8th FFE Seminar Series Recap: How can fashion positively impact people and planet?

4th April 2019     News


We’re keen to get the industry to look beyond lowering their environmental impact and aim to contribute positively to nature and communities. Our popular seminar series programme returned this year to our 8th Future Fabrics Expo, gathering some of the most influential organisations in sustainable textiles and fashion to discuss the ways in which our industry can help address the issues our planet faces today. 

Speakers ranged from business leaders, academics, entrepreneurs, fashion brands big and small, to fashion activists and non-profit organisations from our community network. 

This year’s series — which ran alongside the event throughout both days — was our first partnership with G-Star RAW. The programme drew in a captive audience with sold-out seat registrations for all 12 discussions. The seminar engagement is a testament to the collective force of our industry: the room was filled with changemakers who know that only with leadership and action can we shift outmoded behaviours within the fashion system.

Clare Press, Australian VOGUE’s Sustainability Editor-at-Large and presenter of The Wardrobe Crisis Podcast, moderated a panel discussion on how suppliers and mills were solving issues around waste and recycling. The roundtable featured representatives from the expo’s core exhibitors, including Besim Özek from Bossa Denim (a company based in Turkey that is applying post-consumer recycled denim concepts to help fight landfill waste); Tada Satoshi from Toyoshima (a Japanese company that is creating dyestuff using by-products from food manufacturing); Fabrizio Tesi from Comistra (an Italian company that recycles and regenerates textile waste with a focus on wool), and Tommaso Rulli for Profits Fund Global.  One of the most interesting points which our international panelists agreed on is that increased government involvement could help drive the future of the textile recycling industry. For example, tax incentives, duty-free imports, or legislation around the incineration of overstock fabric can help empower the circular economy.

From left to right: Clare Press, Besim Özek – Director of Bossa Denim, Tada Satoshi of Toyoshima, Fabrizio Tesi of Comistra, Tommaso Rulli for Profits Fund Global.

Reward systems and an increased role by the government were also suggestions by panelists Edwina EhrmanSenior Curator at the V&A and Curator of Victoria & Albert Museum’s Fashioned From Nature, and Ben GleisnerCo-founder of Connecting Good (CoGo) and Conscious Consumer Guide. The discussion, moderated by ethical fashion journalist Bel Jacobs, examined whether a labelling system united by consumers, government and industry can help shoppers buy clothes that don’t cost the planet. 

Ambassador for The Sustainable Angle Arizona Muse moderated an exciting panel discussion with designer Tiziano Guardini and Adriana Galijasevic, Denim and Sustainability Expert at G-Star RAW.  The discussion looked at the challenges and opportunities that both large companies and independent fashion labels face when integrating sustainability into their brand and supply chain. “Sustainability is not a challenge for us, but a springboard for innovation,” says Galijasevic. G-Star RAW has recently pioneered their own denim fabric that is Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ Gold, one of the most rigorous certifications.

Adriana Galijasevic, Denim and Sustainability Expert, G-Star RAW (left); Arizona Muse, model and sustainability campaigner (centre); Tiziano Guardini, Designer (right).

Integrating sustainable innovation that is based on the circular model is also an economic advantage for businesses, as discussed in the panel with Lukas Fuchs from Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Sergi Masip from Hallotex, a Barcelona-based textile mill.   Fuchs suggested that when brands adopt rental models (i.e. Rent the Runway), users can feed back into the design process. Hallotex relies on material feedback and has created a process called The Loop that involves recycling post-consumer waste textiles.  “If we tried to enter more waste and fabrics back into the loop that we’re introducing, we can have a huge impact on the society of which our industry is based,” says Masip. “The industry is waiting for the super change, but in order to get to circularity we need to make gradual steps forward.” Fuchs adds, “This is a systems challenge so we need to collaborate along the value chain…only together can we meet the scale of the challenge.”

Bel Jacobs (left); Lukas Fuchs, Research Analyst – Make Fashion Circular, Ellen MacArthur Foundation (center); Sergi Masip, Sustainable Development, Hallotex (right).

After each panel discussion, we asked our speakers how they thought fashion could positively impact people and the planet.

“We need a big cultural change in the fashion industry…We are looking for a fashion industry that is more inclusive and a force for good and for that we need to change its nature, ” says Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director of Fashion Revolution. De Castro wants us to question what can we do with our own behaviours to usher in the technology movement as sustainable material alternatives are being developed.

Claire Bergkamp, Global Director of Sustainability and Innovation, Stella McCartney (left) in conversation with Orsola de Castro, Co-founder of Fashion Revolution (right).

For some of our speakers, creativity in the design phase can help make fashion a force of positivity. “The role of the designer is completely changing,” says Professor Dilys Williams, Director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, UAL. “We were defined as being problem solvers…but now designers are starting to think about being possibility creators. They’re really considering what is important to them, what they value, in terms of their own identity, in terms of justice — climate justice, social justice, gender justice — and that is meaning a different starting point of design.”

Emma Scarf, Ventures Analyst at Fashion for Good, agrees. “When we see these new materials and dye processes coming up, designers are like ‘How can we use this?’ rather than being ‘That’s not the status quo’. They’re really interested to see how this can then be used and implemented in the supply chain. I think that creative force is what’s going to make the fashion industry more sustainable.”

Left image: Bel Jacobs (left); Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion (centre); Emma Scarf, Ventures Analyst, Fashion for Good- Plug and Play Accelerator (right). Right image: an engaged audience at our 8th Future Fabrics Expo Seminar Series.

This means that the designer’s creative process involves a better understanding of how the fabrics they choose can help lower environmental impact. “For most fashion brands, more than half of their environmental impact stems from the materials they use and our goal is to empower brands with the solutions to change this,” says Nina Marenzi, Director of The Sustainable Angle.  

Claire Bergkamp, Global Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Stella McCartney, notes that the future of fabrics for fashion must be approached from two different lenses.  “The first half is questioning what new fibres and technologies we need to replace those that are out-of-date, harmful, or unnecessary? We have to replace them with innovative, sustainable alternatives. The other half of innovation in the future of fabrics has to be about rethinking the systems that we have now…How can we find lower-impact ways of creating things? If we’re going to be relying on agriculture, how do we use farming as a force for good? How do we use climate positive farming or sustainable forestry as something that can disrupt the damage that we’ve done today?” 

While sustainable change may seem like a daunting and overwhelming task that tampers the creative process, asking the right questions, thinking outside-the-box and taking small actionable steps can help pave the way.  “With the Future Fabrics Expo, we wanted to make sustainability within the creative process as accessible as possible so that the designers themselves feel able to drive the revolution,” Marenzi adds. 

For more, watch the interviews with our seminar panelists

In case you missed out on any of the discussions or would like to re-watch them, visit our exclusive access link to stream the seminar videos.

Photographs are copyright Suzanne Plunkett 2019 ©. For photographic enquiries please call Suzanne Plunkett or email suzanne@suzannelunkett.com 

Video Production: The Kushner Productionz