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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

25 July 2013

SOURCE Summit 2013: In review

Contributor Ethical Fashion Forum

Summit auditorium

We bring you a summary of the SOURCE Summit 2013: Momentum, highlighting the key themes and ongoing discussions that emerged at the event, which brought together leaders from the largest global retailers to the most pioneering brands and suppliers, from all over the world and every part of the fashion industry supply chain; to build upon and accelerate this momentum.

On Friday, 12th July, 2013, SOURCE Summit brought together more than 300 leading fashion professionals at The Crystal, London, with more than 1,000 participating online, from all over the world and every part of the fashion supply chain.

Delegates included representatives from TJX Europe, ASOS, ESPRIT, Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Whistles, Asda, Kering, Roland Mouret, H&M, People Tree, The North Face, Mothercare, Honest By, Marimekko, Cath Kidson, Just Style, DAC Clothing, Skunk Funk, and hundreds of other brands, large and small, as well as leading industry organisations.

Delegates joined the event from the USA, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Dubai, Japan, Uganda, Kenya, Bolivia, Peru, Germany, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Colombia, Brazil, Jamaica, Korea, El Salvador, Mexico… and the list goes on.

The SOURCE Summit was held at The Crystal, one of the most sustainable buildings in the world with delegates arriving by Arab Emirates’ cable cars, where the networking began.

More than 50 industry insiders from across the world, from the largest corporates to the most inspiring entrepreneurs and visionaries spoke, including:

  • Dolly Jones, Editor of Vogue.com
  • Baroness Lola Young, OBE
  • Amber Valletta, international supermodel / actress
  • Michael Beutler, Director of Sustainability Operations, Kering
  • Daliah Simble, Head of Sourcing and Production at Roland Mouret
  • Brigitte Stepputtis, Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood
  • Paul Wright, Head of Quality & Ethical from George at Asda
  • Bruno Pieters, Founder of Honest by
  • Plus many more.

Watch all three panel discussions from SOURCE Summit 2013

Feedback on SOURCE Summit 2013:

“The overriding message of the day among the discussions was that sustainability is important more than ever right now, is no longer a trend and is at its most prevalent and relevant.” vogue.com

“Definitely a foothold towards a tipping point in the sustainability movement. Very exciting..” Deborah Allen, Bright Colours

“Fantastic experience, depth of knowledge and offers of help and support in one event” Ruth Morris, Uniforms Manager, England Rugby 2015


We review the whole day below, including links to video coverage for all panels and masterclasses, and notes from all forums. Click here to see the PDF programme for the event.

Introductions and Keynote

The day commenced with a warm welcome from event host Amisha Ghadiali, dressed in a stunning sustainable dress from former SOURCE award winner, Ada Zanditon. “We know the scale of our industry that over 80 billion garments are produced each year and we bring in over £20 billion to the UK economy each year, so we know how much opportunity there is for positive change. We have so much energy in this room to make fashion guilt-free and to bring it back to an industry that we can all be proud to be part of. We’re here to build upon and accelerate this momentum.”

Ethical Fashion Forum Managing Director Tamsin Lejeune set the tone for the day by explaining how “the fashion industry has moved on enormously since we first started… it’s an exciting point to be at, we are no longer in the beginning. We’re coming close to a tipping point.”

Baroness Lola Young OBE, our esteemed keynote speaker and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, passionately echoed some of these same sentiments and spoke more about the role of the government in a sustainable fashion future.

“Post Rana Plaza [Bangladesh factory collapse], the situation has changed, it would be impossible for it not to, there is a momentum…. I can’t be confident that there isn’t another Rana Plaza waiting to happen, so we have to keep on doing what we are doing. We have to collaborate.”

Speaking more about the Bangladesh Rana Plaza factory collapse, SOURCE Intelligence Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Ditty, introduced our Value Chain Call to Action, which will act as a collaborative, coordinated industry response to the tragedy with specific calls to action ensuring that this kind of tragedy never happens again.

Sarah gave exclusive insight into some of the key developments in ethics and sustainability in fashion over the past year, bringing everyone up to speed on the latest trends and innovations across the sector.

These trends included: greater transparency, collaborative consumption, online sales and mobile commerce growth, detoxing supply chains, new sustainable sourcing tools, fibre/fabric/manufacturing innovation, emerging markets, closed loop textiles and collaboration.

Future Fashion – Towards Transparent supply chains

Watch the Future Fashion panel discussion, here.

The first panel discussion, Future Fashion, brought together industry leaders to share best practice and debate how this momentum can be built upon for the future of the industry. The panel speakers included: Brigitte Stepputtis – Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood, Michael Beutler – Sustainability Director at Kering Group, Cyndi Rhoades – Founder of Worn Again, Daliah Simble – Head of Production at Roland Mouret, Orsola de Castro – Co-founder of Estethica, From Somewhere and Reclaim to Wear, and Bruno Pieters – Founder of Honest By.

Transparency was the topic that emerged to frame the discussion as Michael Beutler presented Kering’s Environmental Profit & Loss reporting, Bruno Pieters talked about his reasons for setting up a 100% transparent brand and audience members having asked some difficult questions of Vivienne Westwood and Roland Mouret’s business practices.

Brigitte Stepputis, Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood, reported that the designer has now been working with the International Trade Centre on a collection handbags and accessories in Kenya for eight seasons. Michael Beutler explained how Kering’s work on Environmental Profit & Loss reporting is helping the company to understand its impacts along the supply chain, which helps them be transparent back to its customers.

We heard about some exciting developments in closed loop technologies that can take textiles, even mixed blend ones, separate, re-capture and reuse these resources at the same quality from Cyndi Rhoades, the founder of Worn Again.

According to panellist Daliah Simble, Head of Production for Roland Mouret, 90% manufacturing happens in Europe and almost 70% made in the UK, which was a welcomed surprise for the audience. The challenge now for RM is sourcing local fabrics that have the qualities they need – such as stretch.

Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Esthetica and Reclaim to Wear, dug a bit deeper into her expertise with upcycling and the challenges for taking this approach to scale as well as how “sustainability is not crunchy anymore, it is sexy.”

Bruno Pieters, a veteran of the high end fashion industry and founder of 100% transparent brand Honest by, explained that “buying is like voting, and I don’t want to support something against my values.” He wanted to build a brand that he could see for himself, even the price breakdown, which he offers in full for every product in his collection. Bruno’s pioneering work in transparency sparked some debate about why designers like Vivienne Westwood and Roland Mouret aren’t more open about their business practices.

Scaling Impact

Watch the Impact panel discussion, here.

Chaired by the charismatic consultant and Ethical Fashion Consultancy board member Clare Lissaman, the Impact panel brought together Paul Wright – Head of Quality and Ethical for George at Asda, Russell Spiller – Director of Mantis World, Reet Aus – mass upcycling pioneer, Maher Anjum – Bangladesh Brand Forum, and Mary King – Panchachuli, to discuss achieving major impact when it comes to people and the environment.

Clare asked some controversial questions to energise the debate and Paul Wright from George at Asda explained how their ‘lean manufacturing’ initiative is not another way to squeeze workers for more profits but rather about turning the typical hierarchical top management pyramid on its head in the 700 factories it produces apparel in – eventually. Asda has been working to change mindsets of its employees, especially its buyers, and factories that better practices are important and possible.

Russell Spiller of Mantis World impressed the audience with their truly pioneering impact on the ground in Tanzania, employing 2,300 or more workers. Their workers are encouraged to join committees where they have a say in how manufacturing is done as well as health and safety and the workers own conditions. The factory has been operating since 1964 and the impact has been that workers build up their skills which crosses over in other facets of life and community.

Maher acknowledged how the quickly growing Ready-Made Garment sector has brought considerable benefits and economic growth to Bangladesh but bringing benefit to the whole value chain remains the challenge for the country and for the industry as a whole.

Sticking on the topic of Bangladesh, Reet Aus is having considerable impact in the upcycling space with large scale upcycling processes being developed with large-scale manufacturer Beximco in Bangladesh.

Mary King from Panchachuli said that working with large retailers, such as their recent collaboration with Timberland, has had a two-way impact. Panchachuli has had to rise up to the retailer’s compliance standards, and Timberland has had to understand how an artisan group works – the ways in which products are made, lead times and techniques.

There was a lot of question around pricing from the audience. How do we make sustainable fashion affordable and accessible? Most of the panel seemed to think it is feasible to have affordable prices especially at scale, the industry just needs to get there. Discussion also centred around incentives for buyers, which are typically all around margins, and rewarding good factory practices – which there seemed to be little consensus on how this is being dealt with across the industry as a whole.

Putting the spotlight on sustainability

Watch the Spotlight panel discussion, here.

The spotlight panel shines a light on what needs to happen to take the industry to tipping point – the point at which sustainability in fashion becomes the norm.

This panel is chaired by Lucy Shea, the CEO of Futerra Sustainability Communications and Founder of Swishing, with an impressive range of speakers including Dolly Jones, Editor, Vogue.com; Alice Strevens, Ethical Trade Manager; ASOS; Ben Ramsden, Founder, Pants to Poverty Merryn Leslie, Founder & Buyer 69b and Amber Valletta, Model, actress, spokesperson giving us a special message at the close of the session.

Dolly Jones opened the panel talking about the fantastic stories that sustainable fashion brings to Vogue.com for The Green Style Blog. “It’s about longevity and continuing the same message… this can’t be a flash in a pan, there has to be a continued story.”

Dolly also mentioned that they’ve seen an increasing interesting in ethical fashion. “Right now the time is really ripe to get the message out there, because of Rana Plaza, it was such a huge, huge story and people who may not have been awake to the issue before now have there eyes open. Now is the time we should be feeding them stories about ethical fashion. Now is the time we can really get people on board.”

Alice Strevens from ASOS discussed communicating within her teams, especially buyers and designers, on how ethical and sustainable fashion can meet their targets and margins and equally that it’s fashionable and customers will buy it. Buyers need to be set better targets that look at exit margins.

Merryn Leslie of innovative, independent boutique 69b wanted brands to know that in order to reach the ‘spotlight’ that they need to stand out and have good business practice. They have to understand costs, margins, pricing, all those things are really important – your communication, your paperwork.

Ben Ramsden from Pants to Poverty roused the audience with a call to fix the “the broken model of conventional fashion.”

“We cannot approach these issues with the same buying techniques and sourcing strategies, we need to be able to re-think what is the value chain community that we are engaging in, what our role is within that and how can we maximise the benefit for people, planet and profit that drives business in a sustainable way.”

Ben further energised the room with his rebel-rousing view on the future of the sector: “Fashion shapes culture, fashion shapes mindsets, fashion links the richest to the poorest through the very value chains that we source our goods… we need to start to break down the key elements – artisans, industrial, entrepreneurial – we need to look at it through a new framework, reshaping the business case and internalising the true costs of the way business is run…. we need to redefine what we mean by profit, we need to look at social, environmental and financial profit. And we need to deepen our relationships amongst our value chains and use technology as the platform to make that happen simply, quickly and affordably.”

Supermodel Amber Valletta wrapped up the discussion with a hopeful outlook: “Together we can source, produce, sell and buy better. It is possible to be both fashionable and care about the world around us.”

Big Business Big Impact Forum

SOURCE Summit offered three open dialogue forums for industry leaders to get together to discuss openly and honestly some key challenges and to share best practice towards sustainability.

This Big Business forum brought together large business leaders with small business pioneers to connect and debate how Big Business can achieve Big Sustainability Impact, across the entire value chain.

Chaired by Clare Lissaman, Director, SOURCE Consultancy, this forum included Jo Murph of TJX Europe; Julia Kilbourne of the Ethical Trading Initiative; Tom Smith of Sedex; Jane Blacklock of Mothercare, and Menusha Gunawardhana, a sourcing consultant from Sri Lanka Expert.

The key issues debated and lessons that began to emerge can be summed up as:

  • How do we get beyond compliance? It’s not just about risk but about building capacity across their supply chains. A shift from top down to equitable supplier relationships
  • The need to look at the entire business infrastructure holistically, before expanding into supply chains and ethical practices. Using tools and systems to help longstanding business to change their ways.
  • Buyers needs to understand more and there’s a need for a better understanding of buyers practices.
  • Retaillers working directly on the ground with artisans and how much real impact this has had on the lives of these communities.
  • It’s important to have monitoring bodies who can act globally and communicate the same standards globally.
  • Businesses should begin taking responsibility for consumers purchasing changes. In order for consumers to take responsibility of what they are purchasing, they will need to have an understanding what impact garments of clothes have.
  • We need to harmonise the language we use to talk about these issues.
  • Voices of the workers and from the ‘South’ to be heard much more.

Future Fashion Forum

The last 5 years has seen unprecedented growth and diversification in the sustainable fashion sector. This forum offered the opportunity for pioneers from growing product sectors – such as menswear, footwear, lingerie/ swimwear, luxury, accessories/ jewellery, and recycling, to come together, connect with peers, share best practice and collaborate.

Chaired by Annegret Affolderbach of Choolips, this forum included the founders of SOURCE member brands Eden Diodati, Abury, RIZ Boardshorts, Moonshined Designs, Cholesburys and Dhana EcoKids – as well as many other delegates from the day.

The discussion revolved around the following:

  • Need for transformed education that opens new fashion professionals minds up to sustainability from the beginning
  • Brands need better business education to build their skills beyond design or their ethical/sustainable mission
  • Greater collaboration between brands and other organisations to build momentum in sustainability and fashion.
  • Where is the future of fashion going to come from? Is it fashion at all, and should we be looking outside of it?
  • Brands need to be better at storytelling – it’s all about the story, they are powerful and this resonates with people the world over.
  • Ethics is not a USP, it’s essential the industry should really believe in at its very core.
  • Transparency through labelling is necessary but too complicated, it’s to be simplified.

Next Generation Forum

Education has the potential to rapidly build momentum for sustainability in the fashion sector. This forum brought together academics, educators, students, consultants and experts and share best practice around fashion education, including input from Dilys Williams, Director, CSF, London College of Fashion; Mo Tomaney, Senior Research Fellow at Central St Martins; and Chaired by Liz Parker, academic, professor and campaigner.

The key lessons drawn were:

  • Education has gone beyond teaching students about the problems but also teaching them about the practice for making positive changes and transformation
  • Cooperation is more important than ever, education programmes should be working together more to build momentum for sustainable fashion.
  • It’s important to empower students to do something different and that they can have influence things around them. This is what education is about.

Sourcing Forum

This forum brought together suppliers of fabrics, components and manufacturing services large and small with retailers and brands to connect and debate best sourcing and production practice.

Hosted again by Clare Lissaman: Director of SOURCE Consultancy, this forum included presentations from Alexander Kasterine of the International Trade Centre, supplier and brand Mehera Shaw, Lulea setting up leather manufacturing in Kenya, consultant Jackie Andrews, and supplier Lebenskleidung.

The way the industry will move forward were suggested as the following:

  • There are still areas where there is so much we don’t know about, there’s no transparency. But finally big retailers are beginning to want to know what’s happening in their supply chains.
  • We should think more about beauty, we should look more to the creative side and when fashion is good as a way to inspire.
  • There’s a new collaborative sourcing platform to help smaller designers to pool together to meet large minimum orders.

Retailer Forum

This forum brought together retailers large and small with entrepreneurs and brands to debate what needs to happen to increase the availability of sustainable fashion on the High St and online – including Georgie Wells of 69b and the Founders of ReFashioner, Think Boutique, and Agnes & Lola.

  • Routes to market have opened a bit. Pop-ups and working together collaboratively has made it easier for online retailers to connect with consumers.
  • ‘Recommerce’ – selling pre-loved clothing is a markedly growing industry for both lower priced and higher end fashion but does come with some pitfalls – namely being able to connect to and market specific products and brands.
  • The market for menswear is really growing in terms of availability and interest from male consumers.

Media & Consumer Forum

This forum discussed how to raise consumer awareness around sustainable fashion or what needs to happen to increase media coverage and including an introduction to new initiative – Fashion Revolution Day (FRD).

It was hosted by Amisha Ghadiali, (Future Fashion) with presentations from Orsola de Castro (FRD), Sandy Black, Author of Eco Chic and The Sustainable Fashion Handbook, and Bethany Field of Best Foot Forward.

  • We need great products that are exciting and made well that happen to be sustainable and ethical.
  • We need a tool to make it exciting – such as Fashion Revolution Day, which would be a tool for everyone to use to collaborate and raise awareness, taking a lead from International Women’s Day.

Watch all 6 Masterclasses, filmed during The SOURCE Summit

Filmed during the SOURCE Summit 2013, SOURCE MASTERCLASSES part of a six-part video training series covering some of the key areas for combining commercial success with social and environmental innovation:

Elements of Success

Communicating Sustainability

Finance & Investment

Online Sales


Standards & Auditing Innovation

Final Comments – Plenary Session

  • There’s a lot we can learn from other industries – such as the fishing industry and legislation that is working to make it more responsible. What are other industries getting right, why and how can this be applied to the fashion and textiles sector?
  • We haven’t heard much about mending as a sustainability strategy, in which brands can offer mending services and re-engage wearers with their clothes.
  • The Ethical Fashion Forum needs to expand to have a presence in other countries such as the USA and Australia.

SOURCE Founding Partner, Responsible Trade Worldwide put together an excellent, succinct infographic to pull out the main themes and future actions from the day. Download this infographic, here.

Thank You’s

Special thanks go out to The Crystal for hosting the event in its beautiful, sustainable building; Green Lens Studio for taking photos of the day; BE Inspired Films for bringing us the livestream and filming all of the sessions; Sodexo for sponsoring the wine and catering; Emirates Air Lane for taking our delegates on an exciting ride over the Thames in the bubble cars; Divine Chocolate for leaving our delegates with a special treat in their goodies bags; Mantis World for providing our team with fabulous event t-shirts; Pachacuti for decking our team out with gorgeous Fair Trade panama hats; and of course, so all of our Founding Partners for making this event possible.

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