Designer 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
Ex-pro kiter Renzo Mancini turns retired kites into extremely weatherproof (and extremely wearable) jackets.
Mancini shared his idea with Norwegian stylist Eirinn Skrede, and the two founded eXkite, a collection of clothing primarily made of retired kite materials. Made in Italy, the label specialises in colourful outerwear made of repurposed ripstop from kites donated from around the world.
“Behind every piece there is a story, there is a person, there is somebody that’s been flying the kite in a different part of the world and experiencing different stuff,” says Mancini.
Indeed, inside each bomber, parka, or gilet is a label that indicates the kite’s previous owner and the location where it was last flown. Since these old kites can’t be resold due to use, and have too much sentimental value to the owners to simply be thrown away, they are more than happy to donate their kites to Mancini, where they’ll get a new lease on life as a weatherproof piece of outerwear.
“When people give me the kites, they are so happy that I will do something with them,” he says. “It would be nice in the future to connect the people buying the jackets with the people who give the kites.”
To that end, Mancini’s next dream is to create a small-scale social network linking eXkite customers with the kiters whose retired gear comprises the goods. Tying into the importance of sustainabilitywith the modern consumer, almost every part of each kite is implemented into the collection.
A line of cotton basics like jersey sweats and t-shirts include a pocket or similar design detail made from repurposed kite material. eXkite’s foray into the bottoms category includes a neoprene-like jersey made into a pair of sweat shorts with contrast ripstop on one leg.
These layering pieces can be worn underneath the heavier jackets, and is a way of channeling the brand in a subtle way. As Mancini puts it: “You carry the story, but not massively.”
With its signature mix of casual athletic styling, sustainable manufacturing, and attention-grabbing colour stories, eXkite offers an interesting proposition to consumers looking for casual clothes that not only look good, but do some good for the environment.
*This story first appeared on WGSN
WGSN’s Associate Beauty editor Emma Grace Bailey is using her platform to promote bigger conversations around sustainability and the role fashion plays.
Sustainable September is 30 days dedicated to talks, insights and conversations with the industries most ‘on it’ people. The month-long idea is a bid to educate the everyday consumer, providing the knowledge and tools to inform better purchasing decisions for a healthier and happier planet. From our experience within the industry – myself a trend forecaster and Abi a designer – we’re fully aware of the issues that face the industry, but as consumers we’re not remotely wise about how to play our own role in rectifying it. And fairly unsurprisingly everyone we’ve spoken to is as in the dark as us.
In an attempt to educate both ourselves and a growing audience, we’re inviting people to spend an evening with us and a truly inspirational line-up of speakers from the very heart of the sustainable fashion industry. The event held on September 20 is taking place at Hatch Cafe in Homerton. I hope it will offer you the chance to be inspired, not only by the actions of others but by the very real fact that we all have the ability to make a difference, and it’s not as hard or as life changing as we’re often led to believe.
Following on from our event, held earlier in the month with Carry Somers – founder of Fashion Revolution, and Tamsin LeJeune – founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum, this upcoming event promises to be as inspiring and interesting as the first. Expect appearances from Amanda Johnston from The Sustainable Angle and Diana Auria of Auria Swimwear – a brand using recycled fishing nets to create swimsuits. We’ll be providing our audience with the cold hard facts, such as the one shared by Cindy Rhodes founder of Worn Again, which said that “With 55 million tonnes of cotton and polyester being produced annually- a number expected to rise to 90 million by 2050- we are on the verge of having to decide whether we use our land to grow food or grow cotton.” A clear indicator of consumerism gone mad and a call to make us all stop and think about what we really need. We hope that through the event we’ll brainstorm solutions, increase consumer demand for ethical fashion, and in turn use that demand to encourage the industry to act quicker.
If you’re interested in getting involved with our initiative, would like to attend future events and talks or just want a few handy tips for making your day to day life a little more sustainably friendly follow us on Instagram@isusseditout and join in – letting us know just what you are doing to get wise, buy better and make a difference.
*This story first appeared on WGSN