The footprint of German fashion - an analysis

©Axl Jansen for Fashion Council Germany
©Axl Jansen for Fashion Council Germany

Sustainability and resource consumption have not only recently been much-discussed topics - also in fashion. But an all-encompassing list of facts about the German fashion industry, a representation of the current situation, so to speak, has so far been missing. After the Fashion Council Germany, as an interest group, published a study on the "Status of German Fashion" last year (2021), which examined Germany as a fashion location in terms of economy, technology and innovation, a "Report on the Effects of the German Fashion Industry" is now following “.

 The "German Fashion Footprint" shows the influence of the German fashion industry through domestic, but also foreign production that is sold on the German market. Both the direct balance of production and the indirect balance through the supply chains are included in the overall balance. German companies that produce in and at the same time for other countries are not taken into account here.
The German fashion industry includes fashion brands such as Adidas, Puma, Hugo Boss, to name just the largest, service providers, textile and other production in the field of fashion and accessories, fashion wholesale and retail, and fashion advertising. It generates around €2.3 billion in gross value added per year, which puts it in second place in Europe. When it comes to consumer spending on clothing, Germany is also second to England with €76 billion. This makes Germany one of the strongest consumer markets in the world and naturally has an impact on global environmental pollution. Not least because production was often outsourced.

How much energy do the fashion industry comsume?

The study analyzes the greenhouse gas emissions, energy requirements, water consumption, air pollution (indirect greenhouse gases) and agricultural land requirements resulting from this. Germany's fashion industry emits 38 million tons of greenhouse gases worldwide every year, 90% of which are emitted abroad. One reason for this is energy consumption. An estimated 535,000 terajoules are consumed annually and 83% of that is still derived from fossil fuels. The remaining 27% is generated by nuclear power and renewable energies.
Air pollutants emitted worldwide that are not included in greenhouse gas emissions, which include particulate matter and carbon monoxide, amount to 740,000 tons annually.

Industry has an annual water consumption of 6.4 billion cubic meters, with a distinction being made between different water categories. Two-thirds of that amount is “green water,” meaning rainwater used for growing crops, 1.6 billion cubic meters is “grey,” polluted water, and 900 million cubic meters is “blue water,” taken from the public water supply.
The agricultural land requirement is estimated at 2.5 million hectares; mostly for the cultivation of cotton, but also for the production of wool, leather or other fibers.

The figures show that changes are urgently needed on many levels. Some of these have already been set in motion; However, they definitely need state support, especially for small and medium-sized companies, according to the conclusion of the report. This restructuring of production processes, supply chains and services in the German fashion industry is not only important from an ecological point of view, but also from an economic and technological point of view, since otherwise the future of the fashion industry could be difficult.

Is Germany smart enough? Yes!

The previous study on the status of German fashion already referred to the often untapped potential of the industry in terms of technologies and innovations. For example, Germany is a leader in the production of smart textiles; must continue to invest heavily in order to maintain this lead.
Know-how and technical innovation are a great advantage of domestic companies and fashion schools. However, there is also often an exodus of young talent, since the focus of the German fashion industry is usually too much on technology and less on creativity, so that there is a quasi-loss of knowledge.
The digital transformation is also helpful with new possibilities for sustainability, but here too some support is needed in some places.

There are now many initiatives and organizations, especially in and from Berlin, that work on various problems, such as, Clean Clothes Campaign or FairWertung - the German association for fair recycling. Since German consumers are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainable clothing and are willing, sometimes even demanding, to do without "disposable fashion", this is a great opportunity for the industry.
The Berlin Fashion Week also focuses on sustainability as an important factor in the fashion industry and focuses on topics such as sustainability, zero waste, circular fashion and shows Berlin and German designers, such as Bondy, Anekdot and many others who focus on this . The formats of the Berlin Fashion Week, such as Fashion Open Studio or 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit also show current problems as well as possible solutions within the framework of the Berlin Fashion Week.

The study as an actual analysis is intended to serve as an instrument for political decisions and to promote the domestic fashion scene, because without such funding Germany could miss some developments in this important area that are crucial for a successful future. Not only in the fashion industry, but because the various industries partially penetrate and promote each other, generally economically, technologically and innovatively. According to the conclusion of the study, whoever strengthens the fashion industry also strengthens creativity, innovation and sustainability.

The study "German Fashion Footprint" by the Fashion Council Germany can be downloaded here.