Sustainable Luxury

Why Luxury Brands Still aren’t Embracing Sustainable Fashion

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eileenfisherfactorybigDesigner Eileen Fisher made an eight-year commitment to sustainable fashion four years ago, after having “an epiphany about the earth” and her responsibility as the owner of her own company. In the years since, the brand has been vocal about these efforts.

“We made a commitment that, by the year 2020, we would eliminate our top volume fabric, viscose,” said Amy Hall, director of sustainable consciousness at Eileen Fisher. “The only thing was, we didn’t know how to do that then.”

During the WGSN Futures conference on November 10, Hall said that pushing Eileen Fisher’s brand to become more sustainable meant figuring things out along the way. Eileen Fisher has always been upfront about this journey, choosing to call itself “sustainably conscious,” not sustainable, because it’s still putting out waste into the world. The company lists the factories it works with and the fabrics it uses, plus it lists plans for future innovations. This month, it will launch Remade, a recycled line of clothing made from past designs that customers donated back to the brand rather than discarding. A dress in the collection, for instance, could be comprised of three pairs of used pants.

Right now, transparency in fashion is trendy. As they figure out the future of sustainability in retail, startup retail disruptors like Everlane and American Giant lay bare their pricing models and supply chain partners in an attempt to rope in conscious customers and keep them along for the ride. Mass companies like H&M, Zara and Gap Inc. have adopted similar habits in order to do the same; for fast fashion brands, speaking out about transparency and sustainability helps keep protesters at bay.

Among luxury brands, though, there’s some hesitancy to display company practices when it comes to sustainability and transparency. Hall spoke to an experience a member of her team had with her counterpart at a British brand, which Hall wouldn’t name specifically.

“We asked the counterpart if the cotton they used was organic, and she said no,” said Hall. “She said even if it was, we wouldn’t say, because organic doesn’t sell in the luxury market. To us, that’s a call to action.”

Hall said that this mindset emphasizes the idea that sustainably made clothing has to be, above all, good product. But she pressed that brands have a responsibility to educate and engage customers on sustainable measures so that they can take further action as individuals.

Marco Lucietti, the global marketing director of Isko Textile, said that sustainable brands can’t “force-feed people with what they’ve done.” Instead, they should just make commitments and stand by them. Sustainability in fashion can still carry the mindset of burlap, rather than luxury.

“People have a conception about what sustainable means in fashion,” said Marco Lucietti, global marketing director of Isko Textile. “But it’s not granola, hippy shit.”

Lucietti said that, as customers grow accustomed to brands being more transparent about their supply chains and efforts to improve workers’ rights and the environmental impact of production, this mindset will shift, both of the consumer and of the legacy brands.

On the factory level, the shift has already begun to take place. Jag Gill, founder of Sundar, a digital materials sourcing platform, said that most brands, even high-end ones, are beginning to open up their factory lists in order to find ones with cleaner supply chains.

*This story first appeared on Glossy

Flotsam and Fashion: Recycler of ‘Ghost’ Fishing Nets makes Marine Litter Trendy

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The oceans are choked with discarded fishing nets, or ghost nets, that are estimated to kill 300,000 whales, dolphins and seals each year. It’s a grotesque and avoidable toll on nature, and one that Giulio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil, hopes to reduce using an unlikely ally – fashion.

The Italian firm is pioneering the use of “ghost” or discarded fishing nets to make a synthetic fabric marketed under the name Econyl that’s currently being used by several apparel brands, including Speedo and California surfer Kelly Slater’s Outerknown.

Last year, Aquafil regenerated more than 5,000 tons of discarded nets at its factory in Slovenia. With the exception of some fish farming nets, which are coated with copper oxide to prevent algae and cannot be used, the company receives the majority of its nets directly from fishermen, or through partnerships with two firms, Healthy Seas and Net-Works.

By breaking down the nets to a molecular level, the plastics are then recreated as yarn in a process the sustainability industry calls recommercialization. “If they know us, they contact us and we pay for the waste. They have to have a motivation to contact us. So they call us from all over. From California, from Australia. We take them from all over the world,” says Bonazzi, a former scuba diver.

The environmental problem of discarded fishing nets, or ghost nets, is well-documented. Some are accidentally lost during storms, or dumped deliberately. By some estimates, ghost netting and other discarded fishing gear makes up 10% of all marine litter. The cost to marine life is devastating.

The National Marine Fisheries Service reports an average of 11 entangled large whales per year from 2000 to 2012 along the US west coast. Between 2002 and 2010, 870 nets recovered from Washington state alone contained more than 32,000 marine animals.

Other initiatives include Fishing for Energy, a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) Marine Debris Program, Covanta and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Schnitzer Steel to collect old fishing gear and reuse it either in recycling or to produce energy.

Aquafil’s proposition is to turn ocean waste into higher-value products. “If you can reach people with higher income then they’re always ready to pay something more for a product that responds to their needs and to their desires. And everybody wants some kind of exclusive product, and they feel that wasting is no longer connected to luxury.”

But fashion is fickle. Currently the fashion for nostalgia, and for an era before the advent of mass luxury is more apparent than ever. Warnings of a slump have been issued recently by luxury goods companies including Hermès and Richemont and there are fears that the industry could be forced into a fundamental shift in values.

The big question for the luxury market, say analysts, is whether the values of fashion and luxury can begin to acquire values that align with sustainability in a meaningful way.

Of course, the cost of the material is also a factor. And it depends which cost is most important to you. Recommercialized nylon is up to 6% more expensive to produce than new nylon. But creating fibre from recycled nets and carpet waste produces 50% less CO2 than typical, petroleum-based fibre production.

As the luxury industry reports a gloomy outlook, many companies are looking to reconfigure their notions of luxury to meet new consumer ideals around the ideas of recycling, repurposing and reclaiming.

“The more the fashion industry hears about us, the more they call when they need nylon as raw material,” says Bonazzi. Slowly, he says, “we are becoming more conscious and more aware. Of course, we all want to be rich but we also want to live.”

Some of the spirit of “ethical fashion” was on view at the periphery of New York’s fashion week last month where men’s clothing designer Heron Preston staged an event in a department of sanitation salt shed to draw attention to ways New Yorkers can reduce landfill waste, in this instance, by “upcycling” department uniforms into designer clothes.

Orsola de Castro, founder of Fashion Revolution and a leading campaigner for sustainable fashion, says any effort to reduce the environmental cost of clothes production and steer toward closed-loop technology in which 100% of fibres are recycled must be embraced.

“We have created an environmental crisis in the oceans of spectacular degree so any solution that helps us begin to redress the imbalance is a good solution,” she says.

But, she continues: “We’re coming off 25 years of product, product, product. And this is what people understand. It all needs to be seen as a part of a concerted effort to clean up to embrace technology to allow us to enjoy clothes again without necessarily feeling that it’s at the cost of the Earth.”

*This story first appeared on The Guardian

Learn more about the impact of fashion on our oceans here

New Brand Seeks to Disrupt Luxury Fashion with Full Transparency – Even on the Price Tag

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New fashion brand Oliver Cabell is “seeking to disrupt the luxury fashion business” with an unmatched level of transparency around its products. Exclusively available online, each product’s page on the company’s website details where the item was made and the costs that went into it, including the brand’s mark-up.

By working directly with Italian factories and using quality materials and responsible manufacturing processes, Oliver Cabell says it is able to offer high-quality products at a fraction of traditional luxury prices. Designing in-house, selling only online, and forgoing traditional mark-ups are some of the ways the brand is cutting costs; in stark contrast to what its founder, Scott Gabrielson, claims more established brands have done to increase their margins.

“More than three quarters of designer goods purchases come from a handful of companies. This allows these brands to mark-up its products 10-20 times what they cost to make. Bags and leather goods are the most demanded, and in turn hold the highest mark-ups,” Gabrielson said.

“When you buy fashion goods you often buy a brand. The problem is that these companies keep the brand but change the way they make things, and it has never been in the interest of consumers,” he added. “If you’re buying from high-end brands at expensive prices, you automatically assume that it’s of high quality. It’s usually not. And that’s crazy.”

With his new venture, Gabrielson hopes to offer consumers “an honest alternative” to more established brands that have failed to raise their social and environmental standards despite the expensive prices of their goods. He first0learned of the realities of the fashion industry following the infamous Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 that killed over 1,130 people in Bangladesh. He quit his job in business development at an education non-profit to pursue a Master’s degree at theUniversity of Oxford, where he focused his studies on the evolution of the fashion industry.

One experience particularly sticks out for him: “While visiting a factory in Asia we sawcramped female workers, earning $7 a day, gluing and sewing designer bags and accessories,” Gabrielson recalled. “One of the bags, which the brand claimed to only produce in Italy, cost under $100 to make. It sold for over $1,200 just down the road.”

The team at Oliver Cabell hope to tap into the shift in perspective from ‘consuming’ labels and megabrands to ‘experiencing’ and self-discovery that is being driven by Millennials. While consumers may be willing to pay a higher price for a product, the company asserts that the price should be justified by its quality. Related to this, Gabrielson noted, “We hope Oliver Cabell relates to people differently than traditional fashion brands. We believe that telling the story behind our products and providing value will do more for us marketing-wise than any big advertising initative.”

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Oliver Cabell’s Kennedy Weekender bag in navy blue. Image credit: Oliver Cabell

Oliver Cabell is inviting consumers to “Hold on to the Good,” with itsfirst bags – a weekender duffle and a slim backpack, each available in three colors – which became available for sale today. Both are made completely in Italy: They are manufactured in an artisan factory in Marche, use cotton from a mill in Montappone, and use leather from a tannery in Monte Urano. Oliver Cabell claims it evaluates every supplier “on factors such as environmental and ethical standards.”

As a whole, the ethical fashion movement has been growing. From exposés on cotton sustainability, to Fashion Revolution’sTransparency Index and annual awareness campaign, to startups creating more durable clothes in the fight against ‘fast fashion,’ brands are facing more and more pressure to raise their social and environmental standards. Furthermore, companies are beginning to launch footprint-measuring and traceability tools to give consumers added transparency, such as Reformation’s RefScale, which shows the environmental footprint associated with each of the small brand’s products, and Dutch Awearness’ Circular Content Management System, which uses barcodes to ensure full traceability and is available for other producers to use.

Some in the space recognize that the industry’s practices need to change. For example, luxury apparel manufacturer Kering recently called for more collaboration to improve sustainability performance and drive innovation.

*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands

The Luxury Sector Now Focusing on a Sustainable Future

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Flower Power : Innovative Sustainable Luxury

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3e618f141322639acb154f65521bb852_originalby Awen Delaval & Joel Woodcock

Their new fabric made from Lotus Flower received the Seal of Excellence from UNESCO and the praises of luxury designers worldwide.

After ten years of research, we have created the most ecological fabric in the world: the lotus fabric.

By creating a full line of lotus fabric apparel, our goal is to create 12 workshops in 5 disadvantaged villages in Cambodia over the next 5 years.

Read more about this Kickstarter project and support it by clicking below