We are looking to, ultimately, transform an industry that is currently the second-largest global polluter. Given the collaborative nature of the construct, the proposed research looks to involve multiple actors/stakeholders, with a raft of opportunities for possible further contributions, eg, government policy makers and direct fashion consumer buyer-behaviour expertise.

The initial aim of this project is to investigate the current position of high fashion brands as innovators in the product lifecycle, and their individualised, unregulated, stances regarding circular fashion and long-term environmental and social sustainability.
Furthermore, the proposal will look to further research and analyse other actors in the fashion-buying equation, as well as look to provide opportunities for both vertical and horizontal collaborations across multi-tier actors within fashion supply chains, end-of-life waste disposal providers and government agencies to work together to provide a one-goal drive for increased circulatory fashion, led by chosen high fashion brand leading innovators.

This proposal builds on previous work conducted by Dr Marta Bell on transparency and mock compliance in the ready-made garment industry in both India and Bangladesh, which has had significant impacts on the credibility and reputation of a number of fashion brands operating in the UK (eg, Huq et al., 2014).

The first step of the project is to open up a dialogue on sustainable/circular fashion with a number of selected high fashion brands operating in the UK. Based on those initial semi-structured interviews, we will look to provide opportunities for the chosen brands to lead to become more transparent, become recognised as ‘innovators’ of a more circular fashion proposal, and furthermore, open up direct discourse with designers, consumers and local and national government in the pursuit of greater circulatory sustainable practices within the fashion industry. This wider-commitment to a ‘circular fashion, one-goal’ drive for change will be approached via a significantly larger external fund-bid to bring in more experts, brands, fashion designers and influencers and scale our proposal up.

Initially, the following research questions will be investigated:

  1. What is the current position of high fashion brands towards sustainable supply chain initiatives?
  2. How feasible is government intervention towards a more sustainable fashion industry?
  3. Can differing media and omni-channel supply chain linkages impact and pressurise government, brands and the UK fashion consumer to consider purchasing more sustainable fashion garments in the future?

Although the main focus will be within the confines of operations and supply chains, the project is intended to be inter-disciplinary, crossing boundaries between supply chain management, consumer and organisational behaviour as well as fashion/textile design disciplines.