Disrupting the status quo: A sustainability transitions analysis of the fashion system

Sophie Buchel*, Aniek Hebinck, Mariangela Lavanga, Derk Loorbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
74 Downloads (Pure)


The fashion industry has developed into a complex global system with persistent social and environmental sustainability challenges. Private, public, and civil society actors have condemned these persistent problems and called for system change toward sustainable fashion. While alternative practices and industry collaborations have emerged throughout the system, they have not added up to a sustainability transition. Instead, the system shows signs of being locked into unsustainability. The aim of this article is to examine the state of transition of the fashion industry through a multi-level perspective system analysis, based on a co-creative research project with the former C&A Foundation, which became the Laudes Foundation in 2020. This transition analysis shows that the fashion system is locked into a state of disconnection, uncontrollability, extraction, growth-focus, and disposability. We build from analysis and present a set of strategic transition pathways that can be pursued today throughout the fashion system to accelerate the transition to sustainable fashion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-246
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is based on a research project that DRIFT conducted with the former C&A Foundation and Fashion for Good, initiated and funded by the C&A Foundation. This sponsorship does not alter our adherence to the policies of Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy regarding sharing data and materials. We would like to thank Chris Roorda, Karlijn Schipper, Megan McGill, Douwe Jan Joustra, Leslie Johnston, and Katrin Ley for their contributions to the project that was the empirical foundation of this paper.

Funding Information:
Sustainable Redesign of the Global Fashion System: Exploring the Organizational, Technological, and Socio-cultural Dimensions of Transformation is supported by the Department of Design and FiP Research Lab of the Politecnico di Milano.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Politecnico di Milano–Design Department.


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