Sustainable Fashion Forum Lays Out Challenges Ahead

New media company Sustainable Fashion Forum held its annual conference in Austin last month. After a 3-year in-person hiatus from 2020 to 2022 and a subsequent return in his hometown of Portland last year, Forum has taken its penchant for rallying the fashion industry in the IG comments section and turned those thoughts into real talk..

Billed as a 3-day exploration into the “next chapter” of sustainability in fashion, more than 200 sustainability managers, consultants, service providers, entrepreneurs and students attended panel discussions and presentations from 50 industry leaders at The Cathedral, a former church turned multi- Use an art and event venue in the Texas capital.

“We’re really preaching to the choir in church today,” said Beth Esponette, co-founder of the 2018-2017 2017-2017 2017-2017 2018-2017 2018-2017 2018-2017 2018-2019 2017-2017 2018-2019 2018-2019 2017-2017 “We’re really preaching to the choir in church today.” Non-wovenacknowledging that she was speaking to an audience already invested in sustainability.

But this choir must offer complex solutions to the market and audiences at scale. Which begs the question: What do consumers have on hand today?

Consumer behavior informs new approaches

In an early panel discussion that explored the psychology of consumer behavior, Eugene Chan, assistant professor of marketing at Toronto Metropolitan University, told the audience: “We are self-actualizing; the desire to help ourselves is too strong to resist.” People often justify buying things that others like because the need to belong trumps sustainability. Doing so in turn deepens the misconception that sustainable products are more expensive, especially when people justify to themselves that they will buy the cheaper product and then come back to the issue.

However, according to Samina Virk, CEO of North America Vestry GroupThis misconception is starting to change. A study conducted by Vestiaire with BCG found that affordability remains the number one consumer preference, but sustainability now ranks in the top five, representing a significant increase compared to previous years.

“We’re still in a fashionable Prius mode, and we need to get a hold of Tesla,” said Nix Erickson, branding expert and co-founder of AND. He said Tesla appeals to both the left and right brain. Many people like the design of the car, and the roadside assistance package makes a sustainable choice easier. Ericsson believes we can put the huge marketing engine behind fashion to smarter use this way.

For example, if Chan is right and people’s natural desire to help themselves is too strong to resist, communications should be more precise and direct. “If a brand can get people to see the connection between what they are buying and what it does for the environment, this would help drive adoption,” he said. Saying something is made from 100 percent sustainable textiles just won’t do it justice.

Furthermore, sustainability professionals tend to focus on materials when the average consumer does not appreciate or understand the complexities of the inputs. Instead, they place greater value on transparency, where and how clothes are produced, and durability, according to Michael Colarossi, vice president of innovation and product line management at the company. Avery Dennison.

“Turning plastic bottles into textiles, people understand that. But it’s complete Circular Programming or saying something is refreshing, I don’t think consumers have reached that stage yet. You have to break things down into simple messages. James Rogers, Vice President at Rothy’sAgreed upon in another panel.

Complex messages can also explain why some people do not engage in relevant sustainable fashion behaviors such as used clothing and mending. According to a study by MendIt, 30 to 40 percent of consumers reported not knowing about the existence of repair services.

Kate Sanner, co-founder and CEO of Beni, a fast-growing second-hand goods startup, combats accessibility issues in resale. “We go directly to shoppers and intercept their buying habits and patterns while teaching them that new doesn’t have to be the default.”

Beni is a browser extension that suggests the same or similar used items when people shop for new items. By making it easier, sustainability becomes an additional side effect.

Vestiare is also trying to shatter the myth that fast fashion is affordable with a new clothing cost campaign that Virk believes will lead more people into the growing resale revolution.

The circular takes on the regulatory front

Salvaging clothing through resale is one component of recycling, but it depends on a behavioral shift from the consumer, which takes time. At the same time, he doesn’t deal with overproduction and the harsh reality that 85 percent of clothing still comes from virgin materials.

“There remains a huge opportunity to replace virgin use with circular business practices,” says Shannon Parker, who leads regulatory engagement, sustainability and commercial raw materials strategy at Circ., He told the forum attendees.

On the same panel, “Harnessing brand strengths to drive turnovery“, James Rogers agreed that recycling was about achieving more quality with the products they sell at Rothy’s, keeping them at the highest value for as long as possible, and then remanufacturing them.

“I want to campaign for all of us to call for circular recycling because we need to make the business and government case for it,” he said. Rachel Kibby, CEO, Circular Services Group. Shannon Parker agreed that this makes sense. “To say that Recycling It would be exaggerated. “It’s manufacturing, just using different raw materials.”

These messages are crucial, because private companies have so far primarily funded circular initiatives, but some are stepping up pressure for regulation.

“It’s crazy that we’ve come this far without policy. EVs only succeed because they’ve had 20 years of government funding and shots in the arms. We’re nowhere close to that, but fortunately, we have a roadmap. We can look at the fundamental mistakes that were made In the 1980s and 1990s, when it came to plastic packaging, no one knew what or how to recycle. “We needed a federal EPR for fashion,” Kibbie emphasized.

Law of the Americasa new federal bill to revive America’s domestic textile industry, would incentivize American companies to manufacture domestically and include tax breaks, as well as loans, grants, aid and education programs for circular business operations.

Committee members celebrated this level of organization and advised companies to take it seriously and start preparing. One way to do this is to have a voice in shaping policy.

You do not have to be a lawyer to participate. “With the fashion code, the brands that were involved spoke up and said, ‘You’re misunderstanding this process, or someone has to modify it.’” “They’re talking about the logistics of how the regulations will impact fashion,” said Michelle Gabriel, director of the sustainable fashion graduate program at GCNYC. “Their actions.”

Regulations are intended to shape internal policies, so analyzing and anticipating future needs is key. Structuring teams around them is a smart way to adapt. One strategy that companies are trying is to create an environmental, social and corporate monitor who reports to the CFO and has a dotted line regarding sustainability.

“My favorite thing is seeing a sustainability person reporting to senior executives. Well, if the role doesn’t already exist,” Chelsea Evans, a sustainability expert who formerly worked at Etsy and Nordstrom, told the crowd.

What’s most important is integrating ESG and sustainability roles across the organization, noted Dina Cook, Sustainability Project Manager at ADEC Innovations. “This helps secure these climate reporting roles and doesn’t lock them into a team that doesn’t generate revenue.” Regardless of the structure of the teams, panelists agreed that the industry should stop treating sustainability initiatives as cost-cutting programs.

From new systems to sourcing challenges

While systems bring new challenges, they also provide a roadmap for lasting change. But what’s even more pressing is that brands are still grappling with sourcing challenges that are holding back progress.

“First and foremost, there is no common definition of sustainable sourcing to guide us,” said Ashley Barrington, Better Cotton’s U.S. country director.

As expected, all sourcing panelists said the push for speed and low cost that is fueling overproduction is a major challenge. “What needs to change most are financial incentives for things like lower first cost. That’s why prices are low in our industry and high elsewhere,” Beth Esponette said.

it is in Work on the least expensive model first. Hundreds of small factories surround the company’s center and bring it trends. Shein takes bids from these factories on designs and accepts the lowest bid. It starts with small orders and gives more business to compatible suppliers. This kind of behavior drives businesses down the drain, Beth said.

For virgin production, there is a greater promise of sustainability in mass customization because it shifts the industry from pushing things to consumers to pulling what they want from them. Non-wovenfor example, envisions a stock-less model with Vega, its custom-made denim line.

The afterlife gets a new life

Aside from often name-dropped textile innovations like Mylo and Biofluff, the most impressive example of innovation came from a hands-on workshop led by Debrand.

An after-life inventory management company that handles resale, donation, recycling and repair has offered to partner with Everlane It dealt with the influx of the company’s returns, many of which were accumulating without prior resolution of the afterlife. Through textile identification technology powered by Sortile, returns can be identified and sorted with up to 95 percent accuracy and then allocated to the appropriate final categories such as resale or synthetic insulation.

Workshop tables were stacked high with Everlane returns, and attendees were tasked with repeating the process: first sorting and then scanning the clothes using a Sortile proprietary machine to determine the correct waste stream, or better yet, seeing if the clothes qualified for molecular recycling using another Debrand partner, Eastman.

Molecular recycling, in short, means that the product does not deteriorate with each cycle. It makes virgin-like materials possible using a recycled product and helps address the problem of blended textiles, which were not recyclable before.

By the end of the activity, attendees set aside piles of Eastman’s Everlane clothing and more for resale. However, when an attendee passed a fuzzy, latex underwear over the Sortelle device and made a sound indicating “other,” the technology demonstrated its limitations in identifying specific inputs such as nylon and more complex blends.

“Right now, technology is still catching up, but we need to make sure everyone has their hands in the game to make it happen,” said Lena Londono, vice president of sustainability and solutions at Debrand.

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