Pioneering Collaboration Transforms Garments and Fashion Waste into Recyclable Materials

You would be hard-pressed to find a more frequently used buzz word in fashion than ‘sustainability’, right now.  Following its use, the obvious question is often, “but what do you mean by sustainable”.  Both a problem and a solution, sustainability runs a broad gamut including textile and garment manufacturing practices, to chemistry and materials science, then finally product sales, consumption and usage patterns.  Digging deeper, what underlies this urgent and growing focus on sustainability in the global fashion industry is the fact that is it the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas, but you probably know that by now.  Why does that suddenly matter to many fashion brands and companies?  Why are brands adopting “sustainability”.  Broadly speaking, it is because of threats to profit margins (caused by increasing cost of natural resources and materials which are in sharp decline) and potential backlash from consumers who are beginning to understand the fashion industry’s wasteful methods are damaging the planet and its people.

To understand the environmental implications of the current methods used in the fashion industry it is helpful to understand the volume of resources (including energy and water) we use to make our clothes and how much use we get out of those clothes.  Remembering that the planet’s resources are finite – we don’t have an endless supply of fossil fuels to burn to create electrical energy to power manufacturing and we don’t have endless access to clean water for growing cotton and dyeing processes), it follows that a circular way of manufacturing makes more sense than a linear one.   

To differentiate between circular and linear using the example of jeans – If it takes up to 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and we wear them for a matter of months then throw them in the bin, never to be used again, this linear process depletes resources catastrophically.  However, if those jeans could be turned into new materials (rather than thrown in the bin) that are themselves recyclable, then the resources used to manufacture those jeans provide products for a long and circular life – a perpetual one that is energy efficient and reduces the burden of future manufacturing and reduces the depletion of natural resources significantly.

This circularity was at the heart of the thinking behind the latest EU-funded project by the teams at BRIA and SABINNA, who created a fashion capsule collection of cotton and viscose garments which were then transformed into new, 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials that could be used for packaging and shop interiors.  The materials are circular in that they can then be recycled a large number of times in order to keep the core fibres of the materials ‘alive’ and in use – thereby avoiding landfill. 

BRIA x SABINNA garments, processes and new materials transformed into packaging

New materials in development in lab

New materials as garment swing tags

The processes BRIA x SABINNA used are based on simple organic chemistry – dissolving and reforming the cellulose molecules in the clothing into new 100% cellulose-based materials that were compressed into flexible sheets, in some cases like paper or a film, and in other cases like a thicker MDF-type ‘wood’ material.  The processes vary depending on the new material being created, and the initial experiments were done on a small scale in a London-lab as ‘proof-of-concept’ that it is possible to turn any clothes made of cotton or viscose into new materials using minimal chemicals (and sometimes no chemicals at all) in ways that are sustainable in terms of the amount of natural resources (energy and water) needed to perform the recycling process and also in terms of the material outcome.

BRIA x Sabinna viscose knitted jumper, cotton shirt and denim jeans – later transformed into new materials

Laminate-effect textured card created from BRIA x SABINNA viscose knitted jumper above

Processing of denim into new packaging materials

If we look at other narratives around sustainability in fashion that call for up-cycling and wearing clothes for longer, or buying less, we see a shift of responsibility for sustainability from the industry to the consumer.  Whilst this makes sense in terms of educating and informing consumers, it poses a huge problem in that it does not instigate change in the industry or challenge processes that are destroying the planet and harming people.  This is what is making the shift of focus to circularity and science and technology for the answers to our most burning questions and problems in the industry crucial.

Development of new material from denim

In my design and innovation role at BRIA, I was a member of the team that conducted this project with the support of EU-funding from WEAR Sustain.  The project was instigated following a trip to Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017, during which my conversations with Marie-Clarie Daveu of Kering, Anna Gedda of H&M and Mira Duma of Future Tech Lab instigated a quest to understand just how big a challenge making sustainable products is for fashion brands, from the initial design process through to the end-of-life of the garment.  Could brands, small and large alike, design and produce collections in a circular manner?  What would it cost?  Would the designs be compromised?  What would the restrictions be?  During a conversation with Vanessa Friedman she told me she thought sustainability was inherent in good fashion design, rather than an ‘add-on’.  But how is it inherent?  Does choosing organic cotton make a garment ‘sustainable’.  Not if we consider circularity as the ultimate solution to the depletion and pollution caused by the fashion industry.  So it has to go further.  It has to be part of the way the collection is conceived, the materials are made, the construction methods used and the strategy for the ‘end-of-life’ of the garment – where does the garment go when it is no longer used?  These were the questions we at BRIA sought to answer along with our collaborator SABINNA. 

The result proves that any designer using 100% cotton and viscose is creating garments that are forever recyclable – any designer can use our processes to recycle their garments.  It also proves that cotton and viscose clothing can even be recovered from landfill and processed using our method in order to keep the fibres in the circular system.  One of the most exciting elements for us was to achieve new materials with garments including hand-knits, denim jeans and multi-yarn jacquard knits – showing that the thickness and form of the textile yields to the process equally well.  The chemistry checks-out, giving clean and biodegradable results every time.

BRIA x SABINNA jeans 

New materials created from 100% cotton jeans above

Bowl from recycled viscose process and swing tag and box from recycled denim process

The next step is to explore brand partnerships to allow companies to clean up their own supply chains – jeans offcuts used to make the shelving and flooring in-store?  There is no reason why not.  Branded silky cellophane-like film packaging made from recycled high-end viscose dresses?  Hell yeah!

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Livia Firth’s Eco-Age – Time to End Our Fast-Fashion Binge

Thursday 16th November marked the 7th Annual Lovie Awards, honouring the best of the European Internet and recognising the talent making waves and effecting positive change across industries including gaming, film and fashion.

This year, Livia Firth was the winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur Award for her fight for sustainable fashion as the founder and creative director of Eco-Age, a brand/marketing consultancy that helps businesses to grow by creating, implementing and communicating sustainability solutions.  More specifically, she was honoured for her Green Carpet Challenge initiative and using the internet to both educate the public about ethical and sustainable fashion consumption and to put pressure on brands to do more to meet sustainable business practices.  On hearing of Livia’s accolade ahead of the Lovie Awards ceremony, I arranged to interview her to find out how Eco-Age is forging ahead with sustainability initiatives and to understand more about Livia’s goals and beliefs about the current state of sustainability in the fashion industry.  Another precursor to this interview was hearing Livia passionately speak in May this year at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where she boldly declared that the fashion industry was in trouble given the findings of The Circle report Fashion Focus:  The Fundamental Right To A Living Wage.

Livia Firth (left) and Jessica Simor QC (right) speaking on a panel chaired by Lucy Siegle at Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 2017    Image: Copenhagen Fashion Summit

‘Sustainability’, ‘circularity’ and ‘ethical practice’ are words used regularly in the fashion industry, but often lack specific meaning and clarity for both industry members and consumers.  As we launch into our discussion, Livia Firth makes quick work of breaking down some of these meanings and provides a refreshingly clear and insightful commentary on what is happening in the industry right now and how it is effecting the planet and people.  “Sustainability is a complex issue that needs to be communicated simply”.

Livia founded Eco-Age in 2009 as a brand consultancy providing sustainability strategies and communication tools to fashion brands.  Their modus operandi is to demystify the supply chain so that brands can be sure they are working with suppliers and manufacturers that guarantee responsible sourcing and production of materials and ethical labour practices.  She and her team work with several brands to help them become sustainable and conscious as part of their core operations and values – not as a token ‘project’ seeking to gain sustainability credentials, without true and ongoing commitment to a truly sustainable business model. 

Livia points to a tactic of some large, fast-fashion brands, of producing a product or small number of products ‘sustainably’, that are then heavily promoted in an attempt to create a cleaner, greener brand image, which she dismisses as “bullshit green-washing”, to divert attention from the dirty fashion practices continuing throughout the supply chain in those brands.  She points to fast-fashion as the culprit for the dire and urgent environmental crises coming about now, and cites the endemic use of slave labour and unsafe working practices in the Far East as the root of the problem with the fast-fashion business model, which she says “must change”.  Eco-Age refuses to conduct business with fast-fashion businesses due to the ethical crimes being committed and their failure to provide a living wage.  To that end, Eco-Age works with luxury brands, which she explains as having the R&D budget and story-telling capability through their brands, to produce and sell fashion in an aspirational and responsible way. 

Discussing sustainability initiatives with Livia Firth (right), ahead of receiving her Lovie Award   Image: The 7th Annual Lovie Awards

My conversation with Livia throws up some nostalgic stories about her travels in search of responsibly-sourced materials, including a recent trip to my native Australia, where she visited a farm a stone’s throw (in Australian terms) from where my father farms his sheep.  She spoke of the farmers describing themselves as ‘custodians of the land’ and the sheep their treasures from which their livelihood stems. It is familiar to me – I grew up in a family of wheat and sheep farmers in Australia – and it brings back beautiful memories of when the nobility and longevity of wool was far more powerful than the cheap, fast pull of Primark. 

“I’m 48.  I’m old enough to have lived without fast-fashion.  We knew how to appreciate quality”.  Frank and to the point, Livia poetically describes fast-fashion as the trigger for our ‘divorce’ from fashion made from quality materials, that we historically loved, cherished and passed on.  She explained that her team chat about the state of fast-fashion in their office, commenting on how we have overindulged on fast-fashion, consuming too much, too quickly.  ‘So we’ve binged on fast-fashion and now it’s time for a diet in the form of sustainable, ethically made fashion?’ I ask.  “YES!” is Livia’s emphatic response. 

As we discuss the role of Eco-Age and others trying to transform the industry, it becomes apparent that fashion businesses wanting to transform their practices to meet increasing consumer demands for transparency and low environmental impact will need to function in a socially and politically compliant framework, no longer focussed primarily (or perhaps solely) on profits.  This is where the tension, and the biggest challenge, lies, according to Livia.  Due to planetary changes, including extreme flooding, drought and pollution to waterways, manufacturers are being forced to accept that depleted resources will effect production quantities and therefore effect price (and their ability to sustain the fast-fashion model) in a way that is physically and economically unsustainable – never mind the highly questionable ethics.  When profit margins are hit, action is likely.

Hearing about Eco-Age initiatives from Harriet Vocking, Head of Marketing (left) and Communication and Hannah Levitt, Senior Account Manager (right)   Image: The 7th Annual Lovie Awards

We turn to new technologies to solve some of the biggest challenges we face, both within fashion and other industries.  Livia comments that Fashion Tech Lab, a fund launched by Mira Duma earlier this year, is bringing new technologies to the fore that provide solutions that harness the power of science and that do not come at a huge environmental cost.  Discussing new scientific developments with Livia, she declares “science is our friend”.  “It can help us transition to the future without compromising on ethics”.  Her excitement at developments in materials so far, include lab-grown leather, mushroom and pineapple leathers and Orange Fiber, and she sees the relationship with fashion and technology as growing harmoniously – as long as technological advancements are not at a human cost.  The evolution of robotics, for example, worries Livia, along with the potential impact on future workforces.  When transitioning from ‘human-led’ to ‘tech-led’, taking the time for reflection and regulation to determine where the future career paths lie for those human workers is essential, she says. 

Livia Firth and Mira Duma have been friends for some time.  Describing her as a warrior, Livia tells me about a call she received from Mira after she had watched the ‘The True Cost’, pledging her commitment to doing something to help and describing how seeing the film had changed her.  Mira re-surfaced some time later having founded FashionTech Lab and subsequently enlisted Livia to the board, helping to guide and drive their initiatives forward. 

Livia’s online power is in her ability to harness and direct the voice of ethical practice towards the global stage.  Citing social media as a powerful and exciting tool, she comments that being awarded a Lovie is recognition of her engagement with the public, and indeed other public figures, to inform, educate and enlighten consumers – a powerful piece of the puzzle that requires solving to transform the polluting fashion industry.  “Imagine if every big blogger started to talk about social justice and environmental issues (on social media)!  It would change everything!”

Livia harnessing the power of Instagram to educate and inform consumers

The passion and commitment Livia has to effect positive change in the world’s second most polluting industry is crystal clear.  As an extension of the brands, manufacturers and makers (the fashion industry ‘stakeholders’) that Eco-Age works with, her team created the Green Carpet Fashion Awards alongside the Camera Nazionale Della Moda (CNMI), to bring all members of the industry (including textile mills, seamstresses and tech pioneers) together and publicise their involvement in creating fashion.  Undeniably, telling the story of how products are made and by whom is a powerful tool for engaging the public in choosing products that do not compromise the environment and the lives of others.  Livia harnessed her power with actresses, brands and other high profile stakeholders to help her drive the message of conscious consumption.

The Seamstresses of Maison Valentino Awarded the Art of Craftsmanship by Annie Lennox  Image:  Eco-Age.com

Orange Fiber and Newlife awarded for Technology and Innovation, presented by Mira Duma (centre) and Derek Blasberg (right)

We discussed recycling of textiles and garments and Livia is initially dismissive, in the sense that the deep rooted problems in the fast-fashion model can never be solved by simply recycling the millions of tonnes of products produced every year, which deplete the planet’s resources only to be discarded (or recycled) after a handful or wears.  The lack of provision of a living wage within the fast-fashion business model will not be addressed by creating a circular economy, she states.  She also points to the growing issue of micro-plastics in our waterways from synthetic fabrics, which release these tiny plastic particles into the water with each wash and for which new technologies are being developed in order to ingest or filter them out.  Some headway has been made here, but Livia sees this as yet another example of how the fast-fashion demands for synthetics (because natural fibres are too expensive) has led to environmental problems – causing dire costs to both planet and people.

Wrapping up my interview with the knowledge that we will be meeting at the Lovie Awards, Livia leaves me with the parting news of an upcoming store launch by Eco-Age client Bottletop, creating accessories made from recycled leathers in their flagship store, which is being entirely 3D printed from recycled plastic waste.  Stay tuned for the upcoming story, here on Techstyler.

Header Image:  Livia Firth, Winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur Award.  Image:  The 7th Annual Lovie Awards

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Ocean Waste, Spice Girls and the United Nations as Fashion Inspiration at KADK

On a recent trip to Copenhagen I paid a visit to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art (KADK), where I met a group of BA and MA fashion students working under the tutelage of Ann Merete Ohrt, Head of Programme at the Academy.

The visit resulted from an Instagram exchange between student Nina Balstrup and I, reconfirming the power of social media as a connector and entrepreneurial tool for switched-on creatives.  To the work…

Michelle Lyhne Schjerbeck dived, quite literally, into an underwater exploration of our littered oceans, recreating oil slicks and fish nets with locally sourced fabrics for her collection entitled ‘Beautiful Disaster’.  When quizzed about sourcing materials for this, her final collection before graduating, she explained  “It’s so hard for us to source sustainable fabrics”.  “In my process it has become clear how hard it is to make a difference as a fashion student and how hard it is to source materials in an eco-conscious way. Therefore, I have for now chosen to shed light on the matter of water pollution by using textiles and shapes that can represent the issue. I am however hoping that in the future I will be able to work a solution to the issue into my actual designs.”

Joining the discussion on textiles and sourcing, Nina Balstrup explains that there are only two quality fabric shops in Copenhagen, making options limited.  It strikes me that an alternative approach might be to source materials in general, rather than fabric shop textiles, and plundering neighbouring architecture and art student media might bear fruit.  In fact, Michelle has experimented with latex and mixed materials, portraying the idea of ocean waste adhering to the skin.  She did experiment originally with actual ocean waste materials, but they proved too soggy and un-salvageable for use in her collection. 

Michelle Lyhne Schjerbeck – “Beautiful Disaster” collection in progress

Morten Alberto Ishøy’s final collection ‘In desert, creatures appear telling lies’ began with an image that posed for him a philosophical question – how can something real look so manufactured – so unreal?  In the current climate of fakes (news being at the top of the list), this rumination led to an exploration of objects through a layer, or ‘filter’ – in this case, clay sculptures vacuum-packed and metamorphosed into other forms.  Morten’s design ideas are clearly driven by form, rather than textiles or materials.  The silhouettes of his collection were sketched from photographs he took of the trapped, skewed and partially melted vacuum packed clay sculptures which he had crafted.  At each step of his creative process a translation happens, making it an incremental design approach led by fine art.  

Morten elaborates on his process:  “Like in the Bible, Torah and the Quran, the prophet’s sights are that of  blurry human like figures. I have made my silhouettes for the collection by pouring sand on a human behind a plastic curtain and documenting it and then selecting the most interesting shapes.  From these I made clay figures and vacuum packed them, making them a blur once again. Out of these experiments I’ve drawn my collection – inspecting the vacuum packed clay figures closely for details that could be interpreted into garment elements such as lapels, cuffs, etc.”

Morten Alberto Ishøy’s ‘In desert, creatures appear telling lies’ 

Nina Balstrup’s work is a journey through her childhood and an exercise is search and discovery into what makes her so fond of bright colours and glitter.  She tracks back to her first toys, childhood outfits and even nursery school drawings to put together a collage of her design ideas that have been germinating since she was just a few years old.  She reads to me from her school report, which mentions early signs of creative talent and penchant for colour.

Nina’s inspiration includes her school report, childhood drawings and photos

In order to compile a final collection based on memories and nostalgia, Nina has undertaken a huge sourcing exercise, buying jars of Barbie shoes on ebay and dividing them into colour-ways for embroidery, as well as POGs for a Paco Rabanne-style sheath constructed with umpteen ‘o’ rings.  A myriad of 90’s vintage clothing and blankets are piled up on her desk, from which her four final looks for her collection will be crafted.  Her biggest challenge now, she says, is to navigate the garment construction process carefully to add refinement so that the end result is accomplished, yet youthful and fun. 

Nina ponders her journey through her BA studies, including the term she spent studying at Ravensbourne in London.  She says it opened her eyes to a fiercely competitive London scene and pushed her to her creative limits.  Access to all manner of heat transfer, prototyping and digital embroidery machinery at Ravensbourne kick-started her enthusiasm for experimental textile applications.  She hopes to intern at a fashion brand in London after graduating from her BA and before studying for her MA, which is virtually a right of passage in Denmark.  She elaborates by explaining that both BA and MA degrees are paid for by the Danish government, and students’ living expenses are also supported during their studies.  This means that the BA is taught almost as a precursor to the MA, rather than an end point leading chiefly to employment. Nina’s final collection is a bright and punchy textile, knit and embroidery adventure and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

Nina and work in progress for her final collection “REWIND”

MA student Alexander Marstrand is working on a UN-inspired brief for his final project, provoking some interesting political and social questions.  Alexander explains that from his research, he understands the UN to be, ostensibly, a unified group with equal representation and influence from all member countries – the UN flag looks down on all countries across the globe on an even plane.   However, five countries maintain the right to veto resolution votes, and communication is conducted in only six languages: Arabic, Chinese English, French, Spanish and Russian. “I see the project as a comment on the current condition of the globe as such with my personal mix of melancholy and playfulness” Alexander says, of his collection in progress, entitled “UNspiration”.

So how, fair and balanced is it?  There is a hierarchical seating structure at the UN, which he references in his visual inspiration and sparks his consideration of who truly has a voice and who does not.  He asks how the voices of those in Bangladesh, for example, are heard amongst the dominant voices of the west.  

His visual inspiration extended to Swedish artist Bo Beskow and Matisse’s cutouts, in addition to Picasso’s surrealist works, which have informed Alexander’s illustrations reinterpreting the flags and symbols of the UN countries.  The cutout theme extens to his garment silhouettes and pattern making techniques, where he has sculpted 3D shapes onto a mannequin before draping fabric on top.  He has then cut and pinned the fabric in a patchwork technique to use as pattern pieces for cutting and sewing his final garments. 

“UNspirational”, by Alexander Marstrand

Already making and selling a printed silk scarves, Alexander has a foot in commercial fashion.  He wants more platforms and opportunities, though, and explains his frustration at a lack of collaboration between music, arts and fashion in Copenhagen.  “It’s not like in London” he said.  “Fashion East (an emerging designer presentation platform during London Fashion Week) would never happen here”.  Why? I ask.  “It’s a small city” he explains, and cross-collaboration is rare and difficult.  In terms of creative scenes he says that “we don’t really have subcultures and underground movements don’t really mix.  We have been trying to create a street party with the music institute for years (he gestures out the window to a nearby building), but it hasn’t happened.”  

He also mentions what he believes to be a large gap between the fashion industry and fashion students in Denmark, seconded by Nina.  A ‘hands-off’ approach makes it difficult for students to break into the industry, and to be part of professional events, such as Copenhagen Fashion Summit.  Without a fashion week, or a platform to show their final collections (along the lines of Graduate Fashion Week in London, for example) the challenges are clear.   What these students do benefit from is immense support and work space, which is in very short supply at London-based fashion institutions, and the opportunity to study abroad, fully supported by the Danish government.  In the current climate, where creative degrees are under serious threat as tuition fees skyrocket and would-be university students feel under pressure to gain vocational degrees in order to justify fees, this freedom from financial shackles is golden.

Keep up to date with Nina, Michelle, Morten and Alexander‘s work on Instagram.

Header Image:  Nina Balstrup “REWIND” collection in progress

All images: Techstyler

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Achieving Sustainability Requires a Paradigm Shift, Says Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu

As the driver of Kering’s global sustainability strategy, Marie-Claire Daveu is the company’s spokesperson on what amounts to a mammoth mandate to effect global change management across supply chains and drive education of students and designers to mindfully choose sustainable materials when making creative decisions.  Following the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, I spoke to her about how Kering is identifying, adopting and funding sustainable fashion solutions to mitigate environmental and ethical disasters within the industry.

The subject of sustainability in fashion is complex in that to understand its meaning and implications, designers must understand the technicalities of raw materials and the processes that grow and cultivate them – for example the links between climate change and cattle farming – in order to fully understand the role and importance of sustainable materials.  In luxury fashion, designers make the ultimate decisions about materials usage, so communicating the mechanics of sustainability to them is key.  During an enlightening and in-depth conversation with Marie-Claire Daveu, the complexity of the task became clear, as did the multi-pronged approach that Kering is taking to diagnose, develop and fund sustainable materials solutions.  It also became clear that in order to communicate this topic, Daveu’s engineering credentials (declaring herself an unlikely fashion person) are essential in making the connections between the mechanics and technicalities of the supply chain and the aesthetic and sensibilities of the design teams.

There were several key takeaways from the discussion with Daveu, during which she and I bonded over mutual previous careers in engineering and science respectively, before undertaking careers in the fashion industry.  Perhaps most potent was her assertion that a “with incremental progress you will not change a paradigm” and that disruption through innovation is needed in order to achieve transformation of supply chains to circular systems.  Specifically, she declared that incremental improvements (like using recycled textiles in capsule collections or isolated products, for example) were not sufficient.  Kering is firmly focused on finding disruptive technologies, and to do that they need to identify startups creating game-changing solutions.  Enter their Fashion For Good initiative in partnership with Plug and Play and the C&A Foundation, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Plug and Play incubates ideation and growth-stage startups in various industries – previous success stories include Dropbox and Paypal – to research, develop and test potential sustainable solutions for the fashion industry.  In partnering with C&A, Kering is demonstrating its belief that in terms of raw materials, a collaborative effort is required to create an industry-wide shift to more sustainable textiles.  Fashion brands spanning the high street and luxury sectors use cotton, for example, so a collaborative approach between brands increases buying power and provides the scale and volume to support the cost and change management required to transform materials supply chains into circular ones.

The key aim for Kering is to introduce sustainable materials and processes within the supply chain.  Marie-Claire Daveu is clear in her assertion that designers cannot add sustainability at the design stage – it has to be inherent in the raw materials and textiles.  She mentions current Fashion For Good incubee startups Pili-Bio, which uses micro-organisms to embed dye into materials in place of toxic and water-intensive dyeing processes, and Amadou mushroom leather, already product-tested by Irene-Marie Seelig and covered here in depth on the blog last year, when she was a recipient of the Kering Award for Sustainability.

Marie-Claire Daveu at the Kering Award for Sustainability, London College of Fashion – Image: Dave Bennett

Amadou is a potentially viable alternative to animal leathers and Daveu mentioned its promising development a number of times throughout our conversation, along with external innovators Bolt Threads, who have created a synthetic spider silk that she confirms is already a material being explored within the Kering group brands.  Given that Stella McCartney does not use animal skins, developments like Amadou mushroom leather have a clear opportunity to fulfil the brand ethos while maintaining the required levels of luxury and quality.

Irene-Marie Seelig’s Amadou mushroom leather shoe – Image:  Irene-Marie Seelig

Underlining Kering’s Sustainability drive are three pillars:  Care (reduce environmental impact by 40% and greenhouse gas by 50%); Collaborate (working with companies within the supply chain and other brands) and Create (launch disruptive innovations and link sustainability to a circular economy).  Innovation is the point pushed most heavily during our discussion, and it’s clear that the game-changing sustainable solutions will come from outside the brands themselves – most likely from startups (which Kering are investing in) and manufacturers within the supply chain.  Daveu explained that Kering are working very hard with NGOs in Mongolia, for example, to establish sustainable cashmere farming which respects biodiversity and supports animal welfare.  The foundation of this is transparency and traceability, as it is with all sustainable materials development.  Kering have also established programmes with suppliers in Italy and China to have a clear diagnosis of the usage of energy, water and other natural resources in order to analyse their consumption and begin to develop sustainable alternatives.  It’s when considering the complexity of changing entire factory manufacturing and processing systems in order to reduce natural resource consumption that the magnitude of this task to achieve sustainability becomes clear – we are not simply talking about choosing organic cotton in favour regular cotton – this is a deep, expensive and technical change needed to drastically reduce the demands the fashion industry is placing on the planet, across the entire industry. 

Sustainability in Motion – Kering.com

In addition to looking outside of their company for innovation, Kering has developed an in-house materials innovation lab based in Milan, headed up by Cecilia Takayama, who spoke at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit as part of the panel discussion on circular design.  Kering’s lab has been particularly successful in creating sustainable materials for its Gucci and Bottega Veneta brands, and Daveu reveals that they now want to apply this same focus to creating materials for their watch and jewellery brands.

Kering’s Cecilia Takayama on circular design – Image: Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Kering’s commitment to sustainability comes from the top – led by François Henri Pinault, who is active in the implementation of the sustainability strategy for each brand in the Kering stable.  He meets with executives and design teams across all brands to demonstrate the prioritisation of sustainability and the level of seriousness with which it is taken at Kering.  Marie-Claire Daveu also explained that formal KPI’s are in effect to ensure that sustainability remains a focus and targets are met.  

François-Henri Pinault receives the GCC Global Leaders of Change Awards 2015 at UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) – Image: Kering.com

Via Daveu, Kering’s message is that it wants to set the global standard in sustainable luxury by 2025, by delivering on targets within its three pillars.  Underlining their commitment, she said “the new generation will make the future”, and that Kering has a “360 degree approach” including sustainability education via university initiatives at London College of Fashion, Parsons, Central Saint Martins and Tsinghua, along with investments in startups and game-changing innovations.  This, combined with its EP&L and supply-chain efforts aimed at identifying and overhauling environmentally harmful processes, mean Kering are attacking sustainability challenges from all angles.  Keep an eye on Plug and Play Amsterdam and Kering’s Sustainability news to see how it all unfolds. 

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Discussing the Tensions Between Fashion, Technology and Sustainability with Vanessa Friedman

Before meeting Vanessa Friedman, I considered the perspective she could lend on the tension between designers’ ability to create freely and the need to choose sustainable materials.  Is there a conflict?  Does working with sustainable fabrics limit designers?  What new technologies excite her?  What does she think of ‘wearables’?  I posed these questions and more to her, considering her answers in the context of the the wider fashion industry.

When discussing whether she perceives sustainability being at odds with unlimited creativity in fashion design, Vanessa told me “Fashion has always had that tension – sometimes it’s about pricing, sometimes its more practical restrictions, like the need for two armholes and a place for your head… that creates discipline for designers and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.  Sustainability is part of the challenge of design”.  She believes that when you are making something that is functional, which fashion is, you have to wrestle with the egregiousness of the product you are making.  Her standpoint is one of sustainable materials posing a challenge, rather than being a problem.

Vanessa cites the possibility that aesthetics may be shaped by the advance of new materials, smart textiles and new fibre composites – cellulosic and animal fibre blends, for example – as a huge opportunity.  If such advances could result in less seams required and ultra light materials, like those used by Moncler who are “making warm coats that can by smushed into a tiny ball for carry on”, then all these advances are exciting.  “Designers should embrace these challenges and opportunities as a chance for them to think differently – It should be something they look forward to”.

I am curious to know whether (and when) Vanessa sees a future where the discussion on sustainability becomes a part of the high profile seasonal fashion discourse during fashion month, taking place in New York, Paris, London and Milan, where she sits front row in her capacity as the Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic of The New York Times.  “In my dream world, you don’t need a Copenhagen Fashion Summit that’s all about sustainability – this is not a discourse that is combined with a mainstream event because it is a mainstream event and it is part of best practice – period”.  Her take on the sustainability message is “we can talk about it or not talk about it.  You don’t want to be an eco brand, you just want to be a brand that happens to be sustainable.  It shouldn’t be the thing that sets you apart, it should be the thing that makes you part of the general conversation”. 

It’s Vanessa’s opinion that using sustainability as a sales tool and part of the brand message, has an upside and a downside.  The upside is the point of differentiation which can attract consumers, while the downside is that it puts the brand in a different niche for other consumers.  She reflects on Vogue’s former “eco or green design section of the magazine where they would feature a different designer every month… You don’t want to be there – you want to be with Gucci, you want to be with Vuitton”.  Reflecting on her comment, it seems to me that sustainability shouldn’t be a consolation or an optional brand choice – it should be quietly integrated into all fashion brands. 

Moving onto the subject of textiles and manufacturing, I asked Vanessa if she has seen any ‘game-changing’ developments emerging.  She highlights 3D printing and manufacturing to order, thereby eliminating stock and production processes (that have long and complicated supply chains) as the most exciting.  “If you can produce a garment in a very short amount of time to order for someone, you will change everything”.  Vanessa is thinking of the likes of 3D printed shoes and advances in digital knitting.  It is her opinion that the biggest change for fashion as a result of advances in technology is going to be in the production process, rather than “the accessory that tests your heart rate… To me, the really exciting opportunity is in how you manufacture”.  Evidence in the form of the Adidas Speedfactory and the mass customisation by NIKEiD support her comments, as do the advances in digital knitting that have led to a complete transformation of the entire footwear industry through the creation of Flyknit and Adidas Ultra Boost, amongst many other digitally knitted products with simplified supply chains, local manufacturing and short lead times.

Image:  Adidas Ultraboost

When I asked Vanessa which designers or brands that she feels are doing exciting things fusing tech and fashion she is of the leaning that there is a giant gap in this area.  She defines it as “A problem that no-one has quite figured out, between technology companies that can make gadgets, and they are trying to make them ‘fashiony’ – and fashion companies that make fashion and are trying to make them ‘techy’.  You need a third point of the triangle, which is someone who is going to figure out how to meaningfully combine the two”.  Enter a number of innovative cross-disciplinary labs and incubators emerging for the express purpose of making this happen, including Plug and Play and Mira Duma’s Fashion Tech Lab

On the subject of ‘wearables’, Vanessa pulls no punches: “I think ‘wearables’ is the most ridiculous word I have ever heard – everything is a ‘wearable’ – my jacket is a ‘wearable’ and it has no tech in it at all.  I don’t think ‘wearables’ has figured out what it is yet.  It’s a catch all word for techy gadgets you wear, but that’s not really a sector”.  To a degree, we may be talking semantics here, but based on the abandoned Fitbit and Google Glass, amongst others, it’s true that the gaping divide between where tech provides clever capabilities and fashion provides aesthetics and desirability to create life-enhancing products, remains wide.

Image top:  Google Glass       Image bottom: Fitbit

Reflecting further on the state of wearables, Vanessa reminisces about the iPhone and iPod “changing the way that everybody interacted with music”.  She says that in contrast, “there has been nothing like that with fashion – no wearable has achieved that”.  Considering the outcome of our discussion and my questions about sustainability playing a bigger role in fashion, it seems that to Vanessa’s mind, there is a tension between fashion and tech, but not between fashion design and sustainability.

As I wrap up this article, an invitation to the launch of Nadi X by Wearable X – the first Wearable yoga pant to ‘communicate with the user to ‘aid alignment’, hits my inbox.  Perhaps our ‘Wearable’ future is about to take a new life-enhancing turn towards the perfect fusion?  Stay tuned for the verdict.

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In Conversation with Anna Gedda – Head of Sustainability at H&M

H&M made a bold statement at the beginning of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, declaring their aim to become fully circular (which means moving towards using only recyclable materials and renewable energy sources) by 2030. I spoke with Anna Gedda, their Head of Sustainability to find out how.

Opening our discussion, I asked how H&M will become a fully circular company, with a particular emphasis on materials, which are a key challenge in terms of natural resource consumption and the challenges in recycling textiles containing multiple fibre types – cotton and elastane, for example. Here is Anna’s response:

“We have looked into different parts of a circular system and identified areas to focus on. We use 20% recyclable or recycled materials. We need to develop our current materials so that we can achieve 100%, and also replace some of the currently used materials with new ones”.

Anna then mentions the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award, which looks for early stage sustainable materials via their annual global competition. This competition is a key source of inspiration and initial ideas for the development of new materials for H&M.  She outlines some of the recent winning entries, including a textile that acts as a solar panel, a leather made of grape waste, and previously a citrus waste textile. She explains that it is not only new materials being proposed, but new processes for manufacturing textiles are also being devised.  The winners may develop materials for H&M, Anna explains, but the competition has an altruistic outlook, which I interpret as meaning it aims to unearth great ideas and developments for their own sake, aligned with the company’s CSR mandate.  Anna goes on to to say that whilst H&M aim to identify innovation and scale it, she concedes that many ideas that work in the lab are not scalable, and therefore not feasible for H&M’s products.

Grape Leather Innovation

Anna segues into the H&M sustainable Conscious Exclusive collection, which is in store all year round and uses innovative recycled and organic materials, including Bionic yarn created from recycled ocean plastic.  H&M uses this collection as a testing ground for sustainable fabrics with the aim of increasing demand for, and awareness of, sustainable products amongst consumers; ultimately bringing the prices down.  This ‘dipping the toe in’ approach is a safe way for H&M to experiment with introducing new technology and textiles into their supply chain without significantly impacting their bottom line, and without taking big risks.

H&M Conscious Exclusive collection 2017 

Linking back to the Global Change Award, Anna explains that in addition to receiving prize money, the winners take part in a year long accelerator, which gives them access to the H&M supply chain to work in their suppliers’ factories.  During this time they are able to test their materials and innovations within a live supply chain context, revealing whether they have the potential to meet the demands of cutting, sewing and finishing in the garment making process – a useful learning experience for the competition winners.

Drilling down in to the materials innovation effort at H&M, I ask about the level of involvement of materials scientists in the development process and ask “who is driving materials innovation?”  Anna explains that scientific input is key to achieving the 2030 circularity goal.  The development of materials depends upon working with academics to understand planetary boundaries and new technologies for agriculture – cotton growing alternatives, for example.  Academia, innovators, and suppliers – the actual producers – are key in driving materials innovation.  She added that suppliers see that the fashion industry is changing and they want to create new materials to better meet sustainability demands.

My next question for Anna, aimed at digging into the issue of fair wages and exploitation in the garment industry, is: “What would you say to consumers who are concerned about the transparency, or a lack of transparency in manufacturing. How can consumers feel comfortable about H&M and about going into H&M and buying something off the shelf and knowing that nobody has been harmed in that process and that a fair wage has been paid, especially as your prices are so competitive. What would you say to the consumer who is concerned about that?”

Anna’s response was as follows: “I would say that they can be confident going into an H&M store and buy things that they love, I mean, we really have high ambitions and we have a long term perspective and want to be part of this industry not just for the next three years, but the next thirty years – we are doing what we can to ‘future-proof’ the company, as well as the industry.”  In an age when transparency is increasingly important, H&M have engaged with the SAC (Sustainable Apparel Coalition) and are using the Higg Index, which they hope will go a long way to achieving transparency.  Anna sees third party verification as an essential part in increasing transparency. Anna mentions the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report (summarised here) which uses the Higg Index, an open source supply chain and transparency assessment tool, stating that she believes this demonstrates how third party verification (from SAC) can lend credibility to the fashion industry’s sustainability efforts.

Wrapping up the interview, I ask Anna what she considers to be the most exciting and game changing technology in the industry’s efforts to become sustainable. “Finding ways to recycle from textile to textile – today you are not able to do this in a scalable and efficient way, because you don’t have the technology.”  The aim is to be able to place any garment/textile in a solvent, recover the fibres and use them to make new textiles.  “This will be a game changer for a circular system, and I think we will see such technologies within the next five years.”  She tells me she has seen technologies approaching this capability already.  Textile recycling is already possible in this manner, but there are limitations as to the fibres that can be recovered, and some blended textiles (woven cotton and elastane, for example) can not be fully recycled using current technology.

Content Thread for textile recycling

In closing, Anna makes a key point in terms of this recyclability versus design philosophy at H&M – designers being restricted to using one type of fibre or material can significantly restrict their creativity and, ultimately, the aesthetics of the garment.  She suggests that single fibre designs may not satisfy customer demand for interesting products, so full recyclability of all textile blends in order to achieve circularity without a compromise on design appears to be the answer.

For a comprehensive explanation of the H&M Sustainability initiatives see their website and The H&M Group Sustainability Report 2016

The Higg Index modules are downloadable on completion of this form

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Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s Voices of Politics, Diversity and Change

Former Dean of Parsons School of Design, Simon Collins, served up the most pointed of all questions to New York based designer Prabal Gurung when he asked “would you dress the first lady?”  Prabal, after some consideration, gave an applause-inducing answer, explaining that his brand stands for inclusion, celebrates diversity and does not discriminate.  He stands firmly behind his brand values, saying that on that basis, he would dress the first lady.  It is no surprise that his comments echo those of another immigrant designer, Ashish Gupta, who celebrated his status and called for racial inclusion and diversity at his London Fashion Week show in September 2016. 

Reflecting on the global political and economic climate, Simon Collins commented on the political dissent in Thatcher’s 70’s and 80’s Britain that gave rise to the punk rock movement and other beautifully creative genres that still resonate in Britain today.  So out of this current political upheaval, could there be a beautiful and positive outcome?  Can current dissent mobilise creativity – even drive it?  Maxwell Osborne, of another New York based fashion brand, Public School, commented that in this time of great change in the fashion industry, new show formats are arising, the rules are changing and traditional mindsets are being altered.  Public School’s latest show was an intentional pressure cooker, with editors and buyers sat closer than convention would dictate in the aim of  ‘making them a little uncomfortable’.  Their brand of Americana sells unity, not division, and their sellout hats bearing the words ‘Make America New York’ were a hit because they took the measure of what people on the street were saying and feeling in Trump’s America.  I imagine this to be somewhat like what Londoners were saying in the wake of the Brexit vote.  Public School speak to their consumer – directly, in the same language.  That conversation is not nearly as personal or direct for big fashion and lifestyle brands, and the challenges for them in defining and delivering meaningful messages on society and politics is clear, given the recent blunder by Pepsi, and the ill-judged and since dubbed ‘Feminism Collection’ by Karl Lagerfeld’ for Chanel.

In order to reflect the repeated focus of the summit on innovation and collaboration it would be remiss of me not to mention the key input from some suppliers on the textile and fibre side, where significant technological and scientific advances have lead to circular nylon fibre production in the case of Aquafil, and cellulosic (plant based) circular production, in the case of Lenzing.  Whilst perhaps not the sexiest subject matter (unless you have a penchant for chemistry and heavy machinery) these advances are game changing – that is, providing brands purchase such circular materials in favour of linearly produced ones.  Significant limitations of circular production are complexities arising from mixed fibres – for example cotton and elastane – where separating the cotton and elastane fibres in order to reuse them in new textiles is not yet fully possible across all textile structures.  The single most important advance in making textile manufacturing circular, according to a number of industry experts I spoke to at the summit, was finding effective and efficient ways of separating out all types of fibres according to their chemical properties in order to reuse them.  Microplastics – tiny particles of plastic – are finding their way from fibres shed in the textile washing and wearing process, into water ways and causing devastating pollution.  We need to pioneer new technologies to deal with this problem at the manufacturing stage. 

Overview of the Lenzing textile process of turning wood into a textile

Materials solutions are key to solving problems arising from our demand on natural resources, and an alternative to current cotton growing methods would be a complete game changer too, saving immense amounts of water (it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to grown just 1kg of cotton).  Creating new methods of making/growing materials is an area of intense research, and something being done by the likes of Bolt Threads and other smaller, more experimental materials labs such as the one at Aalto in Helsinki.  In 2013, Kering launched their in-house Materials Innovation Lab in Italy and entrepreneur Mira Duma has just announced a 50 million dollar fund to invest in materials and technology solutions aimed at solving fashion’s biggest problems in the road to sustainability and ethical transparency.  More on Kering and Mira Duma’s initiatives to come in future posts.  

Aalto recycled cellulosic fibre research and yarn

On the subject of transparency and supply chain traceability, blockchain is providing a useful platform for consumers to follow the journey of their products from origin to the shop floor.  London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard teamed up with Provenance, A Transparent Company and Two Rivers Mill to demonstrate how her alpaca garments are made and sold in a fully transparent manner.   She presented the results at the summit’s Solutions Lab, alongside Lenzing, Aalto and a number of other brands, labs and institutions. 

Technology can also enable the capture of large data sets in order to assess large scale manufacturing processes and detect areas for improvement.  Sensors placed in factories working in partnership with Li & Fung are ushering in a phase of assessment of resource use and areas for potential improvement.  Target is working with its suppliers to pilot the use of beacons to feed data to apps to track what is happening in their factories in real time.  In this area, technology can provide hard data to support change, in place of anecdotal or subjective views on current practices.  

Stand by for my in depth interview with Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering, Marie-Claire Daveu

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Copenhagen Fashion Summit Calls for Circularity, Collaboration and Innovation

‘Is that Dhaka?’, I wondered as a film taking us on a tour through a rabbit warren of a damp, dark textile workshop played on the backdrop of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit stage.  It’s actually Gujarat in India – Machines by Rahul Jain opened the summit and reminded us of why we we’re here.

Sustainability is at the top of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit agenda, in an effort to discuss the damage done by our industry – fashion – the second most polluting in the world after oil and gas.  The garment industry has depleted the world’s natural resources to an extent that our planet can no longer support.  Underpinning the Copenhagen Fashion Summit was a report called the Pulse of the Fashion Industry, created by Boston Consulting Group in conjunction with the Global Fashion Agenda.  The findings, summarised by Javier Seara of Boston Consulting Group and Caroline Chalmer of Global Fashion Agenda, were presented as both a challenge and opportunity.  The main challenge being to change the entire supply chain from a linear ‘take, make, dispose of in landfill (in 80% of cases*)’ model, to a circular ‘collect (used textiles or garments), disassemble (and chemically/mechanically separate the fibres), make new textiles from the recycled fibres, make new garments, repeat’ model.

Current demands on the planet are predicted to lead to serious ethical crises if they continue – such as a situation where there will not be enough water for drinking and cotton growth in some countries – leading to a choice between one or the other.  Population growth at its current rate will lead to consumption of clothing at 62% higher levels than today by 2030, when 8.5 billion people will inhabit earth.  The impact of this on natural resources will be catastrophic if alternatives to current resource depleting practices are not invented, designed and implemented.  I say invented, because the outcome of these claims, from the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, is a need for collaboration and innovation.  These two words were, by my judgement, the most used of the summit.  Repeatedly, collaboration between the largest fashion brands to combine resources and exert their influence, and innovation in the supply chain by manufacturers, were hailed as key requirements to make leaps forward, away from linear manufacturing models and towards circular ones.  Shedding light on this, Jason Kibbey of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition stated that “leaders of innovation are factory owners – they are (innovating) in the supply chain”.  He added “(this innovation) doesn’t come from Europe, or Silicon Valley – it comes from Asia”.  Considering the demographic in the audience, mostly western and white, I realise that a critical voice of this discussion is missing.  Jason later explained to me in an interview that he was heading to Bangalore, India, next week for a summit on sustainable benchmarks for the garment industry, to work with manufacturers in Asia on how to put sustainability initiatives and certifications in place.

It is important to note that the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report’s deductions were based on the responses from sustainability officers in 90 fashion companies, providing a rather skewed set of data, and collated and reported according to the Higg Index.  The limitations of the report were acknowledged by the Boston Consulting Group, and given that the report’s data was subjective and unverified by any third party, the report was delivered as a starting point for a discussion on sustainability, rather than a final solution. 

Hard-hitting and sobering facts were delivered by Dame Ellen MacArthur of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) during a panel discussion entitled ‘For a World Beyond Next Season’, from a report the EMF compiled with McKinsey in 2010.  The report’s express purpose was to analyse the merits of incremental improvements in a linear economy – which are finite – versus a circular economy model.  Dame Ellen explained that we would need 1.7 planets to keep up with our current demands on the planet, therefore making a circular model imperative, where we would work in a restorative way instead of a wasteful way.  

Dame Ellen MacArthur speaks at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Wading into the ethical and environmental argument was Livia Firth of Eco-Age, citing her co-panellist, independent barrister Jessica Simor QC‘s report Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage as holding the answers to current questions and misconceptions about barriers to fair pay to those working in the garment industry.  Describing it as the ‘elephant in the room’ at this summit, and the last summit one year ago, she warned brands that they were in big trouble, given the findings of Simor’s report.  Simor pulled no punches in explaining articulately and succinctly that minutiae in legal documents were clouding the path to finding solutions to paying the living wage to all in the supply chain.  She stated very simply that workers in 14 countries were being paid 50% less (at best) than the living wage.  All companies engaged in this business are in breach of UN law, she stated.  “See, I told you you were all in trouble” added Livia Firth.  Refreshingly clear, Simor added a powerful reminder that the slave trade was not abolished “through transparency and consumer choice”, but by law.  “Current laws protect consumers here in Europe, not makers in the far East”, she said.  Providing full clarity, she also stated that the right to a minimum wage is the right to a living wage – highlighting how semantics has got in the way of people being allowed to live in accordance with their human rights in a safe and dignified manner.  The report is downloadable from thecircle.ngo and I look forward to reading it in full once my coverage of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit event is wrapped.  The second stage of the report is being crowdfunded now and to support this initiative you can donate here and follow The Circle’s work on Instagram and Twitter.


Livia Firth (centre) and Jessica Simor QC (right) speak at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Stand by for part two of my summit overview.

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*source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Copenhagen Fashion Summit Sets the Tone for Global Sustainability Agenda

On the eve of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 2017, Eva Kruse, CEO & President of Global Fashion Agenda, the driving force behind the now annual summit, spoke of the challenges and opportunities facing the global fashion industry in tackling sustainability issues.

The world’s second most polluting industry after oil and gas, fashion faces the stark reality that by 2030 global garment production will increase by 63%, in response to the planet’s growing population, expected by then to exceed 8.5 billion – an unsustainable quantity that has sparked tomorrow’s summit’s call to action: appealing to fashion brands and retailers to adopt circular systems.  The crux of circular systems is collection, reuse and recycling of garments, feeding them back into the manufacturing process so that the majority of garments no longer go into landfill, ultimately making the existing linear model of “take, make, dispose” obsolete.  By 2030 retailer H&M aims to operate under a fully circular model – that is, only using recycled materials in its garment production.

Important points arising from pre-summit discussions today at the Hotel Skt Petri, a fitting venue, being that the hotel is powered by 100% offshore wind energy, included the need for innovation and collaboration between stakeholders across the fashion industry.  The Pulse of the Fashion Industry report compiled by The Boston Consulting Group and the Global Fashion Agenda will be formally launched and discussed at tomorrow’s summit and will outline where the fashion industry is in terms of sustainability efforts today, and where it needs to be to avoid environmental and humanitarian crises in the future.

Jason Kibbey, CEO of Sustainable Apparel Coalition, underpinned the importance of the Global Fashion Agenda by explaining that it could provide a unified focus amongst hundreds of splintered initiatives on sustainability across the industry.  He went on to say that recycling garments is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry currently, echoing the call for circularity mentioned earlier.

An encouraging discourse was led by Marco Lucietti, Global Marketing Director of ISKO, who outlined the denim manufacturer’s ‘long journey’ towards being fully responsible in manufacturing and sustainability terms, which has led to innovations such as indigo dyeing without the use of water and their Earth Fit collection, which has been created from organic cotton, post-recycled polyester and Lenzing fibres (which are manufactured under a circular business model).  Marco was clear in outlining the role ISKO has in shaping the textile offering to brands and guiding them to make sustainable textile choices.

Marco cited one of the biggest challenges for the sustainability agenda currently as being consumer attitudes towards ‘sustainable garments’ and the false impression that sustainability means a compromise on design and/or quality.  He is calling for a drive to help convince customers of the superiority of sustainable fashion and make it a major purchasing driver for consumers.

Eva Kruse and Marco Lucietti – Image: Techstyler

ISKO’s I-Skool initiative gives fashion students access to their sustainable denim and affords them the knowledge and understanding of how these materials can be integral to the design process, rather than an optional alternative to more polluting ones.  I-Skool is a denim award held in collaboration with Copenhagen Fashion Summit.  It showcased the work of ten fashion students with the eventual winner, Farah Sherif Wali, being chosen by an International judging panel including previous creative director of Oscar De La Renta, Peter Copping and Bandana Tewari, fashion features director at Vogue India.

I-Skool finalist designers included, from top – Annie Ansell (UAL, Chelsea), Quinton Lovelace (FIDM, LA), Elena Turkhina (ESMOD, Berlin), and winner, Farah Sherif Wali (Polimoda, Florence)- Images: Techstyler

Rounding off this pre-summit piece is a brief overview of the two day Youth Fashion Summit which ends today, from which a draft of the first ever UN resolution on fashion will be formed.  In partnership with Swarovski, the collaboration between the Global Fashion Agenda and the Copenhagen School of Design Technology (KEA) has given students the platform to discuss and produce the draft resolution in order to shape the future of the fashion industry and lead the fight for sustainable practices.  Expanding on this, Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President of Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility at Swarovski, stated that the three key topics coming out of the two day Youth Summit had been climate change, a fair deal in the supply chain for all and circular economy.  Dax summarised by saying that solving societal problems and ‘eradicating forced labour’ were also key discussion points.  A promising start to a global summit promising to prove that sustainability is not only an environmental and societal issue, but a business issue too.

Youth Fashion Summit 2017 – Images: Copenhagen Fashion Summit 

Stay tuned for more fashion and sustainability news and interviews from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and follow me Techstyler on Twitter and Instagram.

Header Image:  Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2016