Switzerland has been home to the traditional short leather trousers for men known as “lederhosen” for centuries. And who doesn’t love the voluminous women’s “dirndl” dresses with rich gold embroideries, topped off by a matching apron? These garments, the leather trousers, and especially the dresses, were often handed down through generations. Slight alterations to suit the next wearer were added, making these garments cherished heirlooms that could be traced back through the ages. Today, national and regional museums display traditional Swiss garments representing specific families throughout the Alpine region.

Despite these traditions and lessons from the past, the contemporary Swiss fashion e-commerce market and fashion scene – just like in most other countries worldwide – has succumbed to fast fashion. E-commerce numbers for throw-away fashion items are alarmingly high. Swiss fashion e-commerce is predicted to reach 27.3% of the country’s total e-commerce market. The growth rate is expected to remain just under 4% per annum, with women’s throw-away fashion taking the lion’s share of the segment.

This year, the average volume per consumer in the Swiss fashion e-commerce market is projected to be 52.7 apparel items. Unfortunately, experts predict that 89% of purchased items will be in the non-luxury, i.e. fast fashion segment.

A New Way Forward: Fashion Revolution Day

Late last month, on the 24th of April, the annual Fashion Revolution Day was celebrated around the world. Fashion Revolution is all about sustainability, reusing, and recycling of clothes and all kinds of apparel. There will be various events taking place in Berne, Geneva, Ticino, and Zurich in early May. The aim is to discourage fast fashion, where items are worn only a few times and then discarded. Fast fashion is not just a terrible idea for the environment and natural resources: the working conditions are appalling to keep prices low. In Bangladesh, for example, workers in the textile industry earn about one-quarter of a living wage while working 90+ hours a week.

Despite regulatory requirements, many mass producers of fast fashion apparel may state that they follow the rules, but exploitation of women and children to the point of where their work can be likened to slave labor, remains rampant.

Switzerland ranks second in the world after Luxembourg in per capita expenditure on clothing and shoes, of which only around 6% is produced sustainably. Swiss consumers dispose of over 100,000 (!) tons of clothing each year, only half of which is donated, resold, or recycled. The other half is incinerated to reduce the amount of textile waste piling up in landfills. The impact on the ozone layer is devastating. Also, discarded fast fashion items continue to be the number one source of microplastics in our oceans, destroying marine ecosystems, and making their way into our bodies via the food chain to cause cancer.

Switzerland really has no need to rely on fast fashion: The Swiss are among the highest earners in Europe. Their purchasing power is more than 50% higher than their immediate neighbors in Germany and Austria. Switzerland’s high salaries are mainly driven by its banking and financial services sector. It also has much lower taxes compared with EU and EEA countries, averaging around 20% to 35% for the 150,000 to 250,000 Swiss Francs per annum bracket.

The Other Side of the Swiss Franc

On the other side of the scale, Swiss branded fashion has become a kaleidoscope of luxury, innovation, and sustainability. From the avant-garde designs of emerging talents to the timeless elegance of established brands, the country has carved out a unique identity in the global fashion landscape. Among Switzerland’s fashion designers who operate on an international scale, are the luxury labels Akris, Alprausch, Mammut, Jet Set, Montile, X-Bionic, and Kjus. These fashion houses manufacture their products in Switzerland despite the very high cost of wages, giving these products additional exclusivity in terms of their price range, superior quality, and prestige. The main centers of garment manufacturing are St. Gallen, Zurich, and Lugano. The luxury items produced there are designed to last, creating a new tradition for items to cherish for generations.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

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