Photo by Alice Patterson
CALL AND RESPONSE
When Made-By and Estethica teamed up to create a new questionnaire for designers wishing to exhibit at London Fashion Week, both the European nonprofit and the popular sustainable-fashion platform set out to do more than screen applicants. “The idea was to create a holistic picture by looking at what issues can be addressed at all stages of a product’s lifecycle and also show how many issues and stages are related,” Allanna McAspurn, Made-By’s U.K. general manager, tells Ecouterre. “We also wanted to inspire brands to tell their stories.”
The result is a series of 18 questions that can not only be used to weed out truly green labels from their less-than-verdant counterparts, but also serve as guidelines for any designer or brand that wants to improve the sustainability of its business. In the end, it boils down to knowing the right questions to ask.
“The first step is to fully understand your supply chain,” McAspurn says. “It can be useful to use third-party auditors, but the best method is often to create good and long-lasting relationships with your suppliers where they trust you enough to be honest about the actual situation and are willing to work with you on any improvements.”
That doesn’t mean tackling everything at once, McAspurn stresses. Small steps can snowball in impact, and in fact, it may be more effective for a designer to start with one specific area instead of strong-arming the process and getting overwhelmed. She adds: “Remember that there are companies out there that can support and advise on what changes can be made, such as Made-By—you aren’t alone.”
1. How can you use intelligent design to reduce the social and environmental impact of a product’s lifecycle?
2. Do you consider the environmental effects of the colors and prints you choose for your collection?
3. Can you create a longer-lasting and better-functioning product, thereby reducing the need to replace it?
4. How much water does it take to produce your fabrics?
5. Are you aware of the sustainable alternatives to the raw materials you are currently using?
6. When selecting your fabric range, do you think about the end-of-life stage, such as the implications of disposal?
7. How well do you know your supply chain?
8. What are the social costs of your production process?
9. Have you ever considered using recycled pre-consumer/post-consumer waste in your collection?
PACKAGING AND TRANSPORT
10. Are you able to reduce the amount of solid and hazardous waste in your packaging?
11. Have you considered a local supply chain to decrease mileage in the production process?
12. Could you reduce the weight and volume of a product by using fewer or lighter materials to optimize transportation?
13. How durable are your products; is it possible to increase their longevity?
14. How can you encourage the customer to form an emotional attachment to your product, thereby discouraging disposal?
15. How does your product need to be cleaned and what impact will this have on the environment?
END OF LIFE
16. Can the product have a second life?
17. Could you offer an upgrading and/or a repair service to your customer?