From the 19th to the 21st of September 2020, DaTE, an event dedicated to eyewear, opened in Florence. At the same time, in Milan, (19th to 22nd September) the HOMI Fashion & Jewels Exhibition, lead the way – an event dedicated to jewellery and fashion accessories, organised by Fiera Milano. Then, partially simultaneously, from the 20th to the 23rd of September, the other events that make up the Confindustria Moda constellation were held: MICAM Milano, the International Exhibition dedicated to footwear, now in its ninetieth edition, MIPEL, an international event dedicated to leather goods, an edition of TheOneMilano Special, featured by MICAM, the women’s haut-à-porter salon, and A NEW POINT OF VIEW, the special format by LINEAPELLE that will showcase the most exclusive semi-finished leather products. Micam’s #STRONGERTOGETHER: The accessory events restarted together to support the respective market sectors!
Balenciaga has launched a new capsule collection from which 10% of the proceeds will be donated to charity. Named the “Pink Ribbon Capsule,” the range features tees, long-sleeves and hoodies with the slogan “WE ARE PINK” accompanied by the universally recognized symbol for breast cancer awareness, the looped pink ribbon.
10% of the proceeds from the products will help fund a research program at Institut Curie aiming to demonstrate the utilit of an early breast cancer relapse detection method, which measures circulating tumor DNA from a simple blood draw.
MICAM Milano Digital Show was created with the aim of completing the traditional MICAM Milano exhibition offer. It is a digital platform designed to provide exhibitors with enhanced business opportunities, thanks to its full integration with modern digital marketing and customer management tools, creating the perfect match between buyer and exhibitor.
MICAM Milano has established a strategic partnership with NuORDER, the leading eCommerce platform for b2b purchases and sales, establishing a single platform for communication, sales support and post-sale services for the footwear industry.
Exhibitors can publish their product catalogues on the new digital platform and reach a community of over 500,000 buyers, enabling their customers to find them and plan their visit before coming to the fair, and continue to browse the collection and place orders after the physical event is concluded. The digital platform is available to access until November 15th, 2020.
Marc Jacobs has teamed up with Dr. Martens as part of the iconic footwear brand’s ongoing 1460 remastered collaboration to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Inspired by the years of customisation and DIY attitude that has shaped both brands, their latest 1460 Remastered boot is completely vegan with all the same disruptive DNA. Jacobs first collaborated with Dr. Martens, 27 years ago in 1993, with his DM’s-adored Perry Ellis grunge collection and it is this “shared history of rebellion” that the designer was chosen to be part of the 1460 remastered collaboration series.
Riccardo Tisci’s Spring/Summer 2021 Burberry collection ‘In Bloom’ was brought to life amongst the freedom of the British outdoors through a powerful live performance – created by Riccardo and artist Anne Imhof and staged for a digital audience.
‘As humans, we have always had a deep affinity to nature. We have had to respect and rely upon its power for our very existence, whilst marvelling and revelling in its extraordinary beauty. Especially recently, we have all yearned to reconnect again. For this show, I wanted to celebrate these feelings by bringing our community together in a creative experience that takes place within the beautiful, natural landscape of Britain.’ -Riccardo Tisci, Chief Creative Officer
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF S/S 2021 DIGITAL FASHION WEEKS
As global travel restrictions disrupted the fashion calendar this year, designers and fashion brands had to creatively adapt to a new virtual presentation format. London Fashion Week Digital, Paris Fashion Week Online and Milan Digital Fashion Week were all presented online with some brands also incorporating offline components.
Among the standout presentations were Prada, whose “Prada Multiple Views SS21” collection commissioned diverse global artists to make creative short films; Loewe, whose menswear S/S 2021 collection was a “Show-in-a-Box” that translated the collection into physical objects presented in a ten-pound archival dossier; Jacquemus whose physical runway show “L’Amour,” set in a wheat field in Us, France, was coupled with a robust social media campaign; “Phlegethon,” Rick Owens’ menswear S/S 2021 video presentation, filmed in Italy; and a lookbook from Gucci worn by the brand’s design team and presented with a 12-hour livestream video.
In spite of this creativity, overall critical reception was mixed. There was consensus that these first digital fashion forays were more prototype than finished product. Speaking to Women’s Wear Daily, Bruce Pask, menswear director of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, commented that there was not enough focus on product images. For buyers, it was difficult to grasp an idea of each collection from digital presentations which were more like mood boards than product catalogues, as Matchesfashion Men’s Style Director Simon Chilvers recently pointed out in an interview with La Conceria.
Clearly, these shows have been watched, by professionals as well as end consumers, which boosted engagement and awareness. But they did not automatically translate into wholesale sales. The digital buying process is new to everyone. Although it has certain advantages – for instance, it offers a quicker overview of product range and simplifies the selection of key outfits as well as digital archiving – it doesn’t flow naturally.
“Without the real-life interaction, it feels rushed. It’s hard to make decisions over large investments digitally,” a German buyer told WeAr. With so much at stake in an economically uncertain time, the unfamiliar environment makes the selection process much harder. Ramon Ehlen, co-owner of Labels in Sittard, the Netherlands said: “[Digital appointments] were okay, but not as nice as a normal showroom visit. It is important to feel the vibe of the showroom. In the next season, I hope we can go to the physical showroom”. And Peek & Cloppenburg KG, Düsseldorf told us: “Our buyers were positively surprised how smoothly the ordering process can run even on this changed path. Nevertheless, the digital offer cannot replace the ‘look & feel’ [of the real]. The feel of the fabrics and materials is essential for our work.”
Of the all the digital events, Milan Digital Fashion Week ranked first among digital fashion weeks with 58% (6.24M EUR) of the total combined Earned Media Value (10.74M EUR) of the events, according to DMR Group, a media monitoring firm for the luxury market. Milan Digital Fashion Week launched an ambitious online platform that with presentations from 42 fashion houses and a collection of 73 online showrooms representing 457 brands. The event also featured Together for Tomorrow, a collection of 11 new designers, and International Fashion Hub Market, with 10 international menswear brands. Brands such as Alberta Ferretti, Ermenegildo Zegna, Marni, Moschino and Prada participated along with showrooms such as Spazio38, Showroom Marcona3, and Slam Jam.
In Munich and Düsseldorf, real life showrooms, which operated under strict security measures, were well frequented. While companies like Zalando imposed a complete travel ban, other stores, like Breuninger, allowed their buyers to travel at least nationally. Whilst it is possible to order online with systems like JOOR, buying is still mainly a people’s business: buyers need to understand the brand’s emotions, and a sales person will still be required to respond to a customer’s individual wishes. As Peek & Cloppenburg put it: “For the future, a combination of process-supporting digitalisation with conventional sample parts would be desirable. We see an advantage for short-term procurement needs in the expanded offerings in the area of 3D simulations.”
Despite the challenges adapting to the new digital format, a hybrid digital and physical buying experience could offer a more efficient and innovative experience for brands and buyers alike.
For this special issue, WeAr asks top denim professionals – including Designers, CEOS, Manufacturers, Fabric and Fiber Specialists: WHAT WILL BE THE CRUCIAL INNOVATIONS THAT FINALLY POSITION DENIM AS A SUSTAINABLE CATEGORY?
Ani Wells, Founder, Simply Suzette
The denim industry has been working tirelessly to come up with solutions to producing this resource intensive garment. But, it seems, the collaborative efforts and knowledge shared within the denim community has put us ahead of the fashion industry in general.
Traditionally, synthetic indigo requires petroleum, formaldehyde and cyanide, as well as other toxic substances, to turn the powdered form into a liquid dye. However, the newest innovation is bio-engineered indigo, which genetically engineers bacteria to mirror the way Polygonum Tinctorium makes and holds its color. This, paired with regenerative / carbon positive farming methods and chemically recycling cotton textiles, will help position denim as a ‘sustainable’ category.
Maurizio Donadi, Founder, Atelier & Repairs
While innovation is about technical experimentation and may take time, the first innovative step to make denim a more sustainable garment is to produce less of it.
In fact, the vast majority of issues with denim lie in design flaws and the extraordinary overproduction of jeans, compromising the health of people and the environment.
Here I suggest a few steps toward a more sustainable and responsible approach to denim:
1. Design for circularity and commit to producing long-lasting goods.
2. Reduce production.
3. ‘Re-imagine’ / re-design so as to reduce the extraordinarily high obsolete global inventory of finished product and textile.
4. Invest in textile technology and testing in order to create the friendliest products for people and the environment.
5. Publicly and transparently share the way your brand works.
In the end, it comes down to a simple concept: be content with your company being smaller in size, higher in quality, equally profitable for investors and workers and, most importantly, honest.
Paul Dillinger, Vice President of Global Product Innovation, Levi Strauss & Co.
We’ve got a great-looking pair of Levi’s in our archive that are about 134 years old: a beautiful shade of indigo and a stunning authentic finish. The fit is wearable and relevant, and would look great on the streets of Tokyo, Paris – or even Paris, Texas. The relative environmental impact from making a jean in 1884 is nearly negligible when amortized over 134 years. We’ve made ‘sustainable jeans’.
We can refine and improve the technical industrial cycle – exploring advanced man-made cellulosic fibers made from post-consumer garment waste to replace virgin cotton. We can use newly re-formulated synthetic dye types that save water, eliminate effluent and reduce the carbon footprint of denim production. Alternatively, we can work to revive a more natural industrial cycle – eliminating synthetic material and chemical inputs through the use of organic cotton, hemp and indigo alternatives.
The best expression to this multidisciplinary ‘systems-based’ approach is our new Levi’s WELLTHREAD jeans made with Circulose from ReNewcell– a new recycling technology that turns old jeans into a new, high-quality viscose alternative.
Following strict standards for circular production, we sent samples of these new jeans made from old jeans back to ReNewcell and confirmed that they can be put back into their circular system for a potential 3rd generation of material value. This approach to holistic design for circular systems will be the ‘deciding innovation’ that ensures a sustainable future for our industry.
Adriano Goldschmied, Founder, Genius Group
Sustainability in denim business involves farming, indigo dye production, chemistry, textile machine makers, spinning, weaving, indigo dye systems, fabric finishing, garment design, pattern making, cutting and sewing, garment finishing, creating energy, transportations and many other elements. Clearly, there isn’t a ‘secret weapon’ that could improve them all at once. Only a combination of initiatives in every area can transform denim from the second most polluting industry to a sustainable one.
Lately, there has been a lot of discussions around garment finishing. The introduction of new machines like Ozone and Laser, as well as water recycling and new methods and wash formulas, brought a dramatic improvement. But all the other steps involved in making a jean require the same attention.
Luckily, change is underway. Take, for instance, the inventions by HUUE: through a biological process, they plan to produce indigo dye from sugar cane, eschewing the toxic method we use today.
In the end, the most game-changing innovation is collective awareness of the importance of sustainability.
Iu Franquesa, Founder, Companion Denim
For the biggest portion of denim, where the jeans are pre-washed and distressed, the key factors in sustainability will be the reduction of water consumption, and using fewer and more environmentally friendly chemicals, along with reducing the carbon footprint by shortening the production distances between the suppliers to the warehouses and the shops.
Sustainability should be taken as a holistic concept that is implemented across each and every detail, be it the product itself, the labeling, the packaging or even the shipping method.
Laura Vicaria, CSR Manager, MUD Jeans
Currently, cotton is one of the most environmentally expensive steps in the production of jeans. This is true even when you use organic cotton. Therefore, further reducing or eliminating our dependency on this raw material could have a significant positive impact. MUD Jeans is currently working on a project called the Road to 100. In collaboration with Circle Economy, Saxion University, and Recover, the objective is to create a pair of jeans that is 100% made from post-consumer recycled cotton. Through this project, we aim to tackle the short fiber issue: standard mechanical recycling blends recycled cotton into yarn that is used to make new jeans, but the cotton is shredded in such a way that the resulting fibers are too short. We are resolving this by mixing two recycling techniques: molecular and mechanical. Through this combination, we aim to maintain the look and feel of jeans while eliminating the use of virgin organic cotton entirely.
Martin Höfeler, CEO, ARMEDANGELS
We all love our denims, but denim is a dirty business. With us, no harmful chemicals are used to treat our denims. We use modern techniques such as laser or ozone treatment. You will hardly spot a difference to conventional bleaching, except that we use 85% fewer chemicals. And for the rest, we make sure it meets the GOTS criteria. A few more nice figures: laser saves 62% energy and 67% water. With our ‘detox denim’, we are taking a big step forward towards a more sustainable fashion industry.
Uwe Kippschnieder, Denim Developer, CLOSED
Today there are great opportunities for all three aspects of denim:
The yarns: I believe reducing the amount of fresh cotton is key on the mill’s side.
This could be by using modern cellulose fibers such as Tencel Refibra or by expanding the recycled content of a denim.
The dye: There are revolutionary techniques, such as Kitotex, Smart Indigo, vegetable sizing agents or dyeing methods using nitrogen. Each one of them is drastically reducing the use of chemicals, water and energy, and some of them can be combined for even greater results.
The wash: Italian laundries such as Everest or I.T.A.C. have been putting all their efforts into ‘greener’ washes for many years. Thanks to their steady R&D, we are now able to create perfect vintage images but on a super-low impact base.
High-definition laser, ozone treatments, artificial instead of pumice stones, foam and nebula applications: all these techniques lead us to more sustainable washings.
Angel Nokonoko, Founder, NokNok Denim
If we are talking about having close to 100% sustainable products, then we have to innovate and invest in different areas; in the way we source the raw materials, using recycled or organic fibers, and making trimmings like buttons, zippers or rivets using chemical-free products. Another key point is the washing process: laundries need to invest in innovative technologies that will help achieve sustainable washes with machines like Ozone, Eflow or Laser, among others, which will substitute bleaches and other harmful chemicals. In addition, innovation in new ETP plant technologies will reduce water and electricity usage.
But the most important and decisive innovations are awareness, information and responsibility – and that the consumer understands this industry and that the industry is transparent and ethical in its practices.
Andrea Venier, Managing Director, OFFICINA+39
A big change is happening in the denim industry, and personally I like the challenge. And for a chemical company like us, this means huge R&D investments to replace old practices with better and greener ones.
Products like potassium permanganate alternatives are really innovating our denim industry.
But in the end, the big innovation for the denim sector is to transform the fashion industry into a transparent, responsible and sustainable system that celebrates the stories, the people and the resources behind each pair of jeans.
Tricia Carey, Director Global Business Development Denim, Lenzing
There isn’t just one innovation that will allow us to make a sustainable garment; it takes all the innovations to collide in a scalable way – only then will we have a sustainable garment. It is about looking at best in class for each component. Utilizing fibers with a low environmental footprint, like Tencel Lyocell fibers or circularity with Refibra technology, as a starting point. A reduction in water, chemical and energy use in indigo dyeing and utilizing laser and ozone technology for finishing with fair labor standards. Redefining value to mean a best in class product while considering people and the planet.
Stéphane Jaspar, Chief Marketing Officer, Scotch & Soda
The use of organic cotton is one of the key agents of change to achieve sustainability, although there are still efforts to be made. Denim has been at the core of Scotch & Soda since the brand’s inception in 1985, and it is important to us to be part of the solution as well, so the increasing use of organic cotton in our collections is key.
Another important factor is the growing use of recycled fibers from either pre- or post-consumer waste, which is otherwise often destined for landfill. This procedure reduces the need to create newly manufactured fibers, consequently saving energy, dyes and chemicals, which in turn also reduces pollution.
But one of the most crucial practices that recent technology is allowing us to carry out is the ability to save water in a significant way. With our denim, we are aiming to reduce the amount of the precious element used in the manufacture process by 50% within the next two years.
Kim Hyldahl, CEO and founder, MOS MOSH and MOS MOSH Gallery
MOS MOSH has been working with the same denim manufactures in Turkey from its beginning in 2010. We have seen a dramatic change in the industry, making it a place where almost anything is possible in terms of sustainability. At the same time, the complexity of denim from the point of view of fibers, wash, treatments and trim makes it really challenging to define what a sustainable pair of jeans might look like. For us, the main focus going forward is reducing the amount of water use to zero.
It feels like these last years of focus on sustainability are now paying off, with a variety of fabrics made from post-consumer fibers, recycled or organic. Most recently we have been experimenting with recycled elastane. In the end of the day sustainability is also about creating beautiful product with high durability.
Paul Marciano, Chief Creative Officer, GUESS?, Inc.
The innovations exist to make denim more sustainable – there is waterless and chemical-free
technology, and innovative and more natural dye processes. But what we lack is the expertise,
the resources to have each and every vendor invest in and learn this technology, and the new trends and culture to support the effort. This is starting to change, and it starts with leadership. GUESS is proud to be part of Jeans Redesign, which is a comprehensive guide for 100% circular, recyclable and sustainable denim. By working toward a common goal within the denim industry, we will collectively redesign and communicate sustainable denim in a common way. This will help to make people less confused about sustainability and form a better understanding and expectation for sustainable denim. I believe this is what was missing and will make a huge impact to drive the change we need to more rapidly drive widespread adoption of sustainable innovation in denim.
GUESS is quickly growing our ‘Smart GUESS’ collection, which uses 20%-100% smart materials that are better for the environment. We are focused on sustainable materials because over half of a product’s environmental impact comes from the fabric!
For denim specifically, in addition to the Jeans Redesign program, GUESS is also working to use less
water through waterless technology and developing denim with innovative materials such as our zero
cotton denim which will be available next year.
Magdalena and Markus Budim, Founders, The Budims
Of course, technical highlights and improved materials are essential in order to be able to achieve the highest level of sustainability in all areas. From our point of view, however, it is not only the innovations mentioned above that lead to the final positioning of a sustainable product, but effective communication about it is crucial – especially if it is a long-standing product. What good is the exemplary effort if the added value is overlooked by consumers? We know from our retail experience that the majority of consumers do not yet even know how “dirty” denim can be.
In order to achieve an effective and unshakable breakthrough, ignorance must first be tackled through radical and overt explanations and transparency. That will cause an enormous shock, but it will also raise awareness, we are sure of that.
John Rossell, Head of Creative & Marketing, AG Jeans
Sustainability in denim won’t necessarily come from a silver bullet in innovation, but instead will come with an economy of scale. As production increases and becomes more widespread, costs will become less prohibitive for the general denim industry to adopt. That will only happen when leaders commit to sustainability early on, shouldering the heavy costs of developing resources and processes, and setting a course for others to follow. Brands like AG continue to invest more into sustainability, such as our water recycling technology we launched in 2019, or our exploration into of sustainable fabrics like hemp and Tencel, or creating a garment recycling program to encourage responsible disposal or even circularity; it’s these early efforts at the forefront that will be the deciding factor in creating a sustainable denim industry.
Jason Denham, CCO and Founder, Denham
There has been an incredible transition during the last decade by every component that makes up a jean. The type of cotton we use, the dye stuff, the weaving methods, the waste-less technology and the efforts to preserve and recycle water. Not only fabric but also laundry, manufacturing, packaging and even PCR (post-consumer recycling). I have also said many times that denim jeans are the most sustainable and hard-wearing product on the planet. Jeans last a very long time and often have a second and third life, being passed on to friends, family or thrift stores. Denim gets better the more you wear it and it doesn’t need washing every time you wear it; denim lovers love their jeans and they love to save water!
Reinhard Haase, CEO, True Religion Brand Jeans Germany GmbH and UNIFA Gruppe
Our manufacturing company for denims has invested in new machines, so we have our own cleansing system in-house. The used water will be cleaned up and used directly for the next production, so we are reducing water consumption.
We are also looking into recycled denim for the future.
Garments made with natural fibers like cotton, hemp, linen, wool and some semi-synthetic fibers, specifically Tencel and Modal, are good sustainable choices here. We are looking for a kind of natural dyeing, which is not a very common practice in the fashion industry. Clothing dyed with natural materials like indigo is better for you and the environment.
Sean Gormley, Global Concept Director, Wrangler
We have recently launched a breakthrough technology: Indigood, a sustainable indigo dye that uses foam to replace vat dyeing. Eco-tech finishing throughout our ranges achieves the popular washed and distressed looks of denim with a fraction of the water, energy and chemicals used in conventional processes. Many innovations are available in dyeing and finishing. But the deciding area where innovation is required to position denim as truly sustainable is cotton.
Cotton will continue to play a dominant role in denim. Yes, there are great alternatives to virgin cotton such as hemp, cellulosic fiber and mechanical recycled cotton, which can and should be blended to lessen the need for new virgin cotton. However, it’s important that across the globe farmers adopt new and innovative farming techniques that are proven to greatly reduce the environmental impact of growing cotton and improve soil health.
Donna Ida, Owner, Donna Ida
We are in the process of working with our factory to add Environmental Impact Measuring scores to our products. This means that you can see the impact of certain washes (some have more impact than others). For example, our Blackest and Milk styles are made with fabrics that contain Tencel and have a Low Impact EIM score.
Blue denim can be high impact due to the amount of washing that goes into creating different shades. The Blackest and Milk fabrics are not washed, which ensures they are super low impact.
Martijn Hagman, Chief Executive Officer, Tommy Hilfiger Global & PVH Europe
With denim, the key to unlocking innovation is through strong partnerships with vendors and denim industry leaders that are committed to creating more sustainable products.
Together, we have aligned on low impact processes and established key sustainability metrics that we must all measure ourselves against, including the circularity of the design process, durability of the end product, resources used, and how we manage waste. To facilitate these goals, we created the Denim Lab – part of our Product Innovation Center – which develops sustainable finishing techniques that reduce water and chemical consumption by up to 70%. Currently, more than two million pieces have been finished using lower impact methods, and by the end of 2020, one million pieces will be made using post-consumer recycled cotton.
Vincent Qin, Chief Marketing Officer, Envoy Textiles
If there is a deciding innovation that will position denim as a sustainable garment, it would be innovation in dyeing technology. If there’s any dyeing technology that can achieve satisfactory color without excessive dyeing, that means less dyeing product used, less water used and less energy used; consequently, the laundry process will become easier, less time consuming and, in a word, more sustainable.
Deborah Turner, Marketing Manager, Vicunha Europe
There will always be a market for cotton, but we will need to demonstrate sustainable water use and provide complete transparency. This is not to say that it is wrong to have looked at alternative fibers, but we need to be realistic about their ability to replace cotton and, in particular, their scalability.
The biggest single step would be a commitment to selling garments with a minimum combined recycled content of 25%. This could have a huge impact on the overall business, not to mention landfill, and it’s something that the customer could clearly understand. Vicunha have articles that use no virgin cotton at all but a combination of pre- and post-consumer recycled cotton with Refibra and Tencel, so an average of 25% seems manageable. If this were the normal basic requirement alongside complete transparency, it would put an end to throwaway fashion.
Özge Özsoy, Marketing Chief, Bossa
We adopted the following procedures aimed at reducing our environmental impact: sustainable materials, energy efficiency, water saving, process engineering, certification, social responsibility, re-usage, collaboration and co-creation.
Recycling, reducing and saving are critical. We need a stable and sustainable system in which natural resources are renewed and waste never accumulates: a closed loop. At Bossa, we are developing a zero-waste life cycle to close the loop.
Transparency is just as important. In our D-CHRONICLES concept, we have partnered with FibreTrace to provide trust and traceability.
For this issue, WeAr asked experts across the industry from fiber manufacturers to academics, authors to retailers, how the fashion industry can use the Covid-19 crisis to establish more sustainable practices and attitudes. The responses touch upon a vast range of important topics. Some of the key themes that have emerged are new consumer mindsets; the idea of ‘less is more’; slowing down; rethinking the fashion calendar; reinventing raw materials; recalibrating the supply chain; and, of course, a circular paradigm both in production and consumption.
Stephanie Joy Benedetto, CEO & Co-Founder, Queen of Raw
Fast fashion has driven a drastic increase in textile production. Global per capita textile production has increased from 5.9 kg to 13 kg per year over the period 1975 – 2018 and is projected to continue growing. Up to 15% of that fabric is wasted.
This waste is occurring now more than ever and it is polluting our drinking water. One tee shirt takes 700 gallons of water to produce. If we continue at the current pace of textile production, by 2025, two-thirds of the entire world’s population will face shortages of freshwater and be exposed to hazardous chemicals from textile production alone. So we are not talking about 100 years from now, or even 50 years from now. We are talking about today and on our shores.
We are in a period of massive disruption, requiring us to digitally innovate our way out of crisis. For supply chains to be resilient and agile, this means cutting costs while sustainably securing the materials needed across supply lines in real time. Unused textiles can still fill orders on demand and away from areas impacted by disruption, while supporting commitments to sustainability.
We have already saved over 1 billion gallons of water. That’s enough clean water for 1.43 million people to drink around the world for three years.
Stefaan Vandist, Author of We, Myself & A.I. and Pretopia
A sustainable fashion revolution awaits … thanks to biotechnology
When we look at fashion from a materials angles, clothing always has a petrochemical, vegetable or animal origin. All of them have their own sustainability issues. However, nature’s bacteria, algae and fungi can bring a sustainable revolution.
Covid-19 caused upheaval in the fashion economy – companies already struggling might disappear. But why invest to keep a sputtering economy alive, when you can also invest in a new system?
Biotech start-ups bring climate-positive, biological, non-toxic and regenerative processes to produce textiles, plastic and artificial leather faster, cheaper, safer and more sustainable.
Covid-19 made it clear that our society can react extremely fast and change course. And innovative and agile companies will benefit from changing fashion production processes. This sustainable change is coming … from biotechnology. Changing one of the most polluting industry into a (more) sustainable one.
Luxury and sports brands are taking the lead. Eco-pioneer Algix (Mississippi, USA) grows algae with polluted water and CO₂ as main raw materials. Together with brands such as Vivabarefoot, H&M, Billabong and Clarks, they will have the capacity to produce 500 million pairs of shoes per year from their climate-positive material ‘bloom foam’. Other promising gamechangers are Ginkgo Bioworks, Algiknit, Ecovative, Colorifix and Modern Meadow.
Paul Marciano, Chief Creative Officer, GUESS?, Inc.
While the Covid-19 crisis has turned the world upside down, it is also helping us to see what is most important in life. While luxury is nice, what is most important right now is family and essential needs.
We are all becoming more mindful, including about what we wear. Customers want the brands they love to align with their values. At GUESS, already prior to the pandemic, we were focused on making high quality products that are versatile, durable and sustainable. We use organic, recycled and responsibly sourced materials that are better for the environment, and are working with our factories to increase awareness and take action on environmental issues. This effort is all about transparency. We are asking our factories to share with us what they are doing, which we take into consideration when selecting vendors, and we are working our way to then be more transparent with the customer on where and how our products are made. Transparency, quality and sustainability are the way forward for our industry.
Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis and Deluxe
The Covid-19 period, with lockdown throughout the world, has allowed the fashion industry to step back and reassess everything from supply chain to retail, and many brands have done so. We’ve seen the shifting of delivery schedules to be more in sync with seasons, the reduction of the number of collections produced each year, and the transformation of fashion weeks into digital platforms, which is less polluting than the physical editions. But we also saw some horrors: mainly, that brands didn’t pay for or collect finished orders in sourcing countries like Bangladesh, with clothes sitting in containers on docks, and workers unable to pay their bills, even starving. This is an industry-wide embarrassment that must be rectified. Brands insist that they source in these poor countries because they want to lift their citizens out of poverty. That has been proven to be wholly untrue. It is time for brands to pay their workers a living wage, and not one dime less. Until then, fashion will be seen as ugly.
Franc’ Pairon, Founder of La Cambre Mode and IFM MA Design Paris
Fashion is ill. This phenomenon is not new: frantic pace of creative production, pirating of ideas, surplus production, shifting of seasons, anachronistic sales …
The entire system needed to be reviewed. Several voices were raised to denounce these dysfunctions, but the cogs were too well oiled to be stopped! It took a planetary health crisis, Covid-19, to impose a period of reflection … mandatory and perhaps beneficial.
The rhythm of always new collections had something inhuman about it. This mandate to create collection after collection put the studios in constant turmoil. Journalists barely had time to decipher the novelties, and retailers were lost in the multitude of offers. At all levels, the unease was noticeable.
Can we believe in more sustainable practices? There will now be a dark period in our fashion landscape: layoffs, restructurings, bankruptcies. Will it be bad for good? Consumers have been living in confinement and were confronted with their living space … with often overflowing wardrobes!
Covid-19 will inevitably change the buying behavior. A new fashion effervescence has yet to be found.
Sonja Noël, Owner, Stijl Brussels
Covid-19 has fuelled people’s awareness to “buy locally”: local production (e.g. in Europe) means less transport, less pollution in the production chain and better working conditions.
Covid-19 also inspired consumers to “buy less”. Less but better: beautiful pieces that become a part of oneself and which one can enjoy for years.
This may cost the consumer (slightly) more, but “paying a higher price is an added value”: it will help to keep the entire industry alive and counter the impossible-to-follow (from a retailer point of view) discounting. This “race to the bottom”, to be the first to sell at a discount prices, eventually caused the current overproduction.
This “fashion with added value” – local creation and manufacturing, no production (and discount) rat-race. Fashion with value is made manually and has an artisanal production process. Made in small quantities, it becomes the new exclusivity.
Dana Davis, Vice President of Sustainability, Product and Business Strategy, Mara Hoffman
Sustainability has been inherent to us since we transitioned into a more aware, responsible and accountable business model back in 2015. Covid-19 hasn’t changed that for us. Before we faced the pandemic, we were thinking about the next evolution of our brand and this moment in time has forced us to make these changes abruptly, which affected our structure and production times.
To us, the future means breaking away from the traditional fashion calendar, producing less, and working with existing fabrics and products to create something new. We will continue to push innovation within circular systems and create new business models to support that work. When we were first getting started in our shift, we looked to other brands who were leaders in this space long before us for guidance. Collaboration will be extremely important if we want to change the industry as a whole, not just within brands, but also with retailers, manufacturers, vendors, etc.
Anastasia Podolskaya, Founder, Sane Fashion Philosophy
The first thing all fashion companies should pay attention to is the supply chain. Responsible choice and close relationships with the producers of raw materials, suppliers and factories is a path not only to sustainable development, but also to reducing many risks associated with a pandemic.
Openness and transparency in communications become a new necessity. Customers pay more attention to the ethical side of companies. They want to make sure that people involved in the production of clothing are socially protected and do not suffer from discrimination or any kind of violence. And the guarantee of this is the maximum traceability of the supply chain, as well as the open publication of information such as addresses, phone numbers and photos of factories, mentions of suppliers, certificates, and the company’s environmental and social initiatives.
It is worth noting that transparency is integral to an ethical and sustainable business. And the crisis very clearly highlighted the failure of the majority on this very issue.
Martijn Hagman, Chief Executive Officer, Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe
Covid-19 has only accelerated how we’re approaching sustainability. The pandemic has forced us all to think differently – to let go of traditional ways of working and seek innovation that furthers our vision in the context of this new world. Now is the time to drive real change throughout the fashion industry by rethinking current business models and practices. In our own value chain, we’ve implemented new solutions to promote environmental and social sustainability, all aligned to our mission of making it possible to be a fashion company that Wastes Nothing and Welcomes All.
Amy Hall, VP, Social Consciousness, Eileen Fisher, Inc.
As Eileen always says, there is opportunity inside every crisis. The pandemic gives us the rare opportunity to reinvent all facets of the industry, starting with the fashion calendar. Anyone who has been working from home these past six months now knows: we only need a fraction of our clothes. Why design into quarterly, monthly or even weekly deliveries? Can the industry slow down and use this time to reduce, refine, refocus? The consumer will follow our lead. We will then be able to design properly, with the end in mind. Is each garment reusable and – ultimately – compostable? Is the supply chain as tight as possible while providing meaningful livelihoods for its workers? Is every component thoughtfully and responsibly sourced? If not, we have the time and obligation to course-correct now. The trees, the water, the people and the ecosystem will thank us later.
Vincent Djen, Director, Cheng Kung Garments
I am seeing new developments, such as chemically recycled cotton textile waste fabric entering the market. Secondhand and reselling, too, continue to gain market shares. Covid-19 has pushed the digitalization of collection development – such as using 3D design tools and 3D virtual cutworks.
Covid-19 has also raised public awareness on which brands really walk the walk in terms of business ethics, treating their suppliers correctly by paying their orders in full and on time – a feat that many a worker’s livelihood heavily depends on. But I think the most important impact is that Covid-19 seems to lead people to spend money more rationally and truly observe the importance and power of Mother Nature. I hope this is the beginning of a consumer mega trend towards total well-being and sustainable living.
Mimi Sewalski, Managing Director, Avocado Store
The Covid-19 crisis is causing many consumers to rethink how they shop. The fashion brands that will emerge victorious from this crisis will be those that impress with their transparency, authenticity and good ‘story doing’ – and that show that instead of twelve collections a year, we need fashion that boasts fair and eco-friendly production, longevity, quality and a truly fair price. Then consumers will get on board too and perhaps start consuming less but better.
Renee Henze, Global Marketing and Commercial Development Director, DuPont Biomaterials
My fervent hope is that the change will manifest itself in a collective acceleration towards greater sustainability and transparency practices across markets, geographies and products. For the fashion industry, we’re starting to see hints of how this may transpire. At the beginning of the supply chain, we’re seeing an even more rapid increase in interest for new, sustainable materials. Coupled with that interest, our brand partners are seeing validation from the market for products that incorporate the best performance with the most efficient, sustainable feedstocks. The forced slowdown has given mills and brands the chance to re-evaluate their sourcing strategies, with a piqued interest in new materials that adhere to the principles of the circular economy and a heightened insistence on transparency. We’re seeing a rapidly emerging consumer preference for well-being, assurance, trust and comfort directly translate back into our fashion supply chain. In addition to producing higher quality, durable products that are less disposable, I believe that both beginning and end-of-life solutions for textiles will become mandatory – if not by regulation, then by brand policy or consumer insistence.
Thimo Schwenzfeier, Show Director, Neonyt
What we all felt in our personal lives, as well as on the business side, is that the people’s sentiment towards sustainability has changed and that there is a deeper engagement with the issue. I think that was a long overdue and very important step towards a more sustainable textile industry; consumers are changing their behavior, which results in more pressure on companies to change their way of manufacturing. And in order to become fully sustainable, we need to map the entire value chain and thus identify opportunities to limit the negative environmental and social impacts of the textile industry and, at the same time, put a spotlight on accountability and transparency.
Jose Pinto, CEO, Lemon Jelly
The tendency for simpler, minimalist and versatile products that also reflect a care for the Earth’s resources is not only a request from consumers but also a necessity for more functional products, facilitating its recyclable facet. There is a need for products with style but mostly purpose. And it’s time to make a difference, to investigate and create new raw materials that bring less impact to the environment, and to reduce waste from production.
And although digital has never been so strong, the same is also true of our awareness that the people behind each brand and cause are the key to pump energy, creativity and innovation into the future. It’s time to come closer than ever to our suppliers and customers, to work in unison, to act together to achieve something meaningful.
With this in mind, we have developed a new biobased material and continue to take action with our Wasteless Act and Closing the Loop initiative, where our waste is taken into account and our products are able to reintegrate the production of new shoes.
Bernd Hausmann, Founder & CEO, Glore
The fast fashion industry unmasked itself once again during the Covid-19 shutdown. It was shocking to see that companies canceled orders in production countries and put textile workers into existential hardship. In our communication, we should always work out what makes sustainable fashion different. Our values are based on human rights and sustainability, and not on pure profit maximization. Every brand can immediately switch to sustainable materials, but no multinational corporation can manage to operate sustainably and act out of inner conviction.
Ruth Farrell, Global Marketing Director, Textiles, Eastman
Even before Covid-19, we were seeing a trend toward brands wanting a more sustainable fabric. Today, it is even more important. Now womenswear designers and manufacturers are clamoring for sustainable fabrics to meet the demand of discerning customers, who care about the materials in their clothes. Naia cellulosic fiber is at the nexus of comfort and luxury because it renders soft, skin-friendly fabrics in rich, vibrant colors with a sumptuous drape.
In the fashion industry, we have to take a conscious look at the big issues we are facing and collectively come up with solutions to solve them, waste being one of them. We have all got to play a role in diverting waste from landfills, and the Naia team is excited to be launching Naia Renew this autumn, which is sourced from 40% recycled plastic waste.
Christina Dean, Founder/Chair, Redress; Founder/CEO, The R Collective
We will see an increase in collaboration across the industry and within companies themselves in order to find ways to reduce textile waste. Covid-19 let fashion’s previously rather hidden waste story out of the bag. As we witnessed consumption and sales come to an abrupt halt, so too did we see textile materials stranded all over the world; from shop floors, design studios, warehouses to factories. This enormous waste hangover will require collaboration – across the supply chain and also within businesses’ various departments – from finance, design, retail and logistics. Waste – which used to be quietly handled by small inner teams, including finance, at large companies – is now an issue that broader management teams must collaboratively solve to protect their bottom lines.
Hans Martin Galliker, Ecopreneur-In-Residence, Huadao Ecovillage
Does it matter whether or not you are a conscious industrialist?
If you don’t care the polar bears and workers in Bangladesh – then at least do it for yourself. No more yo-yo diets, expensive psychiatrists and false friends. Swap your superficial facade with becoming an original style icon. It’s simple: slow down your life. The upgrade to becoming healthy, beloved, stylishly unique and wise requires you to shift gears.
“Less is More” gives yourself a break, buys you freedom, skips the noise so that you finally hear your heart.
“Quality first” will make you care and others who care too will mind the difference.
“Sharing” will lead to family fun during clothes swaps, making new friends while mending together clothes in a hip repair cafe or cycle superfluous samples to second hand markets.
The slowness virus will enlighten you and your beloved ones, colleagues and business partners. Before you can say “mindful” will your new-found inner peace and healthy lifestyle expand your horizons and guide you towards more sustainability-minded business decisions.
The V&A Museum’s Bags: Inside Out exhibition will be dedicated to bags and will feature the first-ever made Hermès Birkin bag owned by Jane Birkin, alongside Mulberry handbags worn by Kate Moss and Alexa Chung.
From rucksacks to despatch boxes, Birkin bags to Louis Vuitton luggage, Bags: Inside Out will explore the style, function, design and craftsmanship of the ultimate accessory.