Sustainable Development Goals

These Students Are the Future of Sustainable Fashion

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Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

Irene-Marie Seelig, Iciar Bravo Tomboly, Ana Pasalic, Agraj Jain, and Elise Comrie have plenty to wax triumphant about. On Monday evening, the five London College of Fashion students found themselves crowned the winners of the 2016 Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, an annual competition born of a five-year partnership between the lifestyle and luxury conglomerate and the university’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Designed to inspire the next generation of ethical designers, the contest whittled 400 applicants to 10 finalists before determining who best fulfilled briefs for two of Kering’s subsidiary brands: Seelig, Tomboly, and Pasalic for Stella McCartney, along with Jain and Comrie for Brioni.

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

WINNERS’ CIRCLE

“All students, coming from different academic disciplines and personal backgrounds, showed a deep commitment to fashion and the environment, along with a strong interest to more sustainable practices in business in general,” a spokesperson for the organizers said. “By taking part in the 2016 Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, they were looking to merge their passions and illustrate the economic relevance of a more sustainable fashion industry.”

Most of the applicants developed their projects by “rethinking the whole production cycle and value chain in fashion,” from material sourcing to end-of-life management.

“This echoes Kering’s own commitment to drive luxury fashion toward higher levels of economic, environmental, ethical and social performance,” the spokesperson added.

Meet—and hear from—the winners below.

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

ANA PASALIC

A Fashion Futures master’s student, Pasalic worked with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create a material with the smallest possible environmental footprint.

By utilizing a “master batch” solution for dyeing, her “Uncoloured Colours” project could help cut back on water use while avoiding the human risk involved during the synthetic dyeing process.

“Reflecting on my own work made me understand that if I want to change the fashion industry I have to do it right at the beginning, on a business level and on a personal level,” she said. “Albert Einstein once said ‘We can’t solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking as when we created it.’ Through the knowledge and the experience I gained during MA Fashion Futures I understood how I, as a designer, could influence and change the fashion industry, starting with materials.

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

ICIAR BRAVO TOMBOLY

Tomboly, a postgraduate student specializing in fashion-design management, centered her project around measuring a company’s social impact based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Kering’s own code of conduct.

Sustainability, she said, needs to take into account “all the human beings” involved in the supply chain and the impact our actions have on social values.

“I believe we cannot change our environment without renewing humanity,” Tomboly said. “So we should achieve an integral ecology that focuses not only on environmental and financial issues, but also on social issues.”

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

IRENE-MARIE SEELIG

Seelig first researched the holistic properties of mushrooms after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. While studying fashion entrepreneurship and innovation at the university, she developed a renewable, biodegradable, and vegan-friendly leather alternative using the skin of amadou mushrooms.

After testing the material for durability and aesthetics—both prime considerations for viability in the luxury industry—the California native unveiled two shoe prototypes as part of her presentation.

“Going through that journey with my mother made me realize that sustainability was no longer just about what the composition of the material was to ensure sustainability within the fashion industry,” she said. “It is about the whole ecosystem of a supply chain, from the well-being of the workers within that supply chain to the well-being of its consumers, what components we allow into the production and processing phase, and how we can begin to design products around the cradle to cradle concept through renewable, biodegradable materials with well-being qualities.”

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

ELISE COMRIE

Comrie was inspired by her upbringing in Saskatchewan in Canada to develop a dye derived from tobacco, a fast-growing plant that takes only 90 days from seed to harvest.

“I grew up with a close-knit relationship to indigenous peoples of the region that I’m from and at a young age I learned the spiritual and healing benefits of the sacred tobacco plant,” she said. “It was of prime importance to me that my history and who I am spoke clearly in my proposal. So much of the fashion industry is removed from people and their stories and I felt this to be an important aspect of my project.”

Working with Dimora Colours, which specializes in the development of nontoxic tobacco dyes and fibers, Comrie proposed a line of Brioni smoking jackets composed of the tobacco-dyed textiles.

“I felt it necessary to have a masculine and yet innovative solution that the Brioni man could relate to,” she said. “I felt strongly about the innovative tobacco dye as a platform to help the Brioni client relate and see the importance of sustainability but still have the ‘cool’ factor.”

Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, mushroom leather, tobacco dyes, tobacco, Brioni, Stella McCartney, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, peace silk

AGRAJ JAIN

Jain, who is pursuing a degree in fashion design technology for menswear, drew upon his Jainism roots to present Ahimsa or “peace” silk as a cruelty-free alternative material for Brioni.

Rather than boil the silk cocoon to prematurely release strands of filament-like fiber, Ahimsa silk is extracted only after a metamorphosing worm has emerged from its cocoon.

Since silk is used in the linings of most of Brioni’s suits, as well as its shirts, ties, and scarves, Jain saw an opportunity for the firm to not only boost its ethical profile but also have a “beautiful story to tell.”

“For me, sustainability is a ‘healthy’ positive lifestyle,” he said. “That’s what I try to consider during my work: along with outer beauty a product should have a beautiful soul and the process of its production should be beautiful, too.”

*This story first appeared on Ecouterre

Driving Sustainable Change in the Textile and Leather Industries – Panel Discussion at the World Water Week 2016

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Sustainability has become a key word buzzing in the World Water Week corridors. The theme for this year’s conference is “Water for Sustainable Growth” – a topic that the textile production sector has been grappling with for years.

Yesterday’s High Level panel, for example, set collaboration as a defining element in succeeding in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Complex issues, like the water issue, and complex goals like the SDGs, require complex collaborative efforts.

An afternoon session entitled “Driving sustainable change in the textile sector,” set collaboration as the main driver to achieving sustainable growth – with concrete examples from the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) – a public-private partnership between Swedish brands, the Swedish Government and SIWI – on the European side, while GAP Inc and USAID are exploring collaboration opportunities on the other side of the Atlantic.

Both collaborations aim transform the lives of thousands of textile workers, and others downstream, by empowering workers and building their capacity on everything from resource efficiency to finance and leadership. These collaborations capitalize on the reach of the textile brands in their complex supply chains, on catalytic government funding, and the involvement of competent implementation partners.

Dan Henkle, Senior VP, Global Sustainability, GAP Inc

Dan linked creating safe access to water, a basic human right, to gender equality in the workforce and leadership.  “We have a 135,000 employees working for GAP, and 70% of our workers are women. Our leadership’s gender balance is very similar both in GAP headquarters and local offices. However, the percentage of women working the supply chain is 70%, but the leadership there is different.” GAP worked on personal advancement for women to empower their leadership skills, as one of three key pillars of their work with supply chain, along more environmentally friendly product design of products, and improving the efficiency of production processes.

Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M

H&M has been working in sustainability since the 1990s. According to Anna Gedda, the challenges we face are systemic and therefore it is important that brands work together. “We need to work transparently and with trust in our suppliers and competitors for a common goal. It is important to work with our factories for the long term, have measurable targets, and provide them with incentives for improvement.” But that is not enough, she adds that working with legislators is also an area that is important but difficult for brands to get involved in, hence H&Ms cooperation with SIWI within the Sweden Textile Water Initiative is important as it builds trust with factories and opens doors to improving legislation in production countries.

One word that all panelists brought up in their opening remarks is “trust”. Another word they included in closing their remarks is “transparency.” Creating an environment to empower trust and transparency is key to any sustainable collaboration, not least, between competitors, and across different sectors.

Elin Larsson, Sustainability Director, Fillippa K

Elin and Anna agreed that brands, whether big or small, share the same issues when it comes to sustainable growth. “We’re entering a new geological era, and we have great power over our ecosystems. We have to take the responsibility, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because we have to survive here on the long run.” She added that her company is moving away from linear towards circular production (recycle, reuse and reduce resources). Calling the textile sector to move from working with supply chains to creating supply-webs, she said collaborating with competitors, customers, suppliers and politicians is crucial. “STWI has provided us a platform to engage with other buyers and with our suppliers, and we can now say that we’ve established the trust for SIWI to enter their facilities and change things on the ground.”

Katarina Veem, Director of the Swedish Water House, SIWI

“Collaborative change is becoming one of SIWIs trademarks. We have been convening water professionals for the past 26 years here in Stockholm, and we know that collaboration is the precondition for success,” Katarina said, recalling the history of the Sweden Textile Water Initiative, which started in 2010 with 30 brands and is now working with 120 suppliers and sub-suppliers in 5 countries. “By promoting shared ownership, learning, and trust towards sustainable change– we’re delivering quantifiable results. Last year, savings by factories reached 5 million dollars.”

Katarina envisions a bright future for the initiative. “We’re moving towards a global Sustainable Textile Water Initiative. Today we have Danish and Norwegian brands, and now engaging other international brands – who share the same resources and future.

Joachim Beijmo, Chief of staff, Sida

As Sida continues to provide catalytic support to STWI, Joachim said it is important to agree on the challenges to agree on how to move forward. “Water is a major risk for businesses and for our planetary well-being. If we look at the global challenge of water, we will not be able to address it without – the access to both public and private financing. So the public-private-partnership model is very useful in this regards. Here we can find a sweet spot between business and development goals.” Joachim said STWI is the biggest partnership between Sida and the private sector. He added that brands provide access to the wider consumer public, where the SDGs and their developments need to be communicated.

Chris Holmes, Global Water coordinator, USAID

While the USAID collaborates with GAP, it also collaborates with other development agencies like Sida, on different financial mechanisms to support global goal achievement. “It was here at the World Water Week last year that we engaged with GAP on our common interest of improving women’s health – so we developed a program to improve their conditions and choices through improved employment environment.” USAID has a MoU with GAP linking sustainable water and health to better employment for women. “We are very focused on the opportunity to reach scale – reach those women and girls who need assistance. In our MoU we are looking at a sector that employs women – and affects households – all along the supply chain. We’re talking about transformation and this collaboration with GAP is one of those transformative opportunities.”

The panelists concluded with lessons learned from working across this matrix of actors: public financing agencies like Sida and USAID, brands like HM, Fillippa K and GAP Inc, and NGOs like SIWI, as well as local consultancies, factories, governmental institutions, and lawmakers. They highlighted long-term capacity building of internal staff teams as key to understanding and addressing complexity of the issues in the textile sector, the importance of improving the pace of financial support through a variety of innovative and collaborative solutions to keep up with the pace of those challenges, and to broaden the scope of collaborative efforts to include other sectors and actors.

*This story first appeared on Swedish Textile Water Initiative