The fashion industry is traditionally shaped by a fixed calendar of trade shows, marketing events, holidays, and more. In the past, the calendar alone was enough to predict when a seasonal line (such as a new puffer jacket) would roll out. Now, however, the calendar isn’t in sync with the weather. And it’s causing quite a stir in seasonal fashion trends.
Weather has always influenced how consumers buy clothes. But climate change is making the weather—and the ways we dress for it—anything but predictable. Clothing retailers are facing challenges already (particularly with seasonal products), and an irregular climate is compounding the problem. A recent study out of Korea links increasingly unpredictable weather patterns to decreased sales of seasonal clothes by identifying a correlated time lag between seasonal clothing demand and temperature change.
Researchers have studied the effects of unpredictable weather on clothing since 1951, but these last eight consecutive hottest years on record changed things. Aberrations were once the exception. Now, they’re unsettlingly settling into the norm. As the Korean report states:
“As the anomalous weather patterns have become a normal occurrence, previous sales plans are outdated and do not provide a good reference for the future.”
How can fashion adapt to the new paradigm? One way is to use un-seasonal designs and materials that work well any time of the year.
Clothes for a Changing Climate
Synthetic fibers make up three quarters of the world’s textiles. They’re cheap, making them perfectly suited for fast-fashion and rapidly-evolving consumer trends. So when a cold winter is predicted (or a hot summer, for that matter), synthetic materials are cheaply and efficiently used to create garments tailored to that season’s predicted outlook.
But when that season is over (or when it’s confounded by climate change) the garment becomes less relevant throughout the year. Climate-resilient garments must be un-seasonal—capable of being worn throughout the year and climatic variability. Synthetic-heavy fast fashion doesn’t fit the bill here as it’s specifically tailored for a trend or a season. Quality natural fibers like cotton and wool, however, are not only highly adaptive to multiple climates, but enable the consumer to significantly reduce their own climate footprint, creating a virtuous cycle of fewer emissions and more climate-resilient clothing.
The Power of Wool: Climate Adaptive Clothing
Wool enables the body to remain comfortable regardless of the temperature. It’s natural air pockets buffer against both cold air and sweltering heat. Wool is hydroscopic, absorbing and releasing water vapor very quickly. The same reason you stay warm on a chilly day even while you’re sweating is the very same reason why you can stay cool in a woolen t-shirt on a blistering summer day.
When it’s hot out, wool conducts heat away from your body and into the atmosphere as well as retracts moisture away from the skin. A light layer of wool in the heat, as the International Wool Textile Organization puts it, is “like wearing air conditioning on our skin.”
What’s more, Merino wool is much better at blocking out harmful UV radiation associated with lots of sunlight and heat. Merino wool offers approximately a UVP factor of 50, compared to 5 UVP for cotton. Thus, adopting more wool is a great way to overcome the un-seasonal weather that’s overturning the seasonal fashion scene.
But what about the climate impact of making a wool garment? We believe that the means must justify the end, which is why we’re passionate about making clothes that not only provide great all-year wearability, but don’t harm the planet or people during production.