Sustainable innovation for fashion practice



Captured within concern for the climate crisis and the limited time to halt irreversible environmental damage, sustainability is highly topical. Despite the fashion industry being the second biggest polluter after the aviation industry (United Nations, 2020), sustainable responses have at best been superficial. What is required are creative innovative novel solutions that focus value creation on design, materials and construction that challenge the disposability of fast fashion. While discourse on fashion sustainability is highly topical in academia, as well as in wider society, there has been little exploration beyond dominant social paradigms of production and consumption. Consequently, this special edition calls for a re-evaluation of fashion practice through the lens of social innovation. It is hoped that this call will ignite discussion on different aspects of fashion consumption by examining fashion retailers, consumers, social enterprises and communities contributing to creating new models rooted within sustainable practice. 

This call builds upon previous special editions e.g., Comunian et al. (2020) with the focus rooted in fashion - the largest creative industry in the UK (Donaldson, 2016) and on a global basis (FDC, 2021). Yet, creativity within fashion practice has been eroded in the pursuit for increasing the consumption of inexpensive garments. Take, for example, UK online fashion retailers Pretty Little Thing selling a dress for 8 pence (UK sterling) in 2021 (Blackhall, 2020). Within the sustainable fashion literature, it has long been established that fashion consumers disengage with sustainable fashion due to perceptions that it is more expensive, not available in known fashion retailers and it does not follow fashion trends - as such these barriers impose assumptions of sacrifice. We are not seeking to advance knowledge around new ways in which to sustainably produce fashion for new consumption, we are seeking novel solutions for new practice that reinvigorates what is already in circulation and focuses on values of authenticity, design, materials and aesthetics. These novel innovations fall within the new environmental paradigm, underpinned by sustainability, societal wellbeing, and inclusivity. 

The fashion industry and fashion practice has been overlooked within the social enterprise literature due to industry focus on competitive capitalistic business models yet there is potential for new practice to challenge the status quo and inspire creative social innovation and entrepreneurship models that disrupt the dominant social paradigm of normalised consumption behaviours, to respond meaningfully to concerns for sustainability and climate change. It is also hoped that the papers will advance the sustainable fashion literature and merge social policy, social innovation and social entrepreneurship theories. This will be useful for developing academic discourse on sustainable fashion practice.

This special issue is timely; firstly, as we emerge from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behaviours have already experienced change, and during social lockdowns there was more evidence of community support and engagement. Secondly, recent reports from the IPCC (2022) indicate the urgency to address the climate crisis, and there are opportunities to engage with consumers to encourage more sustainable practice. Thirdly, we are moving into a cost of living crisis, with the cost of consumer goods rising and increased concerns for growing poverty; this will impact on the wider economy as disposable incomes reduce. Collectively, these three issues highlight the pertinence of advancing equity and sustainability of fashion practice. In this special issue, we invite empirical and conceptual papers which investigate evidence of sustainable issues with fashion practice from different perspectives e.g., social communities, social media, fashion retailers, collaborative practice, garment lifecycles, garment consumption models, fashion circularity. We aim to examine disruption within fashion practice, by exploring new ways in which to practice fashion engagement and involvement. It is hoped that emergent research will contest the dominant paradigm seeking to empower fashion consumers to evolve their own personal style and identity. Finally, we hope to challenge academics and practitioners to think outside the box and to create novel solutions to the wicked problem of the climate crisis. Below, we outline some key (though not exhaustive) research areas which can advance the research agenda.

List of topic areas

  • Sharing economy models that include: Swapping; Sharing; Renting; Borrowing; Libraries
  • Redistribution models that include: Consumer to consumer networks; Business to business; Business to consumer and Consumer to business
  • Circular activities that consumer alternative material sources and recycling initiatives that nudge consumer attitudes and behaviour, such as social marketing and repositioning consumer value
  • The role of social media platforms in positioning consumer attitudes and behaviours as well as co-creating sustainable discourse
  • Upcycling models, such as workshops for repurposing and styling to develop consumer skills and practices
  • Disruptive measures that challenge the dominant social paradigm of consumer behaviours
  • Case studies of community action and engagement 
  • Tackling poverty through textile innovation and sustainable processes 
  • Social enterprise examples of potential to engage communities with sustainable fashion practice 
  • The role of textile repair in consumer lifestyles, extension of garment lifecycles, encouraging care and repair - from both producer and consumer perspectives 
  • Cross disciplinary approaches to developing sustainable business models in fashion
  • Sustainability brandling and labelling 
  • Consumer perceptions of sustainable fashion as a luxury product
  • The role of fashion retailers to support social innovation practices within communities - this may include pop ups ion retail spaces

Submission Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Closing date for manuscript submission: 1 February 2023

Guest Editors

Elaine L Ritch, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, [email protected]   

Noreen Siddiqui, University of Glasgow, UK, [email protected] 

Lisa McNeill, University of Otago, NZ, [email protected] 

Anne MJ Smith, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, [email protected]