Can fashion be a force for positive change in the world? If you’re attending the Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s second annual Positive Impact Awards in Brooklyn tonight—RSVP for free here if you haven’t—you already know the answer. A celebration of the ethical leading edge, the event will honor fashion’s agents of change, from pioneering retailers such as Eileen Fisher and Patagonia to textile innovators like Bolt Threads. But don’t take our word for it. Ecouterre asked three of the industry’s biggest movers and shakers—BF+DA founder Debera Johnson, former Barneys New York fashion director Julie Gilhart, and Patagonia’s Jill Dumain, who will be speaking at the event about the importance of voting for the environment on November 8—about the current state of fashion, and how we can leverage it as a platform for innovation, collaboration, and sustainability in today’s political climate.
DEBERA JOHNSON (FOUNDER, PRATT INSTITUTE’S BROOKLYN FASHION + DESIGN ACCELERATOR)
I would say that given the opportunity to leverage our existing platform of being a hub for ethical fashion and design and our mission to share knowledge (as a part of Pratt’s educational purpose) it only makes sense for us to align with like-minded policy makers and organizations.
The BF+DA believes that we are moving from the innovation economy to the impact economy—and this transition is propelled by three interrelated drivers: sustainability, technology, and collaboration. So we are very focused on connecting the dots between policy and practice.
It’s tough to change a culture and the 20th century model for business, where growth and profit trump—yes, a pun—ethical production and environmental impacts.
“The BF+DA believes that we are moving from the innovation economy to the impact economy.”
Transforming the internal culture of established companies takes a lot of effort. The BF+DA is working with companies to help them create a common language across departments so the critical thinking around sustainability isn’t isolated but widely disseminated.
This promotes clarity and collaboration around purpose—it takes time and it takes leadership. Resources will continue to get more scarce and expensive—global environmental policies will force the hand of those slow to adopt new models.
The BF+DA is working with emerging brands and building these values in from scratch. These company’s have internal values that are based on a sustainable future and as they scale so will their impact.”
JULIE GILHART (FASHION CONSULTANT)
Yes, there is a new platform developing. It’s one where there is no longer a division of supply chain and style, Both camps are beginning to speak the same language and understand to an even greater extent what the impact of fashion is on the planet.
“We have to say we will vote for stronger, innovative environmental measures that support the planet.”
I feel the positive outcome of this year’s stressful election process is that we realize we need to be a part of what our politicians believe and what policies they will push.
We have to say we will vote for stronger, innovative environmental measures that support the planet, are good for business, and can do so without taking away the style!
JILL DUMAIN (DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABLE STRATEGY, PATAGONIA)
Patagonia recognizes that all of the processes we use to make our products have an impact on the environment and most of them aren’t good.
We have known for many years that the intersection of the environment and fashion exists and know that our industry is one of the least responsible in terms of caring for the planet.
“There is no separation from the environment and any of our daily activities any longer.”
With campaigns or platforms like Vote Our Planet, we are hopeful that more individuals and companies realize they have influence with their election ballots but also in their daily decisions.
There is no separation from the environment and any of our daily activities any longer.
We are hoping that more companies will realize this and consider the environmental impact of every decision they make.”