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Supply Chain

What you Should Know about Circular Fashion

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Glossy 101: Circular fashion, explained

As fashion brands continue to identify ways to use recycled materials and curb emissions, the term “circular fashion” has been popping up more and more. So, what in the world is it?

In a nutshell, circular fashion is a product of the circular process, which involves integrating recycled resources into supply chains. It’s a nice idea, but for a lot of brands, going there is easier said than done. Levi’s has been successful at converting plastic bottles to denim, but most fashion brands have experienced great difficulty navigating the circular fashion model. Many have offered standalone recycled fashion lines—think Eileen Fisher’s Remade line, which is produced using discarded designs, and TopShop’s Reclaim effort—but very few have actually started integrating recycled materials into production.

The reason? It’s complicated. That’s why we decided to break it down: Here’s what you should know about the circular fashion movement—specifically, how brands are working to join it in order to change the system.

What is a circular material, exactly?
A circular material is a recycled material, part of the larger circular economy founded upon the traditional concept of “reduce, reuse, recycling.” These materials are designed to prevent the introduction of new resources into the supply chain by reimagining those already in the mix as new garments—high-quality garments, that is—using volume collaboration.

Volume collaboration? Give me the short version.
Volume collaboration is the result of multiple brands sharing materials—such as dyes, chemicals, trims, yarns and base fabrics—that they use to create fully designed garments. H&M, Stella McCartney and Tommy Hilfiger are among brands that are working together by sharing materials. In doing so, they are ensuring that those they use are as environmentally friendly and recyclable as possible.

Last week in a webinar hosted by Fashion Positive, H&M sustainability expert Cecilia Brannsten said that working together is vital to instigating change, since it can often be difficult for one brand to move the needle on issues like dye pollution. “The change will happen a lot quicker if there are more of us trying to do it, working on this in parallel, because we can do a lot of good together,” Brannsten said.

Who writes the rules on circular fashion?
Fashion Positive Plus—it’s an extension of an initiative led by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, which was founded in 2014 to increase the use of circular materials by identifying, certifying and scaling them for the fashion industry. It’s focused on sharing insights and best practices around circular materials as well as integrating them into supply chains.

What does it take to get the “circular” label?
Fashion Positive has a Critical Materials list featuring the “high-priority, critical materials needed for circular fashion,” according to the site. These materials are assessed with five categories in mind: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

“We have set a vision at H&M—a really bold vision—to be 100 percent circular”
– Cecilia Brannsten, H&M sustainability expert

Does Fashion Positive work with any big-name designers?
Stella McCartney, a designer who has been a vocal proponent of sustainable fashion, is working to create a Cradle to Cradle Certified material to use in her knitwear collections. Likewise, participating brands like H&M, are working with the group to introduce such materials into production in order to reach lofty goals, like becoming a fully sustainable company. “We have set a vision at H&M—a really bold vision—to be 100 percent circular,” Brannsten said in the webinar last week. “What that means is we want to have a circular approach to how products are produced and will only use circular or sustainably sourced materials.”

What’s next for circular fashion?
Recycled fashion can be difficult to scale, since most garments aren’t designed with circular materials in mind. In the future, organizations like Fashion Positive, in tandem with brands dedicated to the mission, may be able to help promote the use of materials that are most conducive to recycling.

*This story first appeared on Glossy

How Mass Retailers are Traversing Big Transparency

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Transparency is trending in fashion.

Mass retailers like H&M, Zara, UK-based Marks & Spencer, Belgium-based CNA and Gap Inc., which owns Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, have begun sharing the names of the factories they work with in an effort to improve working and environmental conditions, streamline cluttered supply chains, and get on the right side of the mindful consumer. This is a departure from traditionally standard retail practices, which saw companies keeping their factory names closely held in order to protect themselves from competition.

The timing is right: Corporate brands are looking to become more transparent during a moment of increasing customer consciousness. Transparency is, on some level, a feel-good buzzword for an industry plagued by environmental and ethical issues, as becoming more transparent doesn’t require as much internal overhaul as becoming more sustainable. And it’s not for nothing: When retailers identify what factories they work with, as well as what compliance guidelines they follow, it can help improve worker conditions and bring manufacturer malpractice to light.

“The supply chain is really complicated, but it’s a positive step from a global labor union perspective to be transparent,” said Christina Hajagos-Clausen, textile and garment director of global union IndustriALL, which has contracted agreements with H&M and Zara. “Customers appreciate it, as well. If you have nothing to hide, you can show it.”

But as big brands take steps to bring their supply chains out of the shadows, they haven’t trumpeted that message as loud-and-proud as one would expect. Gap Inc. announced its factory list in a bland investor relations announcement. H&M and Zara share some updates on the subject on their social media accounts, but they’re sporadic enough to get buried by product posts and lifestyle content.

Compared to brands like direct-to-consumer retailer Everlane, these brands have kept transparency volume to a whisper. Everlane’s entire brand ethos is predicated around transparency: Its motto is “Radically Transparent,” and it hosts “Transparency Tuesdays” Q&As on Snapchat. In addition, it takes customers on video tours of new factories. The pricing structure for every product is laid out online, and interested customers can read about each of the 17 factories Everlane works with on its website.

Customers have clearly embraced this share-everything approach to retail. Everlane grew its revenue by 200 percent year-over-year in 2015, according to Bloomberg, and the brand does little marketing, accruing a customer-base mostly around mission-driven word of mouth.

But Everlane’s “radical transparency” is missing key specifics. Factory names aren’t disclosed, and the company adheres to a list of unspecified “compliance guidelines” when sourcing new factories. Meanwhile, Gap, Zara and H&M all have named factories and detailed compliance guidelines on their investor sites.

Founder and CEO Michael Preysman said in an email that the reason Everlane doesn’t disclose its factory names is that factory partners have asked them not to.

“Everlane makes products in the same factories as luxury brands,” he said. “We make the same quality product as these other brands, pay the same cost, but charge a much lower markup. We may jeopardize their business.” He added that when factories allow, the names are shared. Such factories currently include Nobland in Vietnam and Mola in Los Angeles.

Preysman said that Everlane’s requirements for factory transparency include being able to document them, share what products are made there and complete audits on worker health, pay, safety and paperwork. However, in leaving some aspects—like their names—open-ended, Everlane’s practices are subject to interpretation.

“Not releasing factory names makes you less accountable if something happens,” said Natalie Grillon of Project Just, an online resource for customers wanting to find out how and where clothing from different brands is made. “They say it’s for competitive reasons, but in reality, a lot of these factories produce for multiple brands at a time. It’s more about protecting yourself.”

Customers of Everlane and other brands like American Giant and Reformation that built their brand messages on the back of transparency and conscious shopping appreciate the respite they offer from corporate facelessness. So as such corporations as Gap and Zara make transparency efforts, customers are repelled. A message of transparency from a fast fashion brand lacks the magic word: authenticity. When you’re H&M, firing off a tweet about sustainability efforts falls on highly skeptical ears.

“H&M comes under fire a lot for their initiatives because they do publicize it,” said Grillon. “When really, they’ve made a ton of effort in support of better wages. But then they talk about it a lot, and then they come under fire a lot for anything at all that goes wrong.”

Small brands looking to break the unsustainable retail system are the underdog, so customers are more willing to work through the problematic issues with them, said Grillon. For corporations, not so much. Grillon said Gap is hesitant to flaunt its transparency efforts because, unless they’re perfect (which, thanks to the messy state of retail’s supply chains, is impossible), they’ll receive backlash. It’s also hard to trust that bigger brands aren’t falling back on transparency in lieu of sustainability.

“Transparency is a means to an end,” said Bayard Winthrop, founder and CEO of American-made brand American Giant. “We believe it has to be part of our value system because the customer is going to find everything out. But being transparent isn’t the end goal.”

Without a believable value system in place, big retail is hard to pass off a message beyond anything other than profit.

“When you talk about ethical fashion, you’re talking about working toward better conditions, higher wages, fewer chemicals,” said Grillon. “That’s going to require raising prices, and that’s a hard pill to for brands to swallow.”

*This story first appeared on Glossy

Know more about transparent supply chains and Everlane’s ‘Radical Transparency’ here

Kingpins Transformers Sound off on the Denim Industry’s Chemical Problem

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Each Kingpins Transformers, the seasonal summit focusing on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the denim industry, brings attention to the need for industry-wide regulations.

At the most recent seminar titled “Toxic Future: Is the Scary Part of Hazardous Chemicals On the Way?” held in Amsterdam on Monday, speakers from all parts of the supply chain had a turn to voice their concerns about the mounting pressure to create denim without hazardous chemicals and the rising costs that come with safer products.

Speakers agreed on the need for more collaboration and action, though many warned that in the process of fixing one problem, new ones may be created. Here are a few takeaways from the event.

It’s Complicated
Alberto De Conti, Garmon Chemicals CMO, said the vast volume of chemicals used in the manufacturing process, coupled with the multi-tiered textile supply chain that involved tens of thousands of suppliers worldwide, adds to the complexity of wiping the denim industry clean of hazardous chemicals.

And then there’s the industry’s “regulatory schizophrenia.”

Every time a new molecule is discovered, De Conti said there’s a long process of regulation, which differs from country to country. On top of this, brands have their own initiatives and restricted substance lists. As a chemical company, Garmon has more than 200 brand-driven lists that it must follow.

“It’s excessive,” De Conti said. From 2012 to 2016, Garmon’s overhead costs increased 200 percent and the cost of compliance grew 1,700 percent.

“It’s not sustainable. You have a brand pushed by Greenpeace, they go to their manufacturer and ask for innovation, quality, shorter lead times, on-time delivery and they [want] environmental compliance and lower prices. So what does the manufacturer do? He turns to his suppliers, including chemical companies, but its hard to provide a low price due to previous cost increases. There’s temptation to go out and look for chemicals that are low quality and not checked as much as they should be. So you get retox—all the measures to minimize the problem creates a new problem,” he said.

In the end, De Conti says it’s a game that no one wins. The cost of chemicals go up, control decreases, brand risk goes up and innovation and quality decline.

“Do we need so much complexity? If the potential problem is a common one, why not one common solution?” he asked.

There’s a lot of BS.
From organic cotton’s “toxic” certification process and its high cost in the U.S. compared with Europe, to the impossibility of using natural indigo on a large industrial scale, Alberto Candiani, co-owner and global manager at Candiani Denim, named the “top ten sustainable BS” he hears from the industry.

Candiani encouraged the industry to stop “demonizing” processes until it has all the facts. PP Spray is only bad if it’s not neutralized, and sandblasting can be safe in the proper working conditions, he said. Candiani’s “worst nightmare” is toxic dilution, or lowering the amount of hazardous chemicals by using more water to dilute it.

“Everyone has to commit to reduce the use of chemicals and at the same time water waste and discharge needs to be controlled,” he said

The Case of Aniline
Panelist questioned the fate of aniline, the organic toxic compound that was a precursor to indigo. While Candiani believed aniline is safe unless the indigo sublimes, Miguel Sanchez, Archroma global head business development of denim and casual wear, argued otherwise.

“Indigo and aniline are of so close together,” said Sanchez. “Aniline is a classified B2 carcinogenic, that means it’s potentially carcinogenic.”

“The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”

Sanchez said there’s no advantage in having aniline content in natural indigo. “The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”

“It doesn’t matter if it is coming from natural indigo or synthetic, you have the same risk,” added Christian Dreszig, Bluesign Technologies head of marketing.

Sanchez expects more consumers and safety organizations to take note of the potential risk aniline poses because information is readily accessible online. He said Swedish children’s brand Polarn O. Pyret examined aniline-free denim from different brands and found that the chemical was still present. “And from there other brands have been doing their own work on it. The link between aniline and indigo goes beyond the moment the indigo is on the garment,” he said.

The industry could experience its biggest shake-up if ZHDC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) ever named aniline a banned substance. “It will change your life in the industry because then you cannot use indigo for any blue jeans,” said Dreszig.

*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans

Meet Benita and Jesus, Levi Strauss & Co Collaboratory Fellows

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Benita Singh: Founder and CEO of Le Souk, the first online global textiles marketplace.

Tell us about your business and the work you do.

Le Souk is the first online textiles marketplace where designers can search, sample and source directly from leading mills and tanneries around the world. Our mission is to provide unparalleled transparency to designers and brands looking to build direct relationships with trusted suppliers.

We started the platform to provide market access for suppliers who could not afford the high cost of attending trade shows. As the model began to prove itself, established suppliers, many of whom do attend trade shows, began to approach us to showcase their latest collections as well. Four years later, we’re hosting the online showrooms for suppliers in over 19 countries – from repurposed salmon leather from Iceland to vegetable dyed cotton from India.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

For us at Le Souk, it means bringing transparency to the sourcing supply chain. Too many designers don’t know where their materials come from, not because they don’t want to know, but because it’s simply impossible for them to trace where their fabric comes from. By working exclusively with textile mills and leather tanneries, we work only with suppliers who spin and weave (or tan) their materials.

This model means that designers can communicate directly with a representative at the source of production. This facilitates greater ease of access to information and certifications. And for suppliers , they’re closer to the market (and can increase their gross margins.)

How important is water to what you do?

It needs to become more important, which is why we’re thrilled to be a part of the Collaboratory. Water usage is largely overlooked when it comes to fabric sourcing, and it needs to become top of mind for more designers. Through the fellowship, we want to inspire and challenge our suppliers to re-think their modes of production while at the same time, bringing those materials that use less water to the forefront of Le Souk in a way that educates designers.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

More knowledge on water impact from industry thought leaders will better position Le Souk to be an even greater resource for our 18,000+ active designers – both in terms of content but also in terms of materials that are water efficient. It’s our job to communicate the importance of this issue to designers, and by participating in the fellowship with both brands and companies that interface with brands, we look forward to coming up with creative ways to inspire the industry to take a hard look at how it uses water.

What’s your Levi’s® story?

My relationship with Levi’s® goes back to 2006 when the non-profit that I co-founded, Mercado Global, was fortunate enough to receive one of its first grants to advance its work with artisans in Guatemala from the Levi Strauss Foundation. Ten years later, it’s a thrill and honor to be collaborating with Levi Strauss & Co. again.


Jesus Ciriza Larraona: Founder and executive director of The Colours of Nature, a natural dye company specializing in indigo.

Tell us about your business and the work you do.

In 1992, I spent time in Kashmir, India, designing Persian silk carpets and exploring manufacturing approaches. It was during this time, by the beautiful lakes around Srinagar, that I became aware of the environmental impact of the dyes and finishing processes used to make the carpets.

As I had also seen industries destroy rivers where I grew up in Spain, at this point I decided to try to find alternatives for the chemical dyes being used. Naturally, I looked to the ancient traditions of natural dyes, for craftsmen and industries alike. I founded The Colours of Nature (TCoN) in Auroville, India. TCoN is a company exclusively dedicated to the use of eco-friendly natural dyes. Over the years we have been dyeing organic cotton yarns and fabrics, as well as making fabrics, including batik and shibori fabrics, and garments. Last year we started to dye cotton fiber, which is relevant as dyeing at this stage, before yarn- or fabric-making, can really help reduce water.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

For me, both go hand in hand, as the pollution of the industry also, in many cases, affects those who work in it, by polluting local aquifers.

Whilst protecting the environment is the reason we are in business, we are also focused on improving conditions for workers. Exploitation of workers in the textile industry in developing countries can make it impossible for workers to lead dignified lives, in turn limiting their choices and power to create a sustainable future. So again, for us, social and environmental responsibilities go hand in hand.

How important is water to what you do?

It is well known that good drinking water is becoming increasingly harder to come by in many countries and that many industries all over the world do not pay enough attention to the environmental impact of their activities.

In 1993, working with dyers from a small village in India (Guledagudd), we recovered an ancient natural indigo dye fermentation process which was almost forgotten. This biological process works for many years using the same dyeing water. In fact, the natural indigo fermentation dyeing water currently in use at TCoN has been in use since 1993. We have a working prototype to up-scale this natural indigo fermentation process for industrial purposes at our premises. It’s a process that can be used by craftsmen or industries!

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

Our aim is to share our learning with regard to natural dyes, and to learn from the other Collaboratory participants.

*This story first appeared on Levi Strauss

Just Fix It: How Nike Learned to Embrace Sustainability

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Chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones talks to BoF about Nike‘s journey from sweatshop scandals to embracing sustainability as a tool for business innovation.

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Hannah Jones with Nike trainers | Photo: Jeff Dey

“The Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime and arbitrary abuse,” Phil Knight, then chairman and chief executive officer of Nike, told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington DC in 1998.

The sportswear giant was sinking under a rising tide of scandals, fuelled by a new type of activism targeting consumer-facing brands as a way of curbing environmental and labour abuse further down the supply chain. In 1996, Life magazine had published pictures of a 12-year-old boy in Pakistan stitching ‘Swoosh’-emblazoned soccer balls. The following year, a leaked inspection report, prepared for Nike by Ernst & Young, revealed that 77 percent of workers at a supplier factory had respiratory problems and were being exposed to carcinogens 177 times above the legal level. Television channels like CBS and ESPN broadcast footage from inside the sweatshops where Nike products were made.

As the scandals mounted, Nike insisted it had no control over the third-party suppliers that made its products, an approach current chief executive officer Mark Parker has since described as “reputation management.” Clearly, it wasn’t working.

“The company took a very defensive approach to it for about four or five years. Really all that did was to fuel the campaign,” explains Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer and vice president of Nike’s innovation accelerator.

A former consultant on philanthropy and community programmes to Microsoft and Kimberly Clark, Jones joined Nike as director of government and community affairs EMEA in 1998. From fiscal year 1984 to 1998, Nike revenue had rocketed from $919 million to $9.6 billion. But the scandals were taking a toll. Store openings were picketed by workers’ rights campaigners and, in fiscal year 1999, revenue fell to $8.8 billion. “The company asserted that criticism of Nike’s labour practices had nothing to do with the downturn. But it was clear that Nike was suffering from a serious image problem,” wrote professor Deborah Spar in a 2002 Harvard Business School case on Nike’s labour practices. “It was no coincidence that I was recruited at that time,” adds Jones. “There was going to be a very clear change in strategy.”

In nearly two decades, Jones has helped to transform Nike from a company that was synonymous with sweatshops to a recognised sustainability leader. Last year, Morgan Stanley ranked Nike the most sustainable apparel and footwear company in North America for environmental and social performance, including its labour record.

It moved from being a risk and reputation function to being a business lever function to being an innovation function.

Back in May 1998, Phil Knight unveiled a plan to train 100 of Nike’s over 22,600 employees on sustainability issues and require suppliers to implement minimum wages. It didn’t work. “A group of 100 people alone cannot lead the transition to sustainability at a large organisation like Nike,” reflected Nike’s CSR report for fiscal year 2001. Also in 1998, Marc Kasky filed a lawsuit against Nike in California, alleging the company’s public statements on the working conditions in its supplier factories contained false information.

For the duration of the lawsuit, which was settled in 2003 for $1.5 million, Nikestopped reporting on CSR. “We really started to look into what were the things within our business that we could change or do better, such as our purchasing practises, such as teaching designers how to design with sustainability in mind,” says Jones. Following this analysis, sustainability “moved from being a risk and reputation function to being a business lever function to being an innovation function.”

The result was three major shifts in strategy — all of which the company has maintained to this day. First, Nike committed to transparency. With its fiscal year 2004 CSR report, Nike went public with its list of suppliers — data that many companies view as among their “highest competitive advantages,” says Jones, who wrote the report. “Now NGOs on the ground know which factories we’re in, if they see any issues they know how to alert us.”

Nike also reached out to industry stakeholders, co-founding the Fair Labor Association with other businesses, universities and NGOs. Many clothing factories manufacture for multiple brands — even a company as large as Nikemight only make up 5 percent of a particular supplier’s business. If asked by only one brand to improve working conditions, “the factory manager would say, ‘Well, to be frank, you’re just 5 percent, I’d rather lose my business with you than have to invest in X, Y or Z,’” says Jones.

Finally, Nike linked sustainability to innovation, defined by Jones as “invention that creates value, whether that’s value in terms of sustainability, new offerings to the athlete or in terms of our shareholders.” From 1992, Nike spent about $50 million in R&D to swap the gas in the sole of the Nike Air shoe from FS6 — a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming — to nitrogen. This change yielded performance innovations that led to the Airmax 360. “This unlocked in the company a huge insight, which was [that] solving a sustainability problem can actually unlock new performance, new price or new aesthetic benefits,” says Jones.

Nike’s sustainability reports are noteworthy for their strategic significance,” says Lynn Paine, John G. McLean professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Nike is one of relatively few large, public companies making investments in potentially game-changing innovations for the sake of sustainability.”

Nike’s strategy also stands out for its organisational scope — spanning board level, design, sourcing and production teams and third-party factories. In 2009, teams at Nike became accountable for corporate responsibility as part of their business KPIs. Today, 57,000 materials in Nike’s production chain have an environmental rating; a programme tracks the company’s water footprint across over 811 vendors; and Nike product designs are rated for sustainability.

Currently, 86 percent of Nike contract factories are rated bronze or above inNike’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Sourcing Index (SMSI), an internal tool that rates factories on health, safety and the environment and indicates that legal wages are being paid. Nike is targeting 100 percent bronze-or-above-rated factories by 2020. A factory’s SMSI result “can lead to greater volume and growth, it can also lead to less volume and ultimately exit,” says Jones.

Since 2013, Nike has cut the number of factories it works with by 12 percent — from 785 to 692 — to embrace larger, longer-term partnerships. “That’s when the factories really start to invest in their workers,” says Jones. Nike declined to reveal how many factories it has cut ties with over non-compliance issues, or how many non-compliance issues were found at its factories. In fiscal year 2015, excessive overtime violations occurred at 4 percent of Nike’s contract factories, 8 percent less than in fiscal year 2014.

While Nike’s sustainability initiatives were launched as a response to past scandals, they are now a tool for future-proofing the company in a world where businesses are under pressure to cut their emissions and climate change threatens supplies of raw materials like cotton and leather.

“This is about leapfrogging into the future before regulation or price volatility hits you,” says Jones. “Post the Paris agreement [a legally binding agreement between countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees], we expect the business down the road will need to become a 2-degree business. And that equates to being able to grow whilst radically reducing your impact.” In May, Nike set an open-ended “moonshot challenge” to double its growth and halve its impact — defined as the company’s carbon emissions.

But not all agree with Jones’ assessment of progress. Nike did not rank in the Corporate Knights 100 most sustainable corporations for 2016 (Adidas, Keringand H&M all did) and has come under fire from Greenpeace for not eliminating toxic chemicals from its supply chain.

“This is a company that is investing in technology, sustainability, innovation and energy,” counters Edward Hertzman, founder of Sourcing Journal, a trade journal covering apparel supply chains and a former executive in global sourcing companies. “They’re investing in auditing the factories, mandating that certain wages are paid and forcing these wages to be paid — instead of just turning a blind eye and placing the order. And don’t forget, they have much more to lose. They can’t afford a PR crisis, so they need to be on top of it.”

*This story first appeared on Business of Fashion

Zara Launches First Sustainable Fashion Line

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Fast-fashion retailer Zara is trying its hand at sustainability with a new fashion line made using environmentally friendly materials.

The push by Zara, which has nearly 2,000 stores in 88 countries, is indicative of the continued push for increased transparency in retail, and demonstrates the importance for retailers to commit to sustainability, according to Brooke Blashill, svp and director at Boutique@Ogilvy.

“As any retailer is planning for the next generation of customers, and its business in general, sustainability and social impact have to be a top consideration, and it’s positive to see Zara take a step to improve its supply chain,” she said.

According to the Zara site, “the collection embraces a woman who looks into a more sustainable future” and is made with materials like organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel, a recycled fabric derived from wood cellulose. Zara says that its Tencel is sourced from sustainably managed forests and that the farming process for its organic cotton uses 90 percent less water than usual cotton.

It’s a tenuous stance given Zara’s role in perpetuating the trend of cheaply produced goods, typically made from easily procured materials, sold at a low price point. Kathleen Wright, founder of Piece & Co., said in the Glossy Podcast in August that it’s nearly impossible to reconcile sustainability with fast fashion and still turn a profit, making environmentally friendly efforts incongruous to the brand identity of companies like Zara.

“Wouldn’t it be a dream if [fast fashion retailers] stood up and said, ‘we are going to do one less delivery this year, we’re putting too many clothes out there, and we’re going to take a profit cut?’,” she said. “The race to the bottom in my opinion is very real.”

The Spanish company is also launching a social campaign using the hashtag #JoinLife that includes “Boxes with a Past,” a selection of artists on the site creatively transforming Zara cardboard boxes into works of art. Zara lso launched a series of clothing collection receptacles at 300 locations in Europe for consumers to drop unwanted clothing of any brand, with plans to expand the effort to Asia and North America in 2017.

Users can also request free clothing collection in Spain and additional clothing will also be donated to the Red Cross and Oxfam, as well as to textile projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lenzing, an Austrian based company focused on sustainable fabrics.

Blashill said focusing on environmentally friendly offerings is an increasingly important focus for retailers like Zara, noting that a recent Nielsen study found that 75 percent of millennials would be willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings. Competitor H&M launched its own Conscious line back in 2012.

The move also comes on the heels of retailers making increased pushes towards transparency, including Gap announcing earlier this month that it would disclose its full global factory list. Wright told Glossy in a previous article that efforts like these help create a domino effect of other brands enacted sustainable efforts.

“When a big brand steps forward like this it’s exciting because it shows that if a company at this scale can make a change like this, other more nimble companies can do the same,” Wright said.

*This story first appeared on Glossy

Meet Kavita and Rebecca, Levi Strauss & Co. Collaboratory Fellows

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091516_unzipped_hero_collab_fellows1Now through October we are highlighting the first class of Levi Strauss & Co. Collaboratory fellows. These 10 next-generation apparel leaders are making an outsized impact on their communities, and we’re excited to take them behind our doors to expand their commitment to sustainable practices and reducing their water impact.Kavita Parmar: Founder and creative director of the IOU Project, an experiment to rethink how goods are produced and sold in a way that empowers artisans and protects the environment.

unknownTell us about your business and the work you do.

The IOU Project was born from my frustration and desire as a designer to fix what I see as the broken system of fashion. To the detriment of artisan makers, local communities, the environment, designers and even the customer, I feel like the current structure of the apparel industry is only rushing toward a short-term profit with no regard to the real human cost.

At the IOU Project, we developed proprietary technology to provide full transparency and traceability along the supply chain to both the customer and the maker. We currently work with more than 15 heritage textile communities around the globe and produce all our clothing with traditional craftsman/ateliers in Europe. Our goal is to become the Wikipedia of heritage artisans globally and be a resource for designers, the brands they represent and consumers.

What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

We believe a more transparent system that provides full traceability would be a big step toward social and environmental responsibility. A sustainable system can only be made with full participation from the consumer community, as we need them to fully understand who and what is impacted by their buying decisions. In essence, we see value in empowering both ends of the supply chain.

How important is water to what you do?

Water is fundamental to what we do – and a huge concern for us – as we work with artisans who source locally grown cotton. Cotton is a thirsty plant, and dyeing and processing garments uses a large amount of water, which is unfortunately becoming a scarce commodity globally. Finding sustainable alternatives is a must.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

We are hoping to have a truly honest and open exchange of ideas between a company the size of Levi Strauss & Co. and our artisan communities. We believe there is the potential for real synergy in working together to solve the major problems we all face. As the quote by Marshall McLuhan goes, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

What’s your Levi’s® story?
The first collection I designed included repurposed vintage Levi’s® 501s® that I would scour for at second-hand and vintage stores. I would open up the inseams and hand-print, embroider, dip-dye and create unique pieces that I sold at some of the most exclusive high-end retailors in Spain.

I have always admired the core philosophy of the Levi’s® brand and have used it many times as an example of how you can build a product for longevity, like the 501®. I believe if any brand can be a catalyst for change in the apparel industry, it’s Levi’s® that has the history and product authenticity to create the change many of us want to see.

Rebecca van Bergen: Founder and executive director of Nest, a nonprofit committed to the social and economic advancement of the fashion and home industry’s informal workforce.

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Tell us about your business and the work you do.
Nest is focused on advancing social and economic opportunities for the millions of women who are part of the fashion and home industry’s informal workforce. While we often think of apparel production as taking place inside factories, as much as 60 percent of contemporary garment production is done in homes and small workshops around the world. Nest’s work focuses on channeling sector transparency, needs-based artisan business development and widespread homeworker advocacy to empower women, alleviate poverty, and preserve traditions of artisanship. The organization arose from my life-long drive to support women to be agents of change through economic empowerment.

Our approach is business-needs based. We are tackling the barriers to market access and successful partnership with international, largely western, brands by looking at both the artisan and brand perspective.. Brands can contract Nest (without us acting as artisan brokers or middleman) to bring increased transparency, social responsibility and economic sustainability to their own existing artisan and homeworker supply chains. We also can help to source new partners, but transparency into vendors and artisan independence is key to our success and theirs!
What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?

I’d like to address the ambiguity of the word sustainability head-on. Its origin is actually in ecology and is defined as the ability to make systems that remain diverse and productive indefinitely. I love using this definition because it reminds us that endurance is the key. If we want fashion to be around 10, 20, 100 years from now; if we want our planet to be around 10, 20, 100 years from now; if we want global craft traditions and artisan techniques to be not only around, but also thriving, we must practice responsibility both socially and environmentally.

At Nest, we are particularly bent on ensuring that this responsibility extends beyond factory labor to also acknowledge the millions of people and huge portions of the environmental supply chain that are non-factory based. The word “artisan” tends to carry negative connotations of being niche, hyper-localized, and outdated. Nest is challenging these stereotypes and repositioning this global population as a workforce to be taken very seriously.

How important is water to what you do?

Dyeing is a fundamental component of the production process for many artisan businesses, particularly those producing textiles. Unfortunately, improper disposal of wastewater can pose extreme risk to local environments, artisan health, and the wellbeing of community members who may be collecting drinking water nearby. In developing communities experiencing water scarcity, the dye process further depletes already limited resources.

While this issue has been explored from a major industry standpoint, wastewater management solutions that are affordable and applicable in small workshops and underserved communities have not been developed, leaving this population of workers and their surrounding home environments at risk. .

Nest is committed to creating practical and affordable solutions – across a broad spectrium of artisan businesses – to ensure more responsible wastewater treatment and disposal within the artisan and small workshop context.

What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?

Nest firmly believes that change within the apparel industry must happen on a unified front to ensure collective progress and wide-reaching results. Through our participation in the Collaboratory, we will share our insights, resources and best practices, as well as learn from others, in our effort to build a scalable global solution for responsible wastewater management in home and workshop settings. We seek to determine how our work best merges with, compliments, and advances existing efforts. Our goal is to create model solutions the entire apparel industry can make use of.

What’s your Levi’s® story?
I bought my first pair of Levi’s® in my late 20s. I had just moved to New York City from my home in St. Louis with not a single pair of jeans (true story).  In “the big city”, ready to embark on the next chapter of my life, I wanted to find a pair of jeans that felt very authentic, high quality, and yes, fashionable. But alas, I could not afford the $200 price tag of many of the emerging denim brands.

Then I found Levi’s®, a name I knew to be classic and reliable. I bought a pair of slouchy boyfriend jeans for $40 – a purchase that has proven well worthwhile. These jeans saw me through adjusting to life in New York, through dating and marrying my husband, and they have even grown with me in having my two children (I cut them into shorts and they have a new life post pregnancy!). These jeans have grown and changed, just as I have, and still their style is timeless.

*This story first appeared on Levi Strauss