April 12, 2012

The New Normal

Since April is Earth Month, we wanted to kick it off by sharing with you a chat we had with Anne Gillespie, a specialist in sustainable textiles. Together, we discussed a subject matter close to our hearts: how can we bring sustainability to the mid market where it can really make an impact? We are very much  in sync with Anne and believe that change will be driven by larger companies. Once one large company creates a sustainable, transparent and profitable format, the rest will follow in suit. It’s all about stimulating peer pressure just like how fast fashion companies Zara and H&M provoked snappier delivery cycles.

photo via Anne Gillespie

With a background working for both MEC and Textile Exchange as well as a co-founder of the Continuum Tradeshow we discussed in our previous post, Trading Spaces, Anne has extensive expertise regarding the supply chain from developing organic fibers to consulting. We had the opportunity to ask Anne her thoughts on a few matters pertaining to what is actually happening in the industry:

MBF: How are larger companies responding to the subject of sustainability?

Anne Gillespie: Big companies are genuinely committed to making things happen. Business has the opportunity to drive change. We are starting to build a strong business sense about sustainability because resources are going to be gone and we need to start looking for new energy sources. Change will be driven by large companies because once it is amplified it will move very quickly. While larger companies may move slower (large ships are harder to turn), there will be lots of depth.

MBF: What do you think are the biggest drivers?

AG: The drivers are coming within the industry itself for example scarcity of resources, oil and cost control. Being called out prevents companies from marketing themselves as sustainable. You have to be transparent.

In our opinion, the apparel industry is in need of new norms to drive an appetite for sustainability and buying sustainable goods. More and more consumers are starting to look at slow and mindful consumption, especially the next generations, Y and Z who are already challenging traditional retail models. Here are some examples of companies that have been implementing these new norms: Patagonia, Icebreaker, Anvil, Nike, C&A, Marks & Spencer, Trigema, A.P.C., Walmart, H&M and Eileen Fischer. While some may be doing more or less than others, we feel it is important that something is being done as these leaders in the industry re-establish today's standards.

Therefore, we would like to highlight five of the latest new business ideas and concepts embracing this change within the fashion industry. What really is being done and by who?

photo via youtube.com

1. H&M Glamour Collection Launching on April 12th
We've reported on both the "Garden Collection" from 2010 as well as the "Conscious Collection" from 2011 as H&M has consistently made an effort to produce sustainable collections annually during the month of April. This year's debut which releases today, the "Exclusive Glamour Collection," is inspired by celebrity red carpet fashion and is comprised of a range of dresses made from organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester. Not only is it inspired by celebrity fashion but celebrity fashion is inspired by it as Michelle Williams, Amanda Seyfried, Kristin Davis and Viola Davis have all been spotted wearing the eco-conscious collection.

photo via ecouterre.com

2. C.L.A.S.S. and Green Carpet Challenge
Livia Firth, the creative director of eco-age.com is teaming up with Giusy Bettoni of the tradeshow C.L.A.S.S. to establish the first green carpet challenge library. Firth's Green Carpet Challenge featured high end designers dressing such A-listers as Meryl Streep in Lanvin, Viola Davis in Valentino, Michael Fassbender in Giorgio Armani and Kenneth Branagh in Ermenegildo Zegna all in sustainable fabrics. Overall, we have seen a growing interest in celebrities representing green fashion on the red carpet and we are excited to see who wears what next!

photo via inhabitat.com

3. NYU's Sloth Campus Thrift Store
NYU's on campus thrift store, Sloth, looks to challenge traditional retail models with the idea of mindful consumption by slowing down fashion and going beyond buying and selling resale clothing. Run by senior students, the shop embodies the idea of ethnical fashion and socially conscious spending habits that support fair wages, safe working conditions, environmental sustainability and economic transparency. It's about appreciating garments, textiles and excellent design that tell stories and hold memories from generations before, not to mention encourages conscientious spending on ethical, green and recycled products. Sloth not only seeks to enhance an already campus wide community experience but has the opportunity to interact globally with its exchange program and high quality, reasonably priced items. This global aspect distinguishes Sloth from any other thrift or pricey designer resale shop.

4. Loomstate's Reversible, Rotatable "321" Garments
Think of clothing as a rubik's cube and you have Loomstate's new multi-functioning collection. With panels of color blocked fabric, an array of personalized color combinations can be reversed, rotated, you name it! According to Rogan Gregory the labels co-founder, this idea of multi-functional clothing is yet another approach to sustainable design. He also states, "We want to reinvent the way women think about their clothes." While the clothes are already made in the U.S.A. from 100% Tencel, this new design concept is the perfect approach to incorporating freedom, creativity and uniqueness into the way we dress.

video via joinless.org

5. JoinLess
The 60's had the peace sign and we have the less-than symbol (<). That's right, JoinLess is a new symbolic movement and the world's first open source brand that reminds us less really is more. Free of any unauthorized trademarking, this anti-brand is owned by no one and free to use by all. This branding technique or technically lack there of, promotes the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle by slowing down, collaborating, connecting and doing more for others. While corporations have mastered the art of mass production, the (<) mark is anything but a business and instead believes in "grass production". Our society is so obsessed with the thrill of having and buying "stuff" but all that really is is a temporary fix of happiness. Owning, buying and spending has become such a culture obsessed addiction. We need to start focusing on bettering our future and experimenting with new forms of exchange and doing business. When it comes down to it money is just a symbol but it's the idea behind that money that makes it powerful. With a core belief system and a concrete message, as long as the (<) brand sticks to its roots, we suspect it will one day have the power as well to really make a significant impact.

From the red carpet to college campuses, high-end designers and the mid-market, the desire to create and maintain a responsible and sustainable lifestyle is here and its growing. As this awareness and accountability begins to filter through the industry, more and more companies will begin to feel pressured to revise their current strategies and business models. In the end, compulsive buying and spending habits will only get us so far because it's all just useless stuff isn't it? As we shift towards this new norm, we will soon see the power of (<) and how much of a difference it can make.

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