To innovate and produce responsibly is now a must, not just a trend!

overlay crepe de chine trousers irish design sustainable design

At the last Youth Fashion Summit in Copenhagen(May 2016), the likes of Patagonia, Nike, H&M…were represented and were all singing from the same hymn sheet: sustainability is not just a passing trend, it is an essential part of how they run their business and one that needs to be constantly improved upon.

Patagonia has been at the forefront of applying a circular economy model for a long time now and it is receiving an award for doing so in Davos this week.  As Business of Fashion recently reported:

“The whole idea of [the circular economy] is creating no waste,” says Julie Gilhart, a creative business consultant who counts Amazon and LVMH among her clients and has worked with the CFDA to establish a sustainability initiative. “There should be no end of life of anything. Nothing should just sit in landfill.”

Patagonia applies these principles by carefully thinking through each step of the process, says Rose Marcario, chief executive of Patagonia. “It’s really taking end to end responsibility for the product.”

“As the usable lifetime of our products increases, the lifetime environmental footprint decreases,” he explained, describing how the company enables its customers to repair, resell and recycle Patagonia products in order to extend their life. Patagonia has created North America’s largest repair centre and offers mobile repair vehicles that travel around the United States to restore damaged products — free of charge.”(For more see https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/how-patagonia-transformed-the-circular-economy?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=ae53b7089b-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-ae53b7089b-417007029)

Patagonia went as far as encouraging consumers not to buy a product as part of an awareness campaign on Black Friday 2013!

patagonia campaign circular economyI have been inspired by the likes of Patagonia for years and I’m applying the circular economy principles more and more.

It is no longer enough indeed to just use sustainable materials, and produce locally and ethically, we need to take responsibility for the lifetime of the product too. I went to a department store recently, the Autumn Winter sale was on, and I felt nauseous at seeing all these clothes, half of which if not more will end up in landfill! We cannot afford to live a disposable lifestyle anymore and that applies to everything. You know about the litter continent right? There is a “plastic soup” of non-biodegradable trash floating somewhere between Japan and North America, it is sometimes called the “Great Pacific Garbage Pack” (read more here: http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/).

great pacific garbage patchI have for some years now encouraged my clients to use upcycling as a way to lengthen the lives of their clothes. I currently teach upcycling and sewing skills and I have consciously reduced the size of my production and I am making sure I am not buying new fabrics unless I absolutely have to. I use existing end of rolls. I have recycled my fabric scraps and given them away to customers who have made gorgeous elephant toys out of them( see below) or purses or cards etc…

upcycling and reusing scraps of fabricDenmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said at the Summit that he wanted his country to become the “first sustainable fashion nation”! Here is what the attendees of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit came up with, very promising indeed!

Youth Fashion Summit Manifesto — 7 Demands for The Fashion Industry, presented at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 12 May 2016

The manifesto is developed by 116 fashion and business students from 40 different nationalities. For three days, they worked on how to implement the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals in the fashion industry to promote a sustainable future.

1. As a group of CEOs, business and opinion leaders, academics and students, would you be here today without equal access to education? As inheritors of your roles, we demand empowerment and education of workers and consumers.

We realise you are very intelligent and influential. But you are kind of stuck in a system that is not really working anymore. So, we want to present our desired future.

In 2030, the fashion industry will have blended the line between work and education. Government, businesses and media will have created a positive symbiotic partnership that encourages the wellbeing of all it touches. With an online learning platform, we will be able to train employees, allowing them to build their technical and personal skills. It will have a positive effect on employee contentment and overall productivity. This platform will be incentivised by governments and employed by businesses.

Moreover, we believe that education should not just involve the makers but also the wearers. The media has a huge impact and so does technology and innovation!

Government and businesses can, together with the media, educate and cultivate behavioural change amongst consumers through their influence and widespread reach.  This will create a feedback loop that in turn feeds back to the business.

With such an open system, education both within and across cultures will allow empowerment to be possible for all. I hope we have empowered you to join us on this journey!

2. As inheritors of your roles, we demand that the fashion industry takes drastic and immediate action towards implementing closed-loop water systems to ensure that the industry is not dependent on fresh water as a resource.

According to the UN, without immediate action from the fashion industry, clean water will no longer be an accessible resource by 2030 for half of the world’s population.

This is not acceptable. Instead, we imagine a future where the fashion industry is no longer the second biggest water consuming industry. We imagine a world where there is full awareness of the chemicals in our fresh water and their effects on 9 billion people.

We also imagine a drastic shift in how we use and value water, creating a culture that both respects and learns from the value of our resources.

The technology of water recycling is out there, so let us implement it today.

3. As inheritors of your roles, we demand a long-term investment in the well-being of the community as a whole, through: fair wages; improving infrastructure; ensuring food security.

I would like to tell you the story of a man that I am pretty sure you know already. His name? Brunello Cucinelli. Cucinelli is the living proof that creating a corporate culture that encompasses the local community is possible; as a matter of fact, it is happening as we speak — his commitment managed to revitalise an entire Italian village. Now, the community is part of the industry and the industry is part of the community. Working hand in hand and mutually gaining — they have not only increased the quality of the final product but, ultimately, the quality of living.

In this new model that we consider should be the new normal, community and industry thrive together by respecting the hands and hearts involved in the garment’s life cycle.

4. What do capital, profit and success mean to you? What if, by 2030, they meant something completely different? As inheritors of your roles, we demand you all to collaborate as active investors in a fashion industry where capital, profit and success are redefined and measured in more than monetary value.

By 2030, these concepts must be measured side-by-side with a holistic view of wellbeing, social security and global health.

The priority must be on collaboration, on knowledge sharing, on rethinking where we place our value and a lowering of the barriers between people, companies and countries which halt the flow of progress.

We want you to imagine a future wherein success can be measured not just through financial gains, but equally through the sharing and increasing of knowledge, technological innovation and social and environmental progress.

5. As inheritors of your roles, we demand that by 2030 fashion is no longer the second-largest polluting industry in the world.

You — global policy makers — must work together with NGOs, brands and corporations to create and implement legislation for no more land abuse. Invest in research and innovation.

It is vital that we take responsibility in restoring the air, water and land that we have altered.

Furthermore, we must create more opportunities for life. To let this world flourish, we must stop taking that which we cannot restore.

We are running out of resources.

6. As the next generation and inheritors of your roles, and our waste, we demand that designers, brands and governments collaboratively invest in the recycling technology and infrastructure that is needed to secure and enable a circular system. 

Products, fabrics and fibres will be infinitely cycled within and across industries. Today’s textile waste is tomorrows textile resource.

We support the concept of mass balance and ask that brands give as much into the system as they take out. This encompasses the continual sourcing of recycled content and active collection of textiles. Government must support this through incentives and regulations, so that early adopters benefit from circular behaviour.

We want an industry that has zero waste practices embedded in its DNA and causes no unnecessary harm. This means a strategic cross-industry roadmap to eliminate post-industrial, pre-consumer and post-consumer waste.

We also demand that brands proactively support the system, by incorporating design for circularity as a driving philosophy in their work.

Our vision is a fashion world in 2030, where circularity is business as usual.

7. As inheritors of your roles, we demand economic consequences in order to reverse standards.

We need to reverse the profitability of being unsustainable. Sustainability should be rewarded. This is why we are addressing you, the companies, the governments, the game changers of tomorrow.

The world happiness report validates the notion that happiness does not increase with financial exponential growth. For this reason, our industry needs to look at other metrics of success.

We need to build a resilient infrastructure in order to create green cities.

In short, we are going to penalise reckless businesses and invest that money in sustainable fashion initiatives.

Through this, sustainability will be the standard in 2030. No one wants to be labelled as something negative, but in the future we want to expose the ones that are. Sustainability is the norm.

Our industry has to reward the people that are making a change.

For more information please visit youthfashionsummit.com