After Future Talks this morning, a panel discussion about the future of sustainability in fashion between Nobody Denim, Cue Clothing Co. and Kowtow, organised by Clean Cut, I suggested to my colleague that events like it might be the future of fashion weeks.
After all, fashion weeks are industry events during which buyers and media gather to learn about the future of fashion, or to, like, get photographed in fabulous outfits, but for the most part, to learn about the future of fashion. In events like this for other industries, for example the South by Southwest conference in Austin that covers off the future of technology, film and music across three weeks, live events are broken up by panel discussions and keynote speeches, which give the live events context and meaning.
Considering we're currently experiencing an awakening of consciousness with regards to where clothing comes from, and the effect the supply chain has on societies and the environment, it makes sense that Future Talks be one of the first panel discussions to take place at MBFWA 2015.
Clare Press, features director at Sunday Style, hosted today's conversation between Ben Esakoff, marketing manager at Nobody Denim, Kate Bielenberg, retail brand manager of Cue Clothing Co (both of whom produce their product in Australia), and Gosia Piatek, founder of Kowtow (who are certified organic and fair trade).
The group discussed everything from how sustainability in fashion is so hot right now, to whether consumers purchase based on ethics, to how sustainable business models can also be successful business models. Here are the most interesting takeaways from this morning's conversation.
1) There is a shift in consumer attitude towards sustainable fashion:
Right now, we are experiencing the slow trickle-down into fashion of the sustainable, ethical and healthy food and living movement. People already care about what they're putting into their body, and now they're starting to care about what they put on their body, too. "Definitely among young people," explains Kowtow's Gosia Piatek. "10 years ago 'organic' and 'fair trade' weren't buzz words. Only hippies were into it."
Nobody I know buys cage eggs today, perhaps nobody I know will buy ethically problematic fashion tomorrow.
2) Sustainable business solutions are also smart business solutions:
Both Cue Clothing Co. and Nobody Denim produce in Australia. According to Kate Bielenberg of Cue Clothing Co., "Staying local means we oversee all stages of production, maintaining quality, and it also keeps us reactive. We can be experimental and produce a limited run of only 50-100 units and respond with speed to current trends – keepy our weekly new arrivals ahead of the curve."
3) Don't compete with Fast Fashion, do your own thing:
While Cue Clothing Co. are able to compete with Fast Fashion to an extent – their onshore production allows them to be nimble and to respond to consumer demands in a time-sensitive way – Nobody Denim and Kowtow both explained how important it is to walk to the beat of your own brand's drum, and convince an audience – your audience! – to do the same. Ben Esakoff of Nobody Denim stated "we choose not to fight it", focussing on convincing the consumer who wants to buy quality denim (and not denim that retails for the price of a large coffee) to buy Nobody. This also extends to the fact that branding and quality design are of primary importance.
4) Consumers need to step up:
When you look at the statistics, consumers have a lot to answer for when it comes to making fashion sustainable. According to Clean Cut, "Australians send $500 million of clothing and textiles to landfill every year, which is on average 30kgs per person." We're also heavy washing machine and dryer users, which waste so much water and power. Brands can do everything to create transparent supply chains and to make their product environmentally sustainable, but us end consumers need to wise-up, too.
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