How to Engage with Ethical Fashion | Clara Vuletich | #TEDxSydney #ethicalfashion #sustainable #fashion

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What do you know about the clothes in your wardrobe? About the clothes that you’re wearing right now? Clara Vuletich works with some of the biggest brands in the world to help them ask the right questions about where the clothes that we wear come from.

[Article Round Up] Industry Voices: Can Sustainability Be Sexy? #ethicalfashion #sustainable #environment #fashion

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By Edward A. Gribbin for https://www.apparelnews.net

The social and environmental issues within the fashion industry are well documented. The industry knows it needs to act responsibly and work sustainably for the sake of the millions of workers it employs, not to mention the future of the business itself. We tend to think that fashion is all about change, and yet we are one of the most change-resistant industries in the world.

Research shows that looks come first for ethical fashionistas, who tend to buy sustainable fashion. While consumers might have a clearer picture of the not-so-glamorous reality behind fashion production, especially after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, not much has changed in regard to their shopping habits. This reaction doesn’t really come as a surprise. Fashion and sustainable fashion must meet and mingle. They can no longer be two separate categories and movements. If ethical fashion wants to find a place, it’s going to have to look pretty similar, if not better, than its fast-fashion alternative.

Two key themes emerging in the retail market today are the need for more continual and impactful customer engagement and the increasing impact of sustainability and social-responsibility issues on business decision-making.

To more intimately and continually attract and engage customers, retailers are focusing on getting faster at developing product. Speed-to-market seems to be the No. 1 topic across all segments of the apparel/fashion world. While traditional new-product development cycles stretch out to 18 months—many retailers have already launched development of their collections for Spring 2018—retailers are finding that customers are gravitating toward stores, sites or apps that are always launching new, fresh, “of-the-moment” products.

What we need to do is encourage consumers to seek out sustainable products in the same way they seek out trendy new items. This is a challenge. Consider smokers and how often anti-smoking campaigns fail; when threatened with frightening consequences, we go into denial, continuing with our bad habits. The best way to promote behavior change is to make an alternative behavior seem more appealing; it’s got to be cool! Brands can no longer rely on having two big seasons a year and keeping their customers’ attention. New and frequent capsule collections have been proven to attract and keep consumer attention. Whether it’s the success of fast-fashion brands or the “see-now-buy-now” movement sweeping the luxury segment, traditional retail is threatened and slowly responding. Similarly, we need to respond to our sustainability challenges in ways that appeal to consumers.

A global perspective

As labor prices continue to explode in China, the No. 1 exporter of apparel to the U.S., and more Chinese manufacturers are finding that selling to the rapidly growing number of middle-class Chinese can be more lucrative than exporting, retailers have been forced to search for other sources of cheap labor. This has created a ripple effect of additional issues, from significant negative environmental impacts in countries with fewer rules and infrastructure capabilities than China to slave or child labor and numerous other human-rights issues.

Most major brands and retailers have joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in recent years, and some of the largest formed the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Both organizations are having a positive impact, but progress is slow and fraught with challenges. As a result, more and more retailers are deciding to source products closer to home even though the costs are higher. Greater supply-chain transparency is not only critical to a brand’s reputation and top of mind with more industry leadership, it is being demanded by more and more consumers.

This consumer demand may be an area where our industry can make headway with sustainability issues. Consumers are far more empowered today than ever before. The retailer once owned us, the consumer. If you wanted a piece of apparel, you had to go to a store when that store was open, look at the selection of merchandise that some merchant decided you would want to buy and, if you found something you liked, hopefully they had it in your size.

Technology has turned that around. Today, the consumer is the center of everything, and they hold control of the retailer in their hand or in their pocket. Many of our retail business models are broken today and some beyond repair. We take far too long to design and develop product, too long to source it and too long to ship it back in a boat from halfway around the world.

There are “disrupters” today who are finding different and better ways to serve the customer. They are developing product “virtually” in 3-D to cut time to market, they are sourcing locally, and they are personalizing product in ways that most retailers could not imagine. New technologies—ranging from waterless dyeing to 3-D printing and supply-chain mapping tools—have the potential to help fashion make smarter sustainable choices. But technology without people and a plan will get us nowhere fast.

Old-School Recycling: A Lesson and a Warning #sustainable #recycled #ecolifestyle #repurpose #reuse

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In India, it is not uncommon to see old fabrics repurposed to provide different uses throughout their life. From shirt, to pillowcase, to bag, to rag – one garment can serve many functions. This method of reusing and recycling fabrics is driven by economic need and has organically evolved into a sustainable recycling model. However, this organic model is more institutionalized and organized then we think, particularly when it comes to the Chindi trade.

An age-old tradition in India, led by the Waghris, a nomadic community of India, the Chindi (rag) trade is an intens bute informal second-hand recycling system. This practice has occurred in India for over 150 years and consists of the Waghris travelling through neighbourhoods and markets bartering old clothes for new utensils from households in cities across India. Through this practice, the Waghri’s are able to provide affordable used clothing to India’s poor, while ensuring old clothes don’t end up in landfills.

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Chindi rug made by combining scarps of many different types of fabrics, including cotton, silk, and wool.

However, in return, these nomads face a constant struggle when it comes to sustainably operating their practices as their urban markets are never considered when it comes to urban planning and beautification, poor economic returns, discrimination and no recognition for the work they do to support communities and the environment.

Moreover, due to a lack of investable capital, there second-hand trade is completely off-the-map when it comes to the international market. What, in theory, is an innovative method to deal with urban recycling needs and provide affordable second-hand clothes to India’s poor, is reduced to stigmatized and dying profession.

This practice is a lesson in the fact that communities around the world have acknowledge the need to reuse and repurpose items for centuries. However, it is also warning that if we do not cherish and support these practices, they will remain invisible, marginalized and unaccounted for.

[Article Round Up] Analysis: Fast fashion comes at a steep price for the environment #ethicalfashion #environment #fastfashion

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Written by Michael Shank, adjunct assistant professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and Maxine Bédat, CEO and co-founder of Zady for MSNBC

“There are few industries fickler than fashion, changing annually and swapping seasonally. The good news is that fashion can, in theory, change more quickly than the energy or agricultural industries, for example. And when it comes to tackling climate change, agility and the ability to rapidly retool practices will be essential attributes of the most resilient and sustainable industries.

This is how Emma Watson’s recent take on waste — she appeared at a red carpet New York City gala wearing a dress made entirely of trash — could herald a new trend for fashion. Or at least, it should, because we’re rapidly approaching “peak stuff” with bursting consumer closets that are unsustainable by any measure.

Most clothes are worn, on average, only seven times before they’re discarded, forcing an astonishing150 billion new clothing items to be made annually. Thank “fast fashion,” a business model based on the fabrication of hyper trends and clothing that doesn’t last for consumers to accumulate. But given limited natural resources and the urgent need to protect what remains from further apparel-driven pollution, the cutting edge in fashion will soon need to trend and tack towards something more people- and planet-friendly.

Getting clothing cheap enough for the fashion industry’s disposable model has required massive amounts of cheap material and cheap labor — both of which came with devastatingly high and unaccounted-for costs.

First, the push for low prices led to cheap material. Polyester is the worst: It’s a plastic made from fossil fuels and found in 50 percent of all clothing. It’s enormously energy intensive and doesn’t bio-degrade, making for a catastrophic carbon and environmental footprint. In outsourcing production, a process greased by decades of trade deals, we simultaneously outsourced pollution to countries with even dirtier power grids. Now, 10 percent of the world’s total carbon footprint comes from the apparel industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally. These are devastating stats, and we’re wearing them on our sleeves.

Second, the push for low prices also led to cheap labor. The apparel industry’s race for the cheapest inputs relied on laborers at the very lowest end of the wage spectrum in countries with few protections for workers. While the industry has created jobs and lifted some people out of poverty, the hard truth remains that low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and child labor are now rampant throughout apparel supply chains. Children are working in appalling conditions that amount to modern day slavery.

The good news is that consumers are reaching their limit with all of this. And there’s a realization in the post-Paris climate world and in the U.N.’s recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals that we must put an end to polluting factors and worker abuse. Even the Vatican is connecting the dots between the apparel industry’s modern day slavery and climate change. To ignore any of this is to remain regressively retro.

While we still have a broken apparel industry, we do have a consumer base that is hungry for change, which is why Emma Watson’s trash stunt got so much traction on social and traditional media. People want something better, they want something different and they want it to be sustainable. They don’t want what they wear to worsen the planet or people’s lives. This means that all of us have an opportunity — an opportunity to create a different future.

All across the fashion ecosystem, we’ll need progressive leadership and a willingness by multilateral institutions, from the United Nations to the World Bank, to make the connection between apparel and the environment and economic development. The connections are obvious. Thus, we can no longer ignore the final (fashion) frontier in our efforts to clean up the planet and our dirty practices. The U.N.’s newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, for example, are all about social inclusion, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability — three pillars that aren’t, at present, at the epicenter of the apparel industry.

That must change. And it’ll require some new patterns by non-apparel types. Journalists exposing the adverse social-environmental impacts of apparel production, guiding readers towards possible solutions and avoiding “greenwashing.” Brands adopting sustainable practices, from design through production, within their own businesses. Influencers, some of today’s best storytellers, showcasing the beauty and benefits of living simply. Educational institutions teaching the next generation the skills needed to identify industry-specific problems in fashion and improve its sustainability.

We can do this. It does mean that we’ll need more Watson-type moments when people break the red carpet mold to speak out for the planet and for people’s livelihood. But Watson is not alone. Nor are we. It’s time to start wearing a different world.”

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