“It’s also about creating an engaging story around these new innovations that enable the everyday person to understand them.”
We live in an age of unprecedented demand on our global resources. The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluter, just behind oil. From the wastewater dumped into rivers to the chemicals used in cotton production, the way the world makes and ships clothes leaves a huge environmental footprint. But there are some players in the fashion supply chain fighting back. Fashion for Good (@FashionforGood) is a platform for sustainable fashion innovation. Its mission is to bring together the entire ecosystem to make fashion a force for good.
Liz Gyekye, Deputy Editor at Bio Market Insights, catches up with Georgia Parker, innovation manager at Fashion for Good.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Can you begin with a description about Fashion for Good and what it is the organisation does?
GP: Fashion for Good is a global initiative that intends to make all fashion good. It’s a global platform for innovation, made possible through collaboration and community. With an open invitation to the entire apparel industry, Fashion for Good convenes brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and funders united in their shared ambition. At the core of Fashion for Good is our innovation platform. Through our Accelerator Programme we give promising startup innovators the expertise and access to funding they need in order to grow. Our ‘Scaling Programme’ supports innovations that have passed the proof of concept phase, with a dedicated team that offers bespoke support and access to expertise, customers and capital. Our Good Fashion Fund catalyses access to finance to shift at scale to more sustainable production methods.
Fashion for Good also acts as a convener for change. In October 2018, we opened the world’s first interactive museum dedicated to sustainable fashion innovation. In its hub in Amsterdam, Fashion for Good also houses a Circular Apparel Community co-working space, creates open-source resources like its Good Fashion Guide about cradle-to-cradle apparel.
LG: Before going into your current role, what did you used to do?
GP: I am currently working as Fashion for Good’s Innovation Manager and I specifically focus on raw materials and dyeing and finishing. I provide bespoke consultancy support to innovators in these verticals, helping them accelerate their innovations to scale.
Prior to this, I worked as a Programme Manager at Fashion for Good ‘Experience’ – a space where you can learn how your clothes were made and discover game changing innovations shaping the future of fashion. During this role, I helped with the development of our internal brand sustainability assessment to assess the brands we feature in the shop.
Previously, I worked at adidas in their Brand Sustainability team and was part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Fellowship programme. I started my career in finance at Deloitte.
LG: What challenges do your clients face?
GP: We are in a unique position where we can bring together innovators, manufacturers and brands to work collaboratively together to drive innovation in fashion. One of the challenges faced by both innovators and brands are expectations in terms of readiness to implement, pilot and scale. That’s where we can really have a value, by working with both sides.
A challenge for our brands is to remain focused on working on innovations that can have the biggest impact for their company. There are so many exciting innovations out there so it’s sometimes hard to pick who to work with.
Finally – funding, more investment is needed to catalyse access to finance to shift at scale to more sustainable production methods. This is where our ‘Good Fashion Fund’ comes in.
LG: What opportunities are there for sustainable fashion?
GP: Tonnes – so many exciting ways to engage consumers around these topics. Look at the success of adidas x Parley, people want to make a difference, not just buying shoes but also getting involved in driving change.
There are opportunities across the whole value chain from raw materials through to end of life. It’s also about creating an engaging story around these new innovations that enable the everyday person to understand them. That’s what we aim to do with our Experience, we have an ‘Innovation’ lounge where visitors can learn about innovators in our programme and feel the actual artefacts. For example, US biotechnology company Ecovative has helped to develop a foam made from mycelium. Separately, Mango Materials has developed a PHA polyester alternative made from methane gas.
It’s also about educating the consumer about what they can do, what is available, how they can contribute. Through our interactive Experience visitors can build personalised Good Fashion Action Plans that give them the tools to change their behaviour.
Through our innovation platform we work with brands, manufacturers and innovators to develop collaborative pilots that accelerate sustainable innovations. We have also developed open source tools on circular apparel that share knowledge and lead systems change.
LG: Why do you think more and more people are taking an interest in sustainable fashion?
GP: The fashion industry accounts for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, about the same as the European Union – so there is significant capacity to have a large impact when shifting the needle.
As I mentioned above, it’s about understanding where a company can have the biggest impact and focusing their efforts in that space
We now know we buy 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago — but we keep each item only half as long. Plus, it is estimated that nearly 60% of all clothing produced ends up being burned or in landfills within one year of being made. We know this can change and we have to.
LG: What are the next big trends?
GP: Effective recycling – closing the loop on existing textiles to enable us to reuse existing resources more efficiently and reduce our environmental impact.
Ideally you want materials that are biodegradable and recyclable. So, ideally you can recycle them infinite times but if they do escape into the natural environment they will degrade.
There is also a demand for increased traceability throughout the supply chain, for example with Bext360 who have developed a platform that facilitates traceability throughout the supply chain.
Finally, consumers are becoming more vocal and aware.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable product?
GP: Rifling through my family and friends wardrobes to snag some second-hand gems.