Exploring the transformation of the Mexican fashion-textile sector towards sustainability

Last spring in 2019, I travelled back to Mexico to collect data for the case study of my doctoral project. As I am investigating the learning component (processes, outcomes and conditions) of the sustainability transformation of the Mexican textile-fashion industry, I wanted to approach projects and initiatives working in this field. Nevertheless, it has been a challenging endeavour because I struggled to figure out how to enter this area, also due to the lack of systematised and updated information. Despite my technical background of chemical engineering which allows me to understand the textile supply chain, I had little knowledge of the status quo of the fashion-textile industry in Mexico. Therefore, I started to conduct an online search to identify which of these projects or initiatives could help me entering this area and providing me with an overview of the current situation of the transformation of the textile-fashion industry towards sustainability. In this search, starting-up brands and other small companies appeared in the results. Still, I was not sure if these small companies could help me understand the field until I came across the Ethical Fashion Space (EFS), a business platform providing consultancy, networking, communication and training services across different dimensions of the textile supply chain in Mexico.

Therefore, I got in touch with Mireille Acquart, a sustainable fashion business analyst and planner, and co-founder of EFS. I wrote her an e-mail about my project, she explained to me hers and we just made ‘click’. Once I was in Mexico City, Mireille helped me a lot to explore the textile and the fashion world, by inviting me to a textile trade exhibition and the Mexican Fashion Week, respectively. Then, I realised the significant disconnection between these two worlds, the textile and the fashion, and that the sustainability issue has not been acknowledged, not even mentioned at all. I also attended one of the training programs EFS offers, Introduction to Sustainable Fashion, to see the level of awareness of this topic among young entrepreneurs and the general public which is getting more and more interested in it. 

What I have learned with this first field immersion is that although Mexico has a long and diverse textile tradition, little has been done in regards to making the textile-fashion industry sustainable. The topic of sustainability and ethics in clothing is not a mainstream topic among the Mexican population, compared to the problem of plastic pollution in water bodies and oceans, for example.  Moreover, the scientific research in this regard is almost inexistent and there is little work at the policy level aiming to change the unsustainable structures of this industry.  However, thanks to the ongoing work of EFS and other initiatives and projects, consumers, textiles manufacturers, local brands, fashion designers, and students have started to become aware of this problem and slowly engaged with it. There is still a long way to go and much work left to do, but, personally, I am pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Mireille and I hope to work with other central actors in this growing niche to contribute with a systematic understanding of the transformation of the Mexican fashion-textile sector.

Image credits: Magdiel Díaz for Ethical Fashion Space (https://ethicalfashionspace.com/)

Gustavo Rodríguez

Gustavo studied his Master in Environmental Sciences (M.Sc.) at Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí (México), where his master work contributed to provide insights to the assessment and development of competencies for sustainability, which brings together the fields of Education and Sustainability. Taking advantage on his background studies (chemical engineering) and the educational perspective gained in his masters, in this project Gustavo will dive in the new trends in production-consumption processes in the textile sector, valorating to what extend transformative learning is taking place in such ones. Learn more about Gustavo's PhD project!

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