University of Fashion Blog

Category "Sustainability"

INNOVATIVE SUSTAINABILITY IN TEXTILES

Fashion and Substainability. (Photo Credit: Miss Owl)

DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR FASHION CONSCIENCE?

If you’re like us, you probably spent some of your Covid lockdown time cleaning out your closets (and if you didn’t you should). How many of you have a clear fashion conscience? Was every purchase justified? Or, did you discover that some of the clothes and shoes in your closet you never wore, not even once? Or maybe you wore them only twice? Well, it’s time to take stock of your buying habits and your carbon footprint. To get a clear fashion conscience, next time you’re thinking of making purchase, ask yourself, “am I doing all I could to help”?

 

THE POLLUTION INDUSTRY

The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits in causing pollution and damage ing our earth. By 2030, it is predicted that the industry’s water consumption will increase by 50 percent to 118 billion cubic meters (or 31.17 trillion gallons). Its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tons and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 million tons, according to The Fashion Law website (TFL).

Today more than ever, designers, brands and retailers are looking for ways to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Brands are embracing sustainable cotton initiatives to: reduce water, energy and chemical use; new dyeing technology to reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent; as well as numerous energy and chemical saving schemes throughout the supply chain. In the UK, the result of this work is percolating through to retailers, with a reduction in the carbon and water footprints per ton of clothing of 8 percent and 7 percent respectively since 2012, according to TFL.

Eco Conscious Meets Fashion Conscious. (Photo Credit: Carrygreen)

The movement towards eco fashion is growing quickly. Followers of the movement believe that the fashion industry has an obligation to place environmental, social, and ethical improvements in their practices at every level of the supply chain. One of the goals of sustainable fashion is to create a thriving ecosystem and enriched communities through its activity. Some examples of this include: prolonging the lifecycle of materials; increasing the value of timeless garments; reducing the amount of waste; and reducing the harm to the environment created as a result of producing clothing.

Why Sustainable in Fashion Matters. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Fashion Academy)

Textile designers around the world are looking for innovative techniques to produce fabrics in a sustainable manner. There are a few pioneering companies that are creating innovative textiles, such as biodegradable glitter and fabrics created from seaweed. Here are a few companies that are making a big difference.

ALGIKNIT

The company Algiknit produces textile fibres extracted from kelp, a variety of seaweed. The extrusion process turns the biopolymer mixture into kelp-based thread that can be knitted or 3D printed to minimize waste. The final knitwear is biodegradable and can be dyed with natural pigments in a closed loop cycle.

BIOGLITZ

BioGlitz produces the world’s first biodegradable glitter. Based on a unique biodegradable formula made from eucalyptus tree extract, the eco-glitter is fully biodegradable, compostable and allows for the sustainable consumption of glitter without the environmental damage associated with micro plastics.

FLOCUS

Flocus produces natural yarns, fillings and fabrics made from kapok fibers. The kapok tree can be naturally grown without the use of pesticides and insecticide in arid soil not suitable for agricultural farming, offering a sustainable alternative to high water consumption natural fiber crops such as cotton.

FRUMAT

Frumat uses apples to create a leather-like material. Apple pectin is an industrial waste product which can be used to create sustainable materials that are completely compostable, while still being durable enough to create luxurious accessories. The leathers can be dyed naturally and tanned without chemically intensive techniques.

DRITAN

DriTan is taking sustainable steps towards water-free leather manufacturing. The technology was developed by ECCO Leather and uses the moisture present in the hides as a key step in their tanning process. This innovative technology will change the leather industry and save 25 million liters of water a year. This technique also minimizes the discharge of waste water and the use of chemicals.

MYLO

Mylo is a sustainable leather grown from mycelium, which has its root structure in mushrooms. In nature, mycelium grows underground in soil, forming networks of threads that help recycle organic matter on the forest floor, while providing nutrients to plants and trees. The threads interweave and self-assemble themselves into a 3D matrix that can spread for miles. Bolt Threads Mylo material looks like hand-crafted leather and shares leather’s warm touch and suppleness. Mylo can be produced in days, without the need for animal hides or the toxic chemicals used in the production of synthetic leathers.

RECYCROM

Recycrom is turning waste into colors by building on its “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” mission. Recycrom is a patented, sustainable range of synthetic colored dyestuff powders made from 100% recycled textile cotton waste and textile scraps from used clothing and manufacturing waste. The dyes utilize eco-sustainable inputs without using chemical dyes and harming the environment. When dyed using Recycrom colors, the fabrics have a washed-out and natural look that complements today’s current fashion trends. Brands can collaborate with the inventors at Officina+39 to make Recycrom custom dyes using a manufacturers’ own scraps/textile waste.

THE ECO MOVEMENT IS GROWING

While creating sustainable textiles is only one step to creating an eco-friendly brand, it’s refreshing to see so many fashion companies looking for ways to make a global impact on the environment. Stella McCartney has been ahead of the movement and has always produced her collections in an ethical manner. Today fashion brands have plenty of choices to reduce their carbon footprint.

Stella McCartney’s Spring 2020 Ad Campaign. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

So tell us, what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

RETHINKING FASHION AND REDUCING THE INDUSTRY’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

The most memorable eco-friendly Red Carpet looks. (Photo Credit Vogue)

In only a few short months Coronavirus turned the world upside down. Hard to believe this could ever happen, right? Not only were we forced to stay-at-home and students were expected to complete their studies online, but schools and businesses are now having to re-evaluate the way they conducted business in the past and are re-imagining new ways to move forward into the future.

One of the hardest hit industries affected by the pandemic is fashion. To help get through the crisis and to offer some advice, numerous publications including Vogue, are hosting Zoom seminars where editors and designers discuss the future of our industry.

For years the fashion industry has been debating the future of the business; is the old business model still relevant today? Are fashion shows necessary? Well, thanks to COVID-19, the industry to being forced to get off the dime. Among the issues? What is the industry really doing when it comes to the environment in terms of reducing fashion’s carbon footprint, sustainable fabrics and the overstock of garments.

In the mid 2000s, when I was an editor covering fashion designers for Woman’s Wear Daily, I remember Donna Karan complaining about the fashion cycle. Donna was against the concept of ‘pre-collections’ which added additional seasons to an already crowded fashion calendar. And, she would argue that store deliveries made no sense, as in, why are Spring clothes shipped in February, just to be marked down in May when consumers are actually buying spring clothes?

Well, today, finally, this is issue has reemerged as a major point of discussion. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele just announced that he is reducing Gucci’s shows from 5 to 2 a year. Hey Donna Karan, you were years ahead of your time!

Alessando Michele of Gucci is giving fashion a new model. (Photo Credit: Gucci)

COVID-19 is not only causing fashion designers and industry leaders to re-evaluate the fashion calendar cycle and how many collections are needed a year, but the pandemic is also forcing brands to look at their practices and think about how they can do more to protect the environment. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Francois Souchet, who leads the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, is bringing together leaders from across the industry to create a circular economy for fashion through business innovation and better design. When asked if sustainability initiatives and investment at fashion brands were under threat, he believes that for brands who have adopted waste management and sustainability initiatives at the core of their business, their sustainable transformation plans are secure, post COVID. In contrast, he believes that the brands who have used sustainability as a marketing tool, rather than integral to their processes, that they are likely to suffer. Souchet says, “The closer (sustainability and investment) are to the core and the more integrated, the harder they are to cut off. For some businesses, it will be a question of survival, so it is quite difficult to predict what will happen.”

Echoing Souchet, Dr. Hakan Karaosman, a fashion supply chain and sustainability expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe declared, “Sustainability as a marketing tool will go—inherent sustainability will stay.” Also, he claimed the biggest problem in the fashion industry is the “fragmented supply chain,” calling for a “restructuring” across all tiers. Lean, simple and transparent supply chains are proving the most resilient during this crisis, he said, and this is what brands are likely to favor as they emerge from the crisis.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company in Frankfurt and leader of the Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group said that: “consumers have seen how vulnerable the entire world is, and the whole crisis has raised awareness for social and environmental sustainability, even among those that were not previously onto the topic.” Due to the global shutdown, major cities are seeing a reduction in air pollution, and the industries carbon footprint has been reduced, so moving forward, consumers will demand sustainable clothing.

According to McKinsey research, a return to pre-crisis consumer behavior is unlikely. McKinsey collected data from 6,000 consumers across the UK, Germany, France, and Spain. The results showed that an additional 16% would now seek products with sustainable credentials once shops reopen, 20% intend to reduce their overall spending for the rest of the year and 45% would look favorably upon companies that communicate with concern and purpose rather than prices and products.

So, what should the fashion industry change post COVID to protect the environment? Well, according to Céline Semaan, founder of Slow Factory, a sustainability literacy non-profit that hosts global sustainability education summits and works in partnership with global brands, including Adidas, says “Everything. From the fast-paced fashion calendar to the overproduction of goods that encourage (and depend on) overconsumption to sustain its broken economic model; to the exploitation of land, labor, and exotic animals, to the way it capitalizes on movements such as Earth Day and all efforts around that day/month focusing on profit-driven initiatives. Everything.

The fact remains that global brands such as H&M and Zara, to name a few, still create so many garments a year that end up in landfills.  Do consumers really need all these clothes? The answer is NO. Brands need to focus on quality vs quantity, as well as selling garments in the actual season. For example, fall/winter should arrive in stores in September and not get marked down until February.  This will help designers make a profit off their garments at full price and therefore they can create fewer seasons to stay afloat.

According to H&M Group’s CEO Helena Helmersson, “the company recently signed with the European alliance for a Green Recovery alongside Ikea, Unilever and others, who are committed to contributing to the post-crisis investment decisions needed to ‘reboot’ and ‘reboost’ our economy, taking into account climate change and circular economy as key pillars.”

H&M Conscious Collection. (Photo Credit: H&M)

For years, H&M store had a policy that offered anyone who brought in their old clothes for recycling to receive a discount for future purchases. Today, H&M is moving away from its fast fashion roots with their “Conscious” collection, which is completely made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. and by 2030, H&M has set a goal to only use sustainably sourced materials.

And there are plenty of other brands who are trying to do their part to protect the environment and create ethical fashion brands. Let’s take a look:

People Tree was one of the fist sustainable fashion brands. Founded in 1991, this brand was the first to be awarded with the World Fair Trade Organization product label. People Tree invests heavily in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, such as organic farming. The company also advocates and promotes fair wages, good working conditions, and only works with sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural fibers and chemical free dyes.

Actress Emma Watson and People Tree launched a clothing line together in 2010. (Photo Credit People Tree)

Another pioneer of sustainable fashion and circularity is Eileen Fisher. Every facet of Eileen Fisher’s design and manufacturing process is built to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, from the eco-friendly materials used, to the ethical treatment of all her workers. Eileen Fisher uses creative processes and innovative techniques in order to limit textile waste. The company also initiated a program to buy back used items and to recycle them into new garments or their Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind art, pillows and wall hangings. To further reduce the brand’s carbon footprint, Eileen Fisher avoids air shipping.

Eileen Fisher’s Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind artworks, pillows and wall hangings. (Photo Credit: Eileen Fisher)

Tentree’s clothing is made entirely from ethically sourced and sustainable materials including cork, coconut and recycled polyester, all  produced in ethical factories.  The company is also committed to planting ten trees for each item purchased. To engage their clients, after each purchase, the customer receives a code so they can monitor the growth of their trees. Tentree is on track to plant one billion trees by 2030.

Tentree’s marketing initiative. (Photo Credit: Tentree)

Sustainability is key at Everlane as the brand recently launched a clothing line made from recycled plastic bottles and other reused materials. The brand also focuses on transparency to their customers, as they offer an exact breakdown of the cost of each item, as well as showing the factories where those garments are made. Everlane has built strong relationships with factory owners to guarantee that the employees and production meet Everlane’s high ethical standards.

Saitex jean production for Everlane. (Photo Credit: Saitex)

Denim is one of the harshest fashion items on the environment, but many denim brands are looking for ways to make sustainable denim. Huge amounts of water are needed to create only one pair of jeans, but now Levi’s has introduced a new collection called Water<Less; which uses up to 96% less water to create a garment. Across the board, Levi’s is committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process, including working towards 100% sustainably sourced cotton. Levi’s has also initiated recycling old jeans into creating home insulation.

Levi’s Waterless Campaign. (Photo Credit: Levi’s)

Reformation has become a cult favorite among the fashion “It-Girl” set. Not only are the clothes trendy and fun, but the brand is also environmentally conscious. Each look is created using upcycled and sustainable materials in fair wage markets; also, every item comes with a description and score of its environmental footprint to help customers understand the impact of their clothing. Since 2015, Reformation has been carbon neutral and the brand helps to protect deforested regions to offset its manufacturing. The company has also implemented a recycling program that their customers can sell their old clothing to Reformation to earn credit for future purchases.

Reformation’s recycling program campaign. (Photo Credit: Reformation)

Patagonia is known for its durable outerwear, but did you know that it also helps customers repair their clothing instead of buying new items? Their products are so indestructible that customers are encouraged to recycle their old Patagonia pieces and purchase only items second hand. In addition to using sustainable materials in each new garment, the company also follows fair-trade practices and strictly monitors its supply chain to make sure they are safe for the environment, workers and consumers. One of Patagonia’s main goals is to find solutions to environmental issues without causing unnecessary harm to the world.

Patagonia’s Campaign. (Photo Credit: Patagonia)

Contemporary fashion label GANNI has quickly become the go-to brand for street-style stars world-wide. Nicolaj Reffstrup, co-owner of GANNI, is implementing strategies to become an environmentally-friendly brand. One strategy is that the brand’s Denmark stores are combining fashion rental, an outlet to test resale of older styles, samples, and prototypes called Postmodern (which they intend to take online), and a re-structured merchandising strategy, which will downsize their collections by offering less styles, so the store will hold less volume, but there will be more drops.  In addition, Reffstrup said that every fourth drop of products will be “made of recycled or deadstock fabric,” and this is being built into their range planning and material ordering processes.

GANNI Repeat, A new sustainable rental service. (Photo Credit: GANNI)

Footwear & Carbon Footprint

According to Adidas, the footwear industry emits 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, every year. That’s equivalent to 80,775,444 homes’ energy use for one year. For a single pair of running shoes made of synthetic materials that translates to having a carbon footprint of somewhere between 11.3 and 16.7 kilograms of CO2. To change this, Adidas and shoe brand Allbirds have teamed up to make the first net zero carbon shoe. Adidas with their End Plastic Waste initiative and Allbirds’ Tread Lighter Together initiative marks the first time in history that Adidas has collaborated with another footwear brand not under its own umbrella. To quote Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, “Our hope is that the future is more about collaboration than it is about competition.”

As consumers are focusing on more environmentally friendly fashion product, every brand should look at ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Even small improvements can help protect the Earth. Every little bit helps!

Resources to Help Designers Become More Sustainable-Minded

As part of the CFDA Sustainability Initiatives’ ongoing commitment to sustainability through education and professional development, they have created a  sustainability-centered resource hub designed to provide open access resources and information specific to fashion design and business sustainable strategies. These resources are intended for everyone- for CFDA Members, educators, students, professionals, designers, and anyone in our community interested in learning more about sustainability and sourcing relevant contacts. An annex to that initiative is a Guide to Sustainable Strategies Toolkit which helps map and frame sustainable priorities. Also part of the initiative is the CFDA A-Z Materials Index  and, in partnership with NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, their KPI Design Kit, a Sustainable Strategies Playbook for Measurable Change.  A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.

 

Re/make, is a community of millennial and Gen Z women whose mission is to put an end to fast fashion by training women leaders around the globe to: host workshops, panels, and webinars to educate, inspire, engage, and uplift the voices of their community. In turn, the community hosts film screenings, clothing swap parties, and educational panels to mobilize others in the fight against fast fashion. The organization offers documentary films, fact-filled stories, campaign assets, and workshop materials to empower the community and recruit more women to the movement. Re/make drives transparency and accountability with their Seal of Approval process. They call out greenwashers and they push brands to disclose better information publicly. How are they making a difference? “Our mission is to make fashion a force for good.”

Ethical Fabric Suppliers

If you are a designer who is interested in moving into more sustainable, ethical fabrics and notions, then check out the directory on the website Change the World by How You Shop. 

Queen of Raw is a marketplace to buy and sell sustainable and deadstock fabrics and textiles, for students, clothing manufacturers, and designers. Using a technology engine to build a supply-chain management service, owner Stephanie Benedetto, started MateriaMX (short for Material Exchange) so monthly subscribers can map, identify, measure and trace waste throughout their supply chains in real-time, ultimately allowing them to minimize their excess fabric, water and other waste streams. The online platform uses blockchain and machine learning to find and track excess fabric— post-consumer waste, fabric on rolls, you name it—and then match it to factories, retailers, designers and other buyers looking for that material.

Fabscrap is another deadstock fabric resource.  According to info on their website, “each pound of waste from apparel production is associated with 2.06 pounds of CO2-E. In New York City, if 10% or more of your commercial waste is textile material, you are required to recycle itExtended Producer Responsibility polices for textiles are on the horizon. Fabscrap provides reports enumerating tonnage diverted from landfill and CO2 emissions saved. When disposed in landfill, the dyes and chemicals in fabrics can leach into the soil, contaminating local water systems.” Fabscrap claims that, “In the U.S., 48% of customers check tags for sustainability information. Brands that market their eco-conscious efforts and corporate social responsibility practices show increased sales.

Swatchon.com is an eco-friendly, recycled, organic wholesale fabric marketplace based in Korea with 3 yard minimums and free shipping.

Nature’s Fabrics is another great resource located in Pennsylvania with a very nice selection of organic fabrics to choose from.

Retail Consignment Resources

As a result of store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, shoppers have rediscovered the online consignment clothing market that had its start in 2012. Companies like the The RealReal, Tradesy, Poshmark and ThredUp (who recently partnered with Walmart) and the resale handbag company, Rebag are making secondhand clothing not only affordable but ‘cool.’ As climate change concerns grow, especially among millennial and Gen Zers, according to the 2019 ThredUp Resale Report, “secondhand items are expected to occupy one-third of people’s closets by 2033.”

Macy’s, Madewell and Nordstrom, have all added secondhand clothing to their merchandise line-up. According to a January 31, 2020 article in The Washington Post,  “As resale goes mainstream – the resale market is expected to triple in three years – department stores have become an unexpected next step to woo young shoppers.”

So tell us, what steps are you taking to reduce your carbon footprint?

Pandemic, Pollution – A Fashion Industry Wake-Up Call ?

- - Sustainability

Naomi Campbell wears Hazmat suit to the airport. (Photo credit: CNN)

2020 is turning out to be one of the most difficult years in world history. Globally, we are fighting a war against COVID-19, a virus that spreads so quickly and easily that the numbers of those effected and who die rises daily at alarming rates. Worldwide, people are on lockdown or partial lockdown, and a new word has been  added to our vocabulary, social-distancing.

COVID-19 is not only affecting our health, physically and mentally, but is greatly affecting the world economy, as companies and factories are shut down with only essential businesses remaining open. As we adapt to the new ‘work-from-home’ model, schools are asking teachers and students to move online. However, without accessible content, many teachers are finding it difficult if not impossible.

At University of Fashion, we are very proud to say that we are meeting the needs of schools by offering all schools free 30-day access to our lesson content. We are also offering flexible subscription rates & terms (contact us at cs@UniversityofFashion.com to learn more). The list of schools taking advantage of our offer is rapidly growing (last count more than 55). Schools such as Parsons, San Francisco State University, Buffalo State College, Virginia Tech, Western Michigan University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro to name a few,. Even high schools have taken advantage of our resource. And, for individual subscribers we are  offering a $20 discount on a yearly subscription (was $189/now$169, using promo code NEWS21Y (offer expires 12/31/20).

As doctors and scientists around the globe race to find a vaccine for the virus, environmentalists have found a silver lining among the fear and anxiety. They have noted that while COVID-19 is a global health crisis, the forcing of businesses to shut down and people to quarantine has had a positive effect on the planet. The biggest difference is the change in air quality, as industry, aviation, and other forms of transportation came to an almost worldwide halt, thus resulting in a reduction in air pollution. These air quality reductions have mostly been tracked in countries such as China and Italy. India, who recently went on lockdown, will hopefully soon follow.

Air pollution levels, as observed by satellite, are showing drastic improvements in many areas that have been undergoing restrictive quarantines due to COVID-19” Peter DeCarlo, an Associate Professor of Environmental Health Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told Newsweek.

However, in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday March 26th, announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing U.S. power plants, factories and other facilities to ‘determine for themselves’ if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution. The agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements during the corona outbreak and for an undetermined period of time. In a New York Times article on March 25th, former E.PA. administrator Gina McCarthy was quoted as saying that this new rule is “an open license to pollute.” Let’s all keep our eyes on this situation.

The water in the Venice canals is clear enough to see fish swimming below as the coronavirus halts tourism in Italy. (Photo credit: ABC News)

With all that Italy has had to deal with as a result of the pandemic, Venice reported that the water in city’s famous canals appear to be unusually clear, due to the fact that the canals are empty because of the coronavirus lockdown. The quarantine is also having an effect on wildlife across the globe. As people are confined to their homes, animals are roaming the streets looking for food.  According to a recent article in Newsweek, “In Japan, for example, sika deer living in the popular tourist destination Nara Park were spotted wandering into urban areas to look for food after restrictions on visitors from China and South Korea came into place. Normally, tourists buy special snacks to feed the deer, and many of the animals have become accustomed to eating these treats.”

As the pandemic manages to wreak havoc, perhaps now’s the time for the fashion industry to take a long hard look at changing our business model and commit to becoming more responsible earth citizens?

In an interview with Newsweek, Steven Davis, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine stated that as a result of the virus, “We will have a new baseline of what’s possible to do online: telecommute, educate, shop, etcetera. And to the extent our government, institutions, and social networks succeed by coming together, we may feel more empowered to take on daunting issues like climate change and a transition to sustainable energy sources.”

Once a vaccine is discovered and the world can get back to some sense of normalcy, it is important that the fashion industry come together to find sustainable solutions. As an industry, we are constantly producing goods. We use tons of natural resources and produce garments all over the world just to keep up with ever changing trends. A recipe for planet disaster!

Let’s ask ourselves how can we still create, design and produce, while making a smaller carbon footprint and a more positive impact while doing so.

Here are a few ways that fashion designers can work together to achieve sustainability and decrease that every enlarging footprint.

SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY & BLOCKCHAIN 

A sustainable textile is Organic Cotton. (Photo credit: What About Yves)

First, as a designer, examine your supply chain. It is important to know from where you are buying your textiles and whether these textile mills follow environmental guidelines, as well as protect the communities that surround them. This information can be easily found through organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition /The Higg Index and various textile exchange organizations, like Queen of Raw and The Textile Exchange.

Designers should also try to buy from sustainable textile mills and educate themselves on the global impact that certain textiles have on the environment. Today, organizations are working to certify fibers and textiles with more transparency, so that designers can educate their consumers to make educated choices.

Queen of Raw uses blockchain, a distributed database existing on multiple computers at the same time. It is constantly growing as new sets of recordings, or ‘blocks’, are added to it. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to the previous block, so they actually form a chain. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data, thus guaranteeing a transaction’s authenticity/transparency.

BRING MANUFACTURING HOME

Made in the USA. (Photo credit: US Chamber of Commerce)

Another way designers can make a positive impact on the environment is to manufacture their collections in their own country. In the 198os, 70% of our clothing was made in the United States, today it is only 2%. Bringing manufacturing home will not only help boost the economy, but it will also minimize the environmental stress that comes with shipping, which in turn, will produce less air and ocean pollution.

TEXTILE WASTE

Textiles go to waste. (Photo credit: Apparel News)

As consumers crave the latest trends and our landfills are piling up with last season’s clothes, designers need to make better products with responsible materials so that when they are discarded they leave less pollution. In turn, designers must train consumers to understand quality over quantity.

On February 25, 2020, a new sustainability initiative was announced entitled, Accelerating Circularity, an organization that works with major apparel companies such as Gap Inc., Target Corp. and VF Corp, helping to find ways to eliminate textile industry waste and recycle it into new fibers and materials.

Accelerating Circularity’s mission is to research and identify opportunities in apparel supply chains in order to make them circular, which means taking returned goods and items defined as waste materials and turning them into new textiles. According to Karla Magruder, the group’s leader, “If we’re going to have circularity, textile waste will be the new raw material. We’re going to have to find out how to get from point A to point B. Less than 1 percent of textile waste gets recycled into new textiles. It’s nothing.”

In a 2017 Apparel News article, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 16.9 million tons of textile waste is dumped annually. “There needs to be new maps for the supply chain that don’t exist today. We need to create the knowledge of where the textile waste is, how we should collect it and where we need to feed it to the appropriate recyclers.

FRENCH GOVERNMENT BANS COMPANIES FROM DESTROYING UNSOLD PRODUCTS

 

Twitter post from The Fashion Law (TFL).  (Photo credit: TFL)

Earlier this year, France began working on passing one of the strongest laws when it comes to the handling of unsold garments and accessories. The legislation will ban companies from destroying certain unsold products making good on the French government’s vow to “put in place in the [fashion and textile industries] the major principles of the fight against food waste in order to ensure that unsold materials are not thrown away or destroyed.”

According to TFL’s website, French companies are slated to be subject to more than 100 new sustainability-centric provisions, such as those that require the systematic phasing out of automatic paper receipts and single use plastic in fast food restaurants, followed by the outright ban on all single-use plastics by 2040.

The fashion industry has been especially called out according to French legislators  as “apparel retailers, in particular, as they renew their products more frequently [than other industries] and often have surplus unsold stock.” As a result of its longstanding practice of destroying unsold merchandise to avoid discounting it and/or paying to burn it, the industry itself is one of the biggest culprits in terms of the more than €650 million (nearly $710 million) worth of new consumer products that are destroyed, or disposed of in landfills on an annual basis, according to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s office.

For years prestigious brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, and even H&M, have destroyed their unsold goods as part of a large-scale scheme to maintain its brand image.

CLIMATE CRISIS WILL RESHAPE FINANCE

Laurence D. Fink, the chief of BlackRock. (Photo credit: The New York Times)

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, announced early this month that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as its core goal; stating his firm would avoid investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk.”

According to The New York Times, BlackRock will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business. It will undoubtedly put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched and in the 2020 edition he said that BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprint. “Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.

Fink anticipates a major shift, much sooner than many might imagine, in the way money will be allocated. This dynamic will accelerate as the next generation takes the helm of government and business,” he wrote. “As trillions of dollars shift to millennials over the next few decades, as they become C.E.O.s and C.I.O.s, as they become the policymakers and heads of state, they will further reshape the world’s approach to sustainability.”

This is meaningful news for those companies that are on the forefront of sustainability when it comes to looking for funding.

BEYOND RECYCLING

Puma Shoes. (Photo courtesy of Puma)

Global athletic brand Puma and First Mile have co-created a sportswear and shoe collection made from recycled yarn that is manufactured from plastic bottles collected by the First Mile network.

First Mile is a people-focused network that strengthens micro-economies in Taiwan, Honduras, and Haiti by collecting plastic bottles. This helps to create sustainable jobs and reduce pollution. The bottles are then sorted, cleaned, shredded, and turned into yarn, which is later used to create products with purpose that truly empower from ‘the first mile’ forward.

Plastic recycling in Bangladesh. (Photo by Flickr)

Even though one of the key benefits of this partnership is social impact, the Puma and First Mile program has diverted over 40 tons of plastic waste from landfills and oceans, just for the products made for 2020. This roughly translates into 1,980,286 plastic bottles being reused,” said Stefan Seidel, head of corporate sustainability for Puma. “The pieces from this co-branded training collection range from shoes, tees, shorts, pants and jackets — all the apparel is made of at least 83% to even 100% from the more sustainable yarn sourced from First Mile.”

The collaboration with First Mile is part of Puma’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact and lives up to its code of being “Forever Better.”

CARBON NEUTRAL AND CARBON NEGATIVE

In September 2019, Gucci announced it was going carbon neutral (net-zero), meaning it would no longer be adding carbon into the atmosphere.

Other companies are going ‘carbon negative’, meaning they will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit. In January 2020, Microsoft announced their carbon negative pledge, promising that by 2030, they will remove all of the carbon from the environment that it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975. That goes well beyond a pledge by its cloud-computing rival Amazon, which intends to go carbon neutral by 2040.

According to an article in Fashionista on how brands don’t know enough about their carbon footprint, Elizabeth L. Cline wrote:

” Stand.Earth, an environmental advocacy group, ranked 45 major clothing brands, and found that only two brands — Levi’s and American Eagle Outfitters — are doing enough to curb emissions to keep us under 1.5 degrees of warming, which is the limit recommended by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) published its Green Supply Chain CITI (Corporate Information Transparency Index) ranking, which scores over 400 global brands that manufacture in China, including 80 major clothing companies, based on their efforts to curb pollution and their emissions. What these rankings reveal is that few brands are doing anything to measure their carbon footprint, much less cut it back to an Earth-sparing size.”

Hopefully the tide will turn in 2020 and beyond, as more brands make a concerted effort.

NEW CERTIFICATION HELPS BRANDS

Many fashion brands are claiming to be carbon-neutral but are actually not, a term referred to as “greenwashing.” As of April 2020, a San Francisco-based company called  Climate Neutral is unveiling a Climate Neutral Certified label that will identify companies that have reached a net-zero carbon footprint by reducing and offsetting emissions released through their entire creation process, from design to production to shipping.

Designers can and should play a bigger role in the products that they design. With a trove of agencies, organizations and other resources, there is really no excuse not to be eco-compliant.

OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES

Here are a few additional organizations that are pushing the envelope in sustainability:

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2C)– An organization that educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer products to improve what their products are made of and how they are made.

Evrnu – A new fiber that comes from the recycling of cotton garments. They take garment waste to its supply chain in a way that is good for business, for the environment, and for consumers.

Let us know what you are doing to reduce your carbon footprint and what other agencies you might know to help designers “design green”?

 

The Future of Fashion: Power in Numbers

Year 2020 is upon us, and there’s no better time to take pause, reflect on the decade gone by and plot a bright new course forward.

In the past ten years, the fashion industry has seen some major shifts. In New York alone, the home of fashion week has bounced around from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center to the piers and beyond as designers have adjusted to a changing industry. Once extravagant runway shows have turned into presentations, private viewings for buyers in showrooms and studios, if not online iterations designed to showcase offerings. The power of social media and social media influencers have changed how designers market, brand and promote themselves. And the topics of sustainability, slow fashion and increased concern with how, where and by whom clothing is made have taken center stage.

Consumers have changed, too. In response to the fast and furious pace of social media, “I want it now!” mentality has driven designers to a see now, buy now cycle of production and selling in order to get their customers the clothes they want the day after they see them posted on Instagram. But consumers have also become more thoughtful with the fashion dollars they spend, taking into consideration the consequences of “fast fashion” on the environment and the humans behind the sewing machines making 9.99 trend-of-the-moment pieces.

All in all, the age old model of designing as an independent “head of house” designer, showing a collection, hoping buyers will bite, producing orders and delivering garments six months later to retailers has been turned upside down. Today designers are required to innovate, create, collaborate and develop a path in the fashion industry that will keep their design dreams alive.

The upside of this upheaval is that a bold new day in fashion is upon us—a future that is less about ego and more about educated decisions, less about opulence and more about open conversations about the real challenges our industry is facing. Running a profitable fashion business is a multifaceted operation, with more roles that need to be filled than any one human can possibly sustain.

In our opinion, the path forward will be paved with groups of designers and experts coming together for a common goal. Think of creative factories where there is no singular Marc Jacobs or Ralph Lauren, but instead a group of people, each with a particular talent, banding together as they work toward a common creative vision.

Consider for a moment the power of putting together a team of the following:

Sustainability Expert – Someone who can focus on making affordable and sustainable decisions in terms of materials and processes used. A sustainability expert may also focus on in house sustainable labor practices and options, think creating structure so that all involved enjoy a work/life balance and a healthy environment while at work.

Innovator – A designated innovator is one who can research new methods, ways of producing, materials, structures that support the efficacy of the the team’s common vision. An innovator is focused on the next step of the group’s progress.

Designer(s) – This individual or group of individuals set the aesthetic vision for the group. Imagine bringing together a team with specializations in womenswear, menswear, accessories, etc.

Pattern Maker(s) – Pattern maker(s) carry out the technical aspects of the groups vision, whether by traditional flat pattern or using 3D software, pattern makers create a library of patterns for the group.

Social Media Guru – Someone who thrives on the fast paced, changing world of social media and understands which channels appeal to the group’s customer as well as when and how frequently to release content plays a key role in any successful business today.

Influencer – An influencer who has a significant social media following and who aligns with the vision of the brand can truly alter the course of brand awareness and sales.

Brand Manager – Someone who acts as a liaison between photographers, a social media guru, designers, etc. and makes sure messaging is consistent. A brand manager may also seek out partnership opportunities that support the group.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive…there are models, photographers, and so on to consider. However, just imagine as an emerging designer, dedicating as much time to finding your tribe of like minded people with strengths different from yours as you do to learning how to draw a croquis.

Imagine pooling resources as you build a fashion business.

Imagine having emotional and professional support as you go through the typical ups and downs of any business venture.

And imagine not feeling the weight of an entire fashion brand on your shoulders as well as having a supportive team around you to celebrate the successes you will experience.

This notion of “better together” is already starting to take shape. In a recent WWD article, 7 New Designers to Watch for Spring 2020, you’ll notice only a couple of independent designers. The rest are brands made up of two, sometimes three designers under a common label.

The team at Colville Image: www.drapersonline.com

For example, in Milan, Colville is made up of Lucinda Chambers, Molly Molloy and Kristin Forss, three designers that met 15 years ago while working at Marni. Collectively, they share experience in styling, journalism (Chambers is the former British Vogue fashion director) as well as both menswear and womenswear. They speak to this idea of power in numbers when they say, “We are surrounded by amazing people who have become our mentors and influencers, friends, colleagues and each other. We involve friends to work and collaborate with us, we are building a Colville community, the collection isn’t just one voice and not even three but many, it’s an inspiring way to work.”

The team at Commission Image: @commissionnyc

In New York, Commission, a brand by designers Jin Kay, Dylan Cao and Huy Luong, is a great example of a tribe of designers with a common creative vision. All three designers are first-generation immigrants from Asia and inspired by their mothers’ style. They share an impressive collective resume of experience. Kay has designed for Gucci, Narciso Rodriguez and Prabal Gurung. Cao has taken turns at Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim and R13, and Luong is a photographer with a background in visual communication design. Not only does this tribe of artists share an extensive list of strengths and a creative vision, they are also tied to a greater purpose of combatting the stereotypical and literal translation of “Asian” beauty and culture in the fashion industry.

It’s been a decade since I showed my graduate collection for the Academy of Art at NY Fashion Week (in Bryant Park!) and I never could have predicted how fashion would change. But now, ten years later, I am inspired by the thought of future designers banding together for the ride. Fashion is such a wonderful world of creativity, passion and excitement and it’s meant to be shared. In 2020, my wish for you is to honor and recognize your own strengths and seek out your tribe for the rest!

Are you inspired by other design teams? Please share below in the comments.

 

 

 

 

All Hail the Queen of Raw

Nothing makes us happier at the University of Fashion than featuring power players who are making positive change in the fashion industry. And little did this designer realize I would have my design and production mind blown by the incredible woman you are about to meet.

Enter Stephanie Benedetto, self-proclaimed Queen of Raw.

This former corporate attorney on Wall Street and descendent of an Austrian immigrant turned Lower East Side master furrier is realizing her mission of turning pollution into profit. And maybe more importantly, she’s contributing to a world in which her son can grow up and thrive by breathing in clean air, enjoying access to clean water and wearing non-toxic clothing.

Benedetto suggests turning our traditional design process on its head in an effort to make design sustainable by powering design with dead stock fabrics.

Benedetto explains: Pen to paper or stylus to screen, designing a garment can be one of the most special and intimate experiences an artist can have. It’s no mystery why designers want to start their process with this creative expression. But it’s taking its toll on our world. Where is the business or environmental sense in designing a garment with a fabric in mind without having secured the specific material, figuring out the quantity available, knowing where it’s located, and the ethics in its production? The funnel is broken. Starting with design leaves the rest of the battle uphill.

Have you ever had one of those designer a-ha moments, where everything you’ve been taught somehow goes out the window, and suddenly you see your craft in a new light? Keep reading…

The Queen of Raw continues: The back and forth of swatching and communicating shipping, confirming color, managing orders, the possibility of the material becoming unavailable in the midst of communication – it happens all too often. What if (just trust me for two seconds), what if we started with a material? What if there was a way to see that something was already manufactured and ready to go?”

Once again, a-ah. I’ve faced this production quandary and it wasn’t pretty. On the flip side of things, as an emerging designer with only small orders to fill, I found myself wanting to use fabrics that I could only get by meeting the manufacturer’s minimums. This unfortunate situation left me with all kinds of extra fabric for some garments in my collection and running out of the right fabric (as Benedetto describes above) for others. Had I of started my design process with specific, available fabrics in mind, oh my, how things would have turned out differently.

As if reading my mind, Benedetto continues: You have all the information on where it’s [fabric] coming from, how much is available, how it was made, and it’s cheaper at the same quality you’re used to because it’s “dead stock.” What if designers began with what’s available instead of creating all the problems (for themselves) that slow production down by using/creating new? 

Benedetto will tell you exactly how a fledgling (or seasoned) designer’s business could benefit from this fabric-first design model, and this designer will concur.

Bottom lines would improve.

Price points on finished goods could be more accessible with production costs severely lowered.

Billions of gallons of water would be saved in using already existing excess (700 gallons per yard repurposed).

And fashion could move to the forefront of the sustainable mission instead of being the second biggest contributor to climate change.

Take in those last few words…fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change. As responsible designers and global citizens, it’s important for all of us to consider all the design and production resources (and options) we have at our fingertips, thanks to thought leaders like Benedetto. If sourcing existing fabric options first makes sense to you, waste no time visiting Queen of Raw. As a bonus benefit, Queen of Raw will calculate the environmental impact of your order free of charge and you can pass the good news (and the savings) on to your customers.

Finally, we couldn’t write a post on responsible design and sustainable uses of fabric without giving a shout out to our friends at FabScrap. This incredible resource transports unused fabric from designers’ factories and warehouses to its sorting location. Then FabScrap either recycles scraps or prepares them for sale at a lower cost for designers and crafters. FabScrap even offers fabric sorting volunteer opportunities where you can earn fabric in trade. If you are in NYC, take advantage of one of two FabScrap locations!

If you have sustainable resources of your own to add, please don’t hesitate to comment and share what you know with our community below!