Based on coverage from SOURCE Intelligence over the past year, there are been several key trends or themes that have arisen in the areas of market, sourcing and business best practice across the sustainable fashion sector.
In her presentation at the inaugural SOURCE Summit 2012, Deputy Editor Sarah Ditty offered concrete, practical examples of how the sector is evolving, drawing upon businesses both big and small.
Key Trends in the Market:
- High Street Availability
- Growth in online retailers dedicated to sustainability or uptake of sustainable brands
- Emerging markets and growing global opportunities for sustainable fashion
- Increasing number of ethical tradeshows and catwalks around the world
Key Trends in Sourcing:
- Bridging the Gap, designers moving into production
- Growing importance of artisans and craft preservation
- Advent of new tools making auditing supply chains easier
- New action on industry-wide Eco-labelling
Key Trends in Business best practice:
- Changing industry attitudes
- “Made in the UK/USA”: Re-localised sourcing and production
- Resource Efficiency
- Celebrity Endorsement
KEY TRENDS IN MARKET
1) High Street Availability
There have been more sustainable and ethical ranges introduced by large corporate retailers than ever before.
Examples over the last year have been plenty, including:
Not slated as the biggest buyer of organic cotton worldwide, H&M launched it “Conscious Collection” this year made from organic cotton and hemp as well as other recycled materials.
- M&S “Shwopping” initiative- we’ve got an excellent interview with Head of Plan A, Mike Barry – coming out next week
M&S and Oxfam have also very recently created “Shwopping” to persuade people in the UK to donate clothes as they go into M&S to shop.
Reclaim To Wear, a project of From Somewhere Founder and Fellowship 500 member Orsola de Castro, debuted a capsule collection with Topshop on 8 June 2012 – the range will feature dresses and denim accessories made from discarded and waste fabric.
After an extensive lifecycle analysis, Levi’s® launched its new Water<Less™ jeans, in which the average water use in the finishing process has been reduced by up to 96% in some styles. The lifecycle study clearly demonstrated that cotton farming was one of the areas where Levi’s could make the biggest difference in mitigating impacts on the environment.
ASOS, the eminent online retailer, has followed this burgeoning trend with its Green Room, which presents the ASOS Africa collection, produced in collaboration with Fellowship 500 member, SOKO Kenya enabling underprivileged communities to establish sustainable business through their local craftsmanship. They also stock a host of independent sustainable, ethical brands and designers in Green Room.
2) Growth in online retailers for sustainable fashion
Many of the businesses that have joined the Fellowship 500 movement this year represent new online retailers, which act as platforms for the best in sustainable and ethical fashion. These include:
There has also been an uptake of sustainable fashion brands stock by very large online retailers like ASOS and Yook.
3) Emerging markets
In our latest Global Outlook series, we take a look at the burgeoning sustainable fashion scene in Brazil. We speak with the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Brazil well as several other leading industry stakeholders in the region to discover how the country has taken up the burning sustainability issues.
“There is a growing sense of being more conscious of the whole aspect of sustainability and nowadays, you know more or less which Brazilian fashion brands are more connected and more worried with this topic, so I think we have evolved a lot in the last four years.”
Over the last year in particular, we have seen a growing interest amongst international designers and brands producing design led collections in Africa. From the success of the ASOS Africa Collection to major western designers using design influences and fabrics from the continent, it’s a clear trend that could have long-lasting impacts.
Coupled with a partnership between the International Trade Centre’s ‘Fashion 4 Development’ project with Vogue Italia and Yoox.com, fashion design and manufacturing in Africa has a real opportunity to empower communities and to provide routes towards sustainable incomes.
We’ve seen some promising success from product units in Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia and some really inspiring and globally commercial design coming from Nigeria. With the influence of ARISE magazine’‘s Fashion Week in Lagos, African fashion designers are making their mark on the international fashion scene like never before.
Read more about the latest developments in Africa in this overview.
4) Ethical Fashion tradeshows can catwalks growing and expanding into new markets
The Ethical Fashion show in Paris, now in its 8th year, was taken over by trade show giant Messe Frankfurt in 2010. Since then, there’s been a blossoming of similar shows in other parts of the world.
Recently launched trade shows and catwalks covering sustainable fashion include:
Better Fashion Week in Dublin (est. 2012)
The Green Showroom at Berlin Fashion Week (recently bought by tradeshow giant Messe Frankfurt)
Ethical Fashion Show Berlin (launched last autumn)
Eco Fashion Week in Moscow (held for first time ever in Jan 2012)
Green Fashion Competition at Amsterdam Fashion Week (est 2010)
New York’s The Green Shows (now in its 3rd year)
Source4Style (world’s only online trade show, est. 2009)
Sustainability Reporting at Shanghai Fashion Week (just launched this year)
Vancouver Eco Fashion Week (in 4th year)
KEY TRENDS IN SUPPLY
1) Bridging the Gap
Over the past 5 years, a new phenomenon has emerged: designers BRIDGING THE GAP by choosing to work with supplier groups or setting up their own production units working to high ethical standards and catering for the mainstream fashion sector.
In 2007, Shari Keller, a designer and founder of the Mehera Shaw, set up an ethical fashion house and private limited production company in Jaipur, India, with husband Mark. The unit offers production services for a number of private labels as well as their own, and is a pioneer in intercultural communication between the worlds of western design and small artisanal suppliers.
NV London Calcutta began as a luxury ethical fashion brand producing high-end leather and silk goods in Calcutta, India. Then in 2009, its founder Naomi Cornelius-Reid established a partnership with a World Fair Trade Organization member manufacturer and has devoted her career to strengthening that relationship and extending production services through it to other brands as well as her own.
Set up in 2009 by Joanna Maiden, SOKO is a clothing production workshop for the export market that aims to create sustainable, fair employment and offer training and skills to some of Kenya’s poorest people.
In 2003, Sital Punja’s award-winning ethical fashion label, Sari UK Limited, brought her to work with Thomas Toumazi, a highly skilled pattern cutter with over 30 years of experience in the garment industry. They found they held the same principles about manufacturing in the UK and, combining their expertise, pioneered an ethical manufacturing unit in London. The unit offers high quality CMT and pattern cutting services in a highly collaborative atmosphere.
2) Valuing artisans, craft preservation
Both well-known, high end designers and new luxury brands are beginning to value the amazing quality of handcrafted, artisanal materials an fashion products.
Brands like Maiyet are showing that artisan produced fashion can be high-end and desirable. Maiyet’s uniquely inspired, design driven collection seeks to elevate the next generation of master craftsmen from places such as Colombia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, and Peru.
There’s also suppliers like Manos del Uruguay, a knitwear cooperative of more than 250 artisans, that are now producing garments for a wide host of some of the industry’s most coveted designers such as Dries Van Noten, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and more.
With support from the International Trade Centre’s ‘Fashion 4 Development’ programme, Vivienne Westwood has launched a collection of bags handmade in Kenya with the aim of providing work, not charity. It’s meant to be a holistic approach dedicated to supporting disadvantaged communities to improve lives, allowing thousands of women to support themselves and their families.
There’s also been a proliferation of handcrafted products manufactured in small urban-based studios in cities like London and New York. The market for handmade fashion has been flourishing with customers looking to purchase products built to last.
In the next couple of months, we’ll be looking deeper into the ways that luxury brands and artisans can work together in commercially successful and empowering ways.
3) Advent of new tools making auditing supply chains easier
Tracing and auditing the supply chain can be very time-consuming and expensive, especially for small brands that have fewer resources to rely on.
The good news is that there are several new tools and platforms starting to pop up that can make traceability and monitoring of supply chains much more realistic. Take for example, the Aspiration Exchange, which is a new online platform for workforce optimisation. We’ll be meeting with the founders at the end of the month to discuss how the platform can work for your business.
The Ethical Trading Initiative has also launched a new collaborative approach programme in key supply chains, which makes a lot of sense for companies that tend to share the same suppliers.
One of the hottest topics across the sustainable fashion sector, defining what can be considered “ethical” or “sustainable” are is still a murky subject and “greenwashing” continues to be a problem for the rest of the industry.
This year clothing brand Rapanui has put forth one proposal for creating clarity around eco-labelling at the EU level.
Rapanui’s proposed eco-labelling system would take the form of a simple A to G rating, in the same style as the current EU energy-rating scheme for property. The ‘A’ rating would be awarded to clothing that is produced both ethically and sustainably. While items produced using partially sustainable or unsustainable methods would be awarded a lower rating.
There’s still a lot of debate around this topic but one that clearly needs to be addressed at the legislative level.
KEY TRENDS IN BUSINESS
1) Changing attitudes
Across the fashion industry we are beginning to see a change, with major players now starting to treat sustainability as a strategic element.
You can see this happening even by looking at the mainstream media. Vogue UK and US both have now have successful “Green” blogs on their website and are starting to regularly cover sustainable fashion brands. Vogue Italia, of course, has now partnered with the International Trade Centre’s ‘Fashion 4 Development’ project and are producing a lot of content focusing on how fashion can empower communities throughout Africa.
Mark Barry from M&S said in a recent interview “ I think really makes the difference is having motivations that aren’t PR driven. We simply what to reduce the risks and secure the future of Marks & Spencer, building a stronger and more powerful business in a very different future.”
Francois-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of PPR, comments: “Our pursuit of operating on a more sustainable level across all areas of our business is integral to our business plan and the longevity of our business… We are confident that this type of innovative, sustainability-driven approach will ultimately generate new business revenues from sustainable products and services and create new business models for us as a group.”
2) “Made in UK/USA” – Reviving localised sourcing and production
“Made in the UK” was a clear theme during the A/W 2012 season of London Fashion Week. There been some recent optimism around the revival of the UK’s once significant textile and garment industry. Highly visible efforts have come from Mary Portas’ “Kinky Knickers” project and with “UKFT’s “Let’s Make It Here” “:http://source.ethicalfashionforum.com/article/ukft-championing-lets-make-it-here-initiativeinitiative.
A significant number of our Fellows are producing locally in the UK. These include:
Nancy Dee – stay tuned for an upcoming interview this month
There’s also a prominent movement in NYC to revive the garment district with two NYC-manufactured brands nominated for this year’s prestigious Vogue/CFDA award – SUNO and Assembly New York. We will be covering this topic in much more depth towards the end of 2012. Stay tuned.
3) Resource efficiency
Our recently published UK Brand Leaders article highlights successes in reducing carbon and waste as well as reducing impacts in other areas of packaging, transport.
This year, Burberry launched a new range of consumer packaging made from an FSC accredited sustainable source and 100% elemental chlorine free. The Group has also reduced CO2 emissions from its buildings by 9%.
The PPR Group’s main areas of focus are: Carbon Emissions, Waste and Water, Sourcing of Raw Materials, Hazardous Chemicals and Materials, and Paper/Packaging.
PPR has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions, waste and water usage by 25 percent by 2016 across all of its brands. The group has also vowed that by 2016, 100% of gold and diamonds will be sourced from verified operations with no harmful impact on local communities, wildlife or ecosystems.
PPR has also established an Environmental Profit & Loss report – in order to “implement efficient and innovative initiatives to reduce the environmental impacts from the sourcing of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of the Group’s products”.
In a SOURCE interview with the Global Director of PUMA, Dr Reiner Hengtsmann, he explained the value for investors as well as for consumers of Puma’s ‘Environmental Profit & Loss’ report to bring about positive change for ecosystems and lifestyles. “We need exact figures to internalise these costs and implement changes.”
In the last five years M&S have reduced carbon emissions by 22%, interview with Mike Barry, The gain from Plan A is an estimated £185 million over 5 years – the gains have been through our own operations, such as better energy usage, less packaging and fewer carrier bags.
Our review of H&M’s 2011 Sustainability Report highlighted that new and more sustainable use of resources and materials are the company’s key goals.
In 2011 H&M used recycled polyester to equivalent of 9.2 million plastic bottles. They also introduced organic hemp, grown without the use of pesticides and with limited use of water, to their growing range of conscious materials, and launched a pilot project to return worn garments to stores for recycling.
In 2011 the first ‘better cotton orders’ hit H&M’s stores and the brand became the largest buyer of organic cotton, surpassing Walmart. The goal is 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2020
Through their innovative ‘Green Factory’ in India, Continental Clothing has achieved a 90% carbon reduction on their EarthPositive range. The factory is built with recycled steel and cement blocks, uses reverse osmosis wastewater to power the air conditioning. The entire factory is powered by off-site wind turbines. Even the waste thread from the factory floor is used to produce rope or is rewound into new cones of thread.
4) Celebrity Endorsement
Brands and retailers have been employing celebrity endorsements more and more to engage consumers in their CSR initiatives and get them buying their ethical ranges.
Highly visible examples include:
Emma Watson for People Tree
Joanna Lumley for M&S “Shwopping”
Lykke Li for NYC sustainable brand, Bodkin
Livia Firth has also been very effective in raising consumer awareness with “Green Carpet Challenge” recruiting celebrities such as Michelle Williams, Michael Fassbender and Meryl Streep to wear ethically or environmentally produced red carpet outfits for premieres and awards events.
Alexa Chung has recently gotten behind ethical issues, having been featured in the Ethical Special edition of Vogue UK’s April 2012.
There’s also been a trend of very famous models setting up or partnering on their own sustainable fashion brands or collections. Examples include:
Lily Cole’s knitwear brand – The North Circular
Erin O’Connor’s t-shirt brand – She Died of Beauty
Liya Kebede’s brand – Lem Lem
And there’s of course, other celebrities setting up their own ethical fashion projects, such as Ali Hewson and Bono’s celebrated label Edun.
We are also proud to now include amongst our Fellowship 500, the visionary Chief Editor of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani and Fashion Director of The Telegraph, Hilary Alexander.
Special thanks to Rachel Manns Photography for covering the event.