MARIE-CLAIRE DAVEU (CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER AND HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS, KERING)In 2017, we will see a heightened focus on sustainability in our industry and it will be endorsed proactively by more fashion brands and also through increased consumer concern. Enhanced transparency within the supply chain—both social and environmental—will be at the foundation of this movement and linking sustainability and the stories behind clothing will continue to grow in importance to consumers. The drive to embed sustainability within the industry will elicit an increase in innovative fabrics and fibres from new and more sustainable materials, whether through biotech or other solutions. And linked to this will be a shift from the current general concept of a circular economy to one that is more concrete as different key elements in the supply chain, such as end-of-life collection or the technology for closed-loop textile recycling, start to be implemented more and more.
SIMONE CIPRIANI (HEAD AND FOUNDER, INTERNATIONAL TRADE CENTRE’S ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE)Migration and widespread conflict (a real third world war) are the challenges of today. The fashion value chain is one of the biggest employers (and exploiters) of people in the developing world. It is high time for all those who are engaged in it to realize their potential to bring about decent work and living conditions and thus to contribute towards reducing conflict and illegal migration (which benefits mainly human traffickers). 2017 may be the year of awakening and awareness or that of irresponsibility and business as usual.
LIVIA FIRTH (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ECO-AGE; CO-FOUNDER, GREEN CARPET CHALLENGE)With the UN Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals as they have now been rebranded, we have a 17-point plan for the future. Whether we are talking about gender equality, no poverty, sustainable consumption, sustainable cities and communities, they represent the only roadmap to progress. At Eco-Age, we recognize the power of fashion to be a prism through which the SDGs can be unpacked, as every single day we all get dressed and if we start a journey into the supply chain of anything we wear, one will find all of the SDGs represented through this analogy. No poverty? The people who make our clothes still earn less than half of what they need to meet their basic needs. Gender equality? Approximately 80 percent of garment workers globally are women. Sustainable Cities and Communities? The garment industry environmental impact on communities is huge. And so on … At Eco-Age, we have proven that fashion is a very powerful vehicle for social change. The fashion community, which has embraced social media like no other, can connect and engage with the world with an almost unique skill, delivering unique outcomes. So in 2017, let’s embrace “social media for social change” – let’s make sure what we wear every day has a positive impact in our world and let’s share it on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and whatever you use to communicate with the world. Let fashion claim back a seat on the political agenda.
Photo by Roman Pawlowski for Greenpeace
KIRSTEN BRODDE (CAMPAIGN LEADER, DETOX MY FASHION, GREENPEACE)Many current fashion industry initiatives aim to develop a closed loop system, while maintaining the current business model of overproduction. Given the high amount of resources wasted on producing unnecessary and short-lived clothes, circularity is not sufficient to aim for. We need companies to foster solutions that are far less technical and more consumer-friendly. Innovative brands already design garments that are more durable or offer free repair services. Others will offer garments connected with a leasing system or resell their own secondhand clothes. Such approaches aiming for a longer, sustainable use of clothing need to come to fruition. The biggest environmental challenge—and an existential threat for the sportswear- and outdoor industry—is the shedding of microfibers of polyester and other synthetic materials that threaten our oceans and our health. In 2017, we should avoid to invent easy techno fixes like coatings coming with a new load of chemicals. Rather, we should re-think how many non-biodegradable polyester pieces we really need to produce and buy.
JUDY GEARHART (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM)I believe even mainstream fashion brands are slowly waking up to the understanding, after 20 years of investing in supply-chain monitoring and corporate social responsibility, that these initiatives are structurally limited in their ability to change workers’ lives. Their voluntary, confidential structures have sidelined the role of workers and their organizations. Smaller, alternative brands will have an opportunity to lead the search for new and effective solutions and help the more mainstream brands leave behind the “sunk cost” thinking that has limited a more complete redesign of their approach. The next wave of effective solutions will elevate workers’ voices and guarantee their ability to organize, bargain collectively and negotiate contractual commitments for changes in brand and employer behavior. The best solutions will address national policies as well as brand policies and they will report transparently how they impact workers’ wages, hours, and job security. Witness how, despite all the investments and progress in factory safety in Bangladesh, a December 2016 crackdown on organizers is undermining unions and workers’ rights. The importance of worker-driven solutions will grow and there will be more nascent engagement between brands and trade unions, with attempts to build on the contractual commitment negotiated with brands that created the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. This interest in worker leadership will help elevate the need to ensure apparel industry jobs are actually improving the lives of workers, especially the majority women workers. There will be growing collaboration between the women’s movement and worker movements, which will hopefully push apparel industry visionaries to better address the challenges women apparel workers face when they seek to gain power at work and at home. ILRF will be working with One Billion Rising and many others around the globe to promote actions from V-Day (February 14 ) to International Women’s Day (March 8) to raise awareness about the exploitative conditions in the apparel industry and demands of women workers for change. This global activism for women’s rights will dovetail with sustainable eco-fashion that guarantees living wages and safe working conditions, helping further fuel consumer demand.
SCOTT NOVA (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORKER RIGHTS CONSORTIUM)Here’s what I think we will see in the fashion industry in 2017:
- On labor rights, we will see a whole lot more of the same. Every major brand and retailer will continue to organize its business around the existing supply chain model, which is enormously effective at producing two things: cheap clothing and labor rights abuses. Via this model, brands put intense and relentless price pressure on factories. The factories respond by using unlawful means to reduce the cost of labor. They get away with it because of weak labor law enforcement and because of industry monitoring systems that are designed to fail and do so spectacularly. This model works very well for the brands, which will continue to procure clothing more cheaply and more quickly than they could if factories actually had to obey the law. Most garment workers, meanwhile, will continue to work long hours, for sub-poverty wages, in dangerous factories, run by abusive managers.
- And we will endure the onward march of “CSR.” Brands and retailers will continue to aggressively manage the reputational risk that arises from labor rights abuses in their supply chains. They do so through communications strategies that are designed to conjure an alternate reality, in which “socially responsible” apparel corporations care as much about the well-being of workers as they do about gross margins and act accordingly. The purpose is to obscure the harsh reality for workers and the fundamental contradiction between the industry’s pricing practices and its stated labor rights goals. Continuing a long-term trend, these strategies will be employed with increasing sophistication in the year ahead, with new tactics incorporated as old ones lose their pop, enabling brands and retailers to avert reputational damage without having to actually improve working conditions.
- But we will also see the brightening of some glimmers of hope that have emerged in recent years. The Bangladesh Accord, which replaced the brands’ voluntary worker safety promises with an enforceable contract, will complete much of its remaining work, adding thousands more essential safety upgrades in factories employing millions of garment workers. With many brands now on record promising living wages in their global supply chains, demands will increase from advocates and unions for demonstrable results, and conversations will begin about how to translate those promises into the kind of binding commitments that power the Accord. Garment workers all over the world will continue to organize, facing down employer retaliation, gaining stronger footholds in more apparel exporting countries, giving meaning to the words in national laws and buyer codes that say workers have the right to freedom of association, persevering despite the massive organizational challenges and severe personal risks. Progress on this front will be painstaking, but it will be cumulative, creating a better foundation on which more can be built. Finally, advocates will counter the brands’ evolving communication strategies with increasingly well-coordinated efforts to illuminate labor rights realities and expose the emptiness of the industry’s monitoring systems and its “social responsibility” rhetoric. This will increase the pressure for real change.
CHRISTINA SEWELL (FASHION CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS)Fashion is more than the clothes that you wear. It’s a story about who you are. So what’s your story, exactly? The fashion industry is now the second-largest polluter on the planet: Animal skins are loaded with toxic chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and cyanide-based coal-tar derivatives to keep them from decomposing, and animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Animal-derived fashion is also responsible for the slaughter of millions of living beings every year. No matter your unique fashion sense, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the harmful processes that we’re collectively supporting as consumers. Last year, PETA videos were viewed more than 1 billion times, an unprecedented milestone that helped raise awareness of animal issues—including how leather, wool, down, fur, and other animal-derived materials create looks that kill, literally. We saw Joaquin Phoenix and Alicia Silverstone exposed systemic cruelty to sheep in the wool industry, and reality star Nicole Williams and singer Davey Havok revealed that cows are branded and beaten before being killed for leather. Singer Jhené Aiko bared it all to raise awareness of animals who are strangled, bludgeoned, and skinned alive for their fur, and actor Torrey DeVitto spoke up for reptiles who are often still conscious, flailing and kicking, even minutes after workers cut them open. There was action to back up that talk, too. Companies saw our eyewitness accounts and knew that their policies on corporate social responsibility meant nothing if they refused to live up to them. Now, more than 220 major fashion brands have banned angora wool, including retail giants Free People, Nasty Gal, and James Perse. The world’s top three largest clothing retailers—Gap Inc., Inditex, and H&M—have gone completely fur-free. And if you’ve heard of David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, and Rachel Zoe, you should know that their brands banned the use of ostrich skin and feathers after PETA investigated the largest ostrich-slaughter companies in the world. All this was followed by a PETA exposé of goose farms across China—where 80 percent of the world’s down and feathers originate—which revealed live plucking at numerous facilities. As a result, mega retailer Topshop and many others banned down feathers. None of this progress will limit your wardrobe in the slightest. There are many ethical, vegan options to choose from today, including handsome and durable leather substitutes such as cork, microfiber (made from recycled plastic bottles), and Ultrasuede (made from post-industrial polyester); down alternatives such as Plumtech, PolarGuard, PrimaLoft, and Thinsulate, and abundant wool-free blends made of acrylic, bamboo, cotton, hemp, Tencel, and viscose. We’re covered in more ways than one when it comes to putting together a killer look that doesn’t kill animals and the environment. What story, then, will we tell with our fashion choices once we’re armed with the knowledge to do better? 2016 proved to all of us that fixing broken systems can’t be put off until tomorrow. We have the power—today—to transform fashion into a positive and empowering means of self-expression, and it’s clear that the most effective way to do so is by wearing vegan.
LEWIS PERKINS (PRESIDENT, CRADLE TO CRADLE PRODUCTS INNOVATION INSTITUTE)2017 is going to be a year of positive energy around fashion-industry change. That’s because the groundwork has been laid down and many really important initiatives got going in 2016. We are in the midst of a deep and radical shift to remake the way fashion does business from the bottom up and inside out. There is now a focus on materials and design in order to better create products which have a positive impact on people and planet (not just a neutral or less-bad impact). For example, did we think a few years ago that we’d ever be able to tan leather without toxic chemicals? Incredibly importantly, these aren’t just internal, one-brand projects; the silos have been broken down. Brands are working together across the industry, collaborating with suppliers, and innovating new materials and processes—while keeping in mind the entire lifecycle of the textile. Shared-, repair- and circular-economy theories are now part of long range strategic planning. More companies will follow the Patagonia/IKEA lead for keeping materials endlessly at play. Look for more “fast fashion” brands such as H&M to take real leadership in circular model change. There’s a new alignment between fashion brands’ sustainability goals and the UN Global Compact Goals. This is a time of making commitments and more brands will get clear on what their commitments will be and by when. These deep and wide-ranging developments are the change we’ve been waiting for in the fashion industry.
LARHEA PEPPER (MANAGING DIRECTOR, TEXTILE EXCHANGE)2017 will be a year of seeing the amazing collaborations and partnerships that have been in motion to reach critical mass with the core leaders for a reimagined and transformed global textile industry. I am super-optimistic and believe our industry is on a trajectory of its own to achieve a tipping point on many levels. It’s not unlike the evolution of clean, renewable energy—it’s happening and it’s growing fast. The economics of alternatives are now competing with, and in some cases better than, conventional fossil fuel–based options. The train has left the station and it’s moving swiftly down the track. It’s simply smarter, better business. At Textile Exchange, we are honored to be a part of this transformation and aligned with our many members, large and small, who are at the forefront of leading this charge.
SABINE RITTER (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MADE-BY)2017 will be the year of disruptive innovations for sustainable fashion:
- Focused towards implementing a circular vision of clothes and textiles, with innovative business models, technologies and ways to finance innovations, driven by the necessity to drastically improve the working conditions and drastically reduce the footprint of the fashion industry;
- Facilitated by new and entrepreneurial collaborations in our industry —moving far beyond the current one-to-one strategic partnerships—across industries, bringing all actors together to leverage the best ideas;
- Enabled by transparency and traceability using the most innovative technologies and standards, so they become current practice and affordable;
- Driven by consumers demanding sustainable fashion and being prepared to act.
JASON KIBBEY (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SUSTAINABLE APPAREL COALITION)In 2017, designers will make better decisions to shape the sustainability of the clothing and footwear they create. It is often repeated that 80 percent of a product’s impact is determined during the design phase. Using the new Higg Design & Development Module, those designers can make fashion sustainable before it is even produced. 2017 will also be the year factory-level transparency starts to become mainstream.
ORSOLA DE CASTRO (FASHION DESIGNER; CO-FOUNDER, FASHION REVOLUTION)I predict an end to language laziness: 2017 will be when we’ll start to say it as it is. For years we’ve been skirting the true issues trying to make sustainability sound sexy, forgetting to explore the real terminology, ignoring the words that have meaning. Prepare yourself to know all about collective bargaining, unauthorized subcontracting, non-compliance and industrial relations. This is no time for a glosswash—transparency demands that we get to know the problem before we can resolve it. The language of sustainability may be grittier than what is normally used in fashion
talk, but it makes for a more convincing conversation.
DEBERA JOHNSON (FOUNDER, PRATT INSTITUTE’S BROOKLYN FASHION + DESIGN ACCELERATOR)The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 over 10 percent of our apparel will be connected to the Internet. For the consumer, this will influence how and why we buy our clothes. For brands, it will drive function, aesthetics and the user experience. For operations. it will influence the immediacy of trend forecasting and the shift to on-demand and bespoke production. And on the horizon, block-chains will trace the individual life cycle of products and bio-engineered materials will transform supply chains that bring new commodities onto the landscape.
CHRISTINA DEAN (FOUNDER AND CEO, REDRESS)I’m typically an optimist. But I am struggling to maintain this outlook for the coming year. I think we are experiencing a nasty hangover in the air caused by dashed hopes that governments and companies will solve our problems. So 2017 will be a heavy wake-up call that the powers that be won’t solve the problems. I think the harsh reality of the failing times we live in means more people will realize it’s time to take personal action. We are bombarded with bad news; take your pick from a very long list that could include anything from U.S. and EU political polarization, rampant environmental degradation and continued loss of biodiversity to the devastating impact of the fashion industry. The huge scale of these issues previously seemed beyond our direct control, but now people are putting their own hands up to deal with what’s on their own home patch, whether this means shopping more ethically, controlling consumption, or raising their concerns and frustrations more with the corporate world. What I am positive about is that this will be a year where the “power to the people” mantra will become more of the norm as people take matters into their own hands.
HELENA BARBOUR (SENIOR DIRECTOR, GLOBAL SPORTSWEAR, PATAGONIA)2017 is a year where our industry will have to stand up for the planet. Climate change is a fact, and “business as usual” needs to give way to “business as a change agent.” Innovation to reduce dependence on fossil fuel; promoting practices that reduce our use of water, energy and chemicals; and expanding regenerative agriculture will all be key to making this happen. Given the events of 2016, around the world and in our communities, we as an apparel industry need to work towards this more than ever.
PAUL DILLINGER (HEAD OF GLOBAL INNOVATION, LEVI STRAUSS & CO.)Voting doesn’t just happen every two years in November. People are starting to realize that every dollar they spend is a vote: a public demonstration of their values. Each purchase we make can be a small vote for sustainable industry, or for irresponsible excess. It can be a vote for renewable energy policy, or for sustained reliance on fossil fuels. Products, like politicians, represent a set values. I predict that conscious consumers will become more mindful of these considerations and will expect more transparency from the companies who are “asking for their vote.”
NICOLE RYCROFT (FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CANOPY)Roosters religiously herald the dawn of a new day. With the Chinese zodiac turning to the rooster, 2017 will see the start of a new era where being stylish is the nexus of devastatingly cool and sustainable. The coming year will build on the success of collaborations that have focused on impact and tangible results, be it for the wellbeing of garment workers, frontline communities living in endangered forests, our climate or the species we share this planet with. We’ve seen this in Canopy Style where leading designers like Eileen Fisher and Stella McCartney joined forces with NGO Canopy, Marks and Spencer and “fast fashion” giants H&M, Topshop/Arcadia Group and Zara/Inditex to halt the use of endangered forests in rayon and viscose fabrics. 2017 will see big-name global retailers and designers join the 68 brands already committed to Canopy Style. The work done by early innovator brands has blazed the trail for the transformation that is taking place within the viscose supply chain as rayon producers responsible for 70 percent of global production advance with implementation of their own endangered forest policies. The Year of the Rooster will also see…
- The hatching of new fabrics that catalyze a circular economy with recycled fabrics and straw as raw materials and biomaterials like mushroom leathers gaining momentum and market success;
- Fashion brands (along with other private sector leaders) playing greater roles in advancing environmental and social issues as we grapple with significant shifts in the constellation and alignment of world governments;
- Brands clearing their supply chains of controversial sourcing and advocating for conservation and community rights in endangered forests such as Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem and Canada’s Boreal gem, the Broadback Forest;
- Greater transparency by brands and fashion suppliers on their social and environmental performance.
AMY HALL (DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, EILEEN FISHER)The race is on! The “golden ticket” for 2017 will be circular product made from post-consumer fiber. Brands are investing substantial resources in emerging innovations, each hoping to be the first to achieve mass production levels. Meanwhile, nothing will change on the labor front. Workers will continue to bear the burden of our “fast fashion” economy, with long hours, low pay and little hope for meaningful work. Which brands will take the first step toward co-creating a “slow fashion” economy? One that recognizes the true value of each individual who contributes to our success and profitability?
KATHLEEN TALBOT (DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY AND BUSINESS OPERATIONS, REFORMATION)Sustainable fashion is quickly going from niche to best practice, and I feel really optimistic about the gains we can make in 2017 together. They say you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So we’ll continue to refine and expand our RefScale tool and our sustainability report to make sure we are counting the true costs of fashion that matter, and holding ourselves to be better and better. We will need to keep innovating new recycled and regenerated fibers and efficient dyestuffs to really decrease the footprint of the stuff we make. The most powerful thing about the sustainable fashion movement is illuminating the people (and the work conditions) behind our clothes. At Reformation, our sustainable factory and ethical manufacturing is more than “made in the U.S.A.” but is about opportunity, dignity, and truly fair work. I think consumers are demanding that more and more, and we’ll see brands respond with greater transparency about how clothes are made.
LUCY SIEGLE (JOURNALIST, THE GUARDIAN)Small is beautiful in 2017. The power base of a truly independent sustainable fashion movement comes from small and tiny brands and fashion startups, designer-makers and collectives (and increasingly facilities where designers and makers can rent equipment). There are some similarities with tech startups. In 2017 it’s important to map these domestic independents (a job that should be done by city mayoral offices) so that we can understand how these businesses work and evolve. We need to make good on our promise that sustainable fashion can create fulfilling livelihoods. The “fast fashion” model had an awkward year in 2016. The business practices and company structures of Philip Green over the BHS debacle and the entity Sports Direct were placed under an increasingly forensic media lens in the U.K. and beyond. These critiques barely mentioned the offshore supply chain, but did look at other important lines of enquiry. We saw mainstream questioning of tax contributions and extreme concentration of wealth. In 2017. expect to see this lens applied to other brands and a more thorough questioning of sustainability claims from major high-street brands where aggressive ethical messaging conflicts with a model based on equally aggressive growth and outsourcing. Trade talks will be fundamental to 2017 as globalization is unpicked. So it’s an important time to understand the trade flows of fashion. In conversation with Stella McCartney on stage at the Kering Sustainability Awards in London in November, I was intrigued when she mentioned that trade tariffs caused her to pay more for a low-impact non-animal substitute for leather that the real thing (with its attendant ecological footprint). It would be fascinating if sustainable brands began to challenge these structural barriers to sustainable consumption through trade law. And yes, it is time to get legal. Brands can expect to face up to legal challenges on the grounds of human and planetary rights as we move forward (this mirrors climate activism). This is where a lot of the serious conversations will be during 2017. On a slightly less macro level (although, who knows!) also look out for our new podcast, “The Green Carpet Chatter,” from myself and longterm collaborator Livia Firth, devoted to sustainable fashion.
SASS BROWN (AUTHOR; PUBLISHER, ECO-FASHION TALK; FOUNDING DEAN, DUBAI INSTITUTE OF DESIGN AND INNOVATION)2017 is going to be a year of change for so many of us. For myself, leaving the U.S. and taking up a new position as founding dean of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), is going to challenge me in completely new ways. It allows me to affect far greater change than I have previously been able to achieve whether through my writing, research or educational undertakings. That makes for an exciting 2017 for me, one full of possibility and opportunity, something that is paralleled in the fashion industry itself. Each of us has the ability to affect change in how we consume, and how we support sustainable change in the fashion industry, whether on a personal level, an educational one, or a corporate one, and I think 2017 will see a lot more people wielding that power to affect positive change. One of the biggest shifts I see on the horizon is the decentralization of power from big global brands to a myriad of artisans, producers, makers, designers, activists, NGOs, and others, who collectively make an impact through endless small acts that collectively add up to a massive
shift in our how we do business. It has become painfully clear that we cannot solve today’s problems with the
same thinking that created them (to paraphrase Albert Einstein), so I challenge
everyone to be a change maker, and to support others disrupting business as
TIMO RISSANEN (ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF FASHION AND SUSTAINABILITY, PARSON SCHOOL OF DESIGN, THE NEW SCHOOL)The U.S. election provides an unprecedented opportunity for organized resistance to corporate greed and oligarchy. We must organize. Climate-change impacts are now arriving at us faster than most models have predicted, and while we have made some progress in the past two years, we must push for more aggressive reductions in emissions. We must strive for the end of fossil fuels within two decades, and we must responsibly handle the associated trauma: entire communities exist around coal and oil, and we must acknowledge it and handle it. We must hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for hiding information, for spreading misinformation and for interfering with the political process. We must strive for aggressive reforestation across the world. We must strive for a planet-wide shift towards primarily plant-based diets: eating animals should become the exception, not the norm. We must have difficult, necessary conversations about not having children, in order to reduce our numbers on the planet over the next several generations. We must have difficult, necessary conversations about the future of work in the face of increasing automation. We must engage in conversations about quality of life, fundamental needs and what it means for us to be happy. We must fundamentally transform the economic system we are in. In other words, we must plan for systems-level transformation, in our global society and in fashion. We need less product and more imaginative, courageous fashion. Imagination is under serious threat today from a number of fronts, and I call for 2017 to be the Year of the Imagination. It takes courageous imagination to resist the serious existential threat that the election has created for all humanity. It takes courageous imagination to propose systemic solutions that bypass the majority of what we regard as wisdom about fashion business and business in general. It takes courageous imagination to reconstitute oneself as someone who relentlessly gives a damn about the future of humanity and the future of the planet. The two futures are inseparable and if we don’t accept that, there is little hope. I refuse to give up hope and I refuse to give in to cynicism, and I invite you to join me in shared resistance.
GIUSY BETTONI (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, C.L.A.S.S.)In 2017, C.L.A.S.S. will continue our journey to embrace responsible innovation. The new year will allow us to introduce beautiful, innovative and responsible alternative materials that deliver much more than conventional materials. These new innovations offer a synergetic approach to technology, innovation, and transparency that enhance design. This proves, that as fashion moves forward, it can be even better than in the past. C.L.A.S.S. remains dedicated to representing products that provide a new generation of added values. Our goal is to provide an authentic way of communicating to the consumer so they can make informed choices and generate a difference in fashion.
DEANNA CLARK (FASHION COMPLIANCE ATTORNEY; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY)With increased awareness about the importance of the supply chain in the fashion industry and sustainability issues, it follows that we will see a rise in the usage of eco-friendly packaging in 2017. From biodegradable and compostable envelopes to eco-friendlier bubble wrap and inflatable air pillows, companies like Green Packaging Group, Salazar Packaging, and Eco Enclose make it easy for any fashion company to pack and ship its merchandise reliably while maintaining an “Earth first” agenda.
SHANNON WHITEHEAD LOHR (FOUNDER, FACTORY45)Factory45 recently released a 2016 report on the State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship. Based on our findings, we determined that there are three main factors dictating the industry trends for 2017:
- Consumers are demanding more supply-chain transparency and small indie brands are delivering,
- The big retailers will eventually be forced to keep up with the precedent that independent brands are setting as millennials grow up and account for more purchasing power,
- Supplier and factory costs can’t keep up with the rock-bottom prices that the fast fashion industry tells the consumer they should expect. We are expecting the theoretical “bubble” to burst.
NATALIE FLOURNOY GRILLON (CO-FOUNDER, PROJECT JUST)At Project JUST, we predict more accountability for “transparency” on the part of brands, retailers, and supply chains. With more consumer and media engagement on these issues, we see brands stepping up and sharing what’s actually happening in their supply chains, both achievements and challenges, and increased demand for information from those who don’t. In the first few months, with the new president in office, we see that accountability beginning with an investigation into the Trump family clothing lines.
ANTHONY LILORE (DESIGNER, RESTORE CLOTHING; BOARD MEMBER, SAVE THE GARMENT CENTER)
For the most part, we can’t predict the future and we don’t live in a “build it and they will come world,” yet build and rebuild we must. Who was that guy who had the job of repeatedly rolling the Ball almost all the way up the hill only to have it roll down (again)? Well, the consumers are doing their jobs; they’re consuming (whether or not they have jobs is a song for a different dance). Consumers are consuming at an alarming rate, and storing and disposing at an equally staggering and unfortunate pace. Online sales are up, in-store sales are mostly down or at least deeply and prematurely discounted. If you have had your head above the dirt, this is no surprise. Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity.
Crystal ball, crystal ballReveal to me real truths Offer up your secrets About adults and pets and youths. Crystal ball, oh dear crystal ball I plead with transfixed gaze Glimpse for us the future Help us navigate this maze. Crystal ball, F-U crystal ball You’ve screwed us in the past, here comes the hammer!
So stop bitchin’ and figure out how to get them and their “friends” to buy from you. Crystal ball anyone? Price is everything, except when omni-channel. Convenience is everything, except when experience is everything. Again, no surprise and no real answers, so up the hill we go. Not this time! 2017 is the year to stop.
Stop for as long as it takes (not too long) to focus, meditate, and reflect on the who, what, where, when, how and why of the good and bad of the past and break from the broken. Focus, meditate, and act on a strategic plan based on the real truths of your business and life. No Pollyanna woo-woo shit in ’17. Deal with the real truths. Build and rebuild it better, better for you, better for them, better for business and better for the planet and the “re-circular economy” that is the future, because if you build it this way, share your message and process, some will come. In 2017, you might just find that it is better to put down the hammer and roll the ball around the hill, crystal will be worth more in 2018. P.S.: I’m taking my own advice, look around the hill for a better me in 2017.
GIUILO BONAZZI (CEO AND PRESIDENT, AQUAFIL)In recent years, we’ve seen mainstream brands like Volcom and Speedo adopt sustainable materials, showing how much they value a circular or more closed-loop approach. When brands take this type of leadership stance, it makes consumers more aware of their ability to make a positive impact on the environment. Together, we’re helping people to realize that it’s no longer fashionable to be disposable. In 2017, we expect to see more brands across a range of apparel types, striving to be more sustainable, making choices that protect the environment, and ultimately reducing our dependency on virgin materials.
MARCI ZAROFF (FOUNDER, UNDER THE CANOPY; FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, METAWEAR)2017 will be another big year in the rapidly growing eco-fashion movement. With online shopping and conscientious consumerism gaining more ground, new ethical fashion websites and transparency models will join the likes of Zady, Ethica, Modavanti and Rêve en Vert. And we can’t “make America great again” without a rebirth of U.S. manufacturing, so expect to see an increase in “made in the U.S.A.” labels produced at innovative domestic factories like MetaWear in Fairfax, Va. We’ll enjoy a new wave of purpose driven fashion statements on eco-chic tees from leading brands, millennial entrepreneurs. and even celebrities. Note, for example, “Matriarchy Now” T-shirts by Chiara Hardy (daughter of world-renowned jewelry designer and green activist John Hardy), or “Just Water” apparel from water advocate Jaden Smith (son of powerhouse actor Will Smith). As a timely solution to address UN Sustainable Development Goal hot topics such as climate change and water, organic-cotton apparel, and home fashion will get more attention than ever before as the next frontier of an organic and conscious lifestyle—from media, consumers, young and established brands (from Under the Canopy to Kering’s Outerknown and Stella McCartney) and on the shelves and websites of major retailers. “Farm to table” has now birthed the “Farm to closet” movement, as the dots from food to fiber connect and are now being embraced. And in the words of my friend Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers, “how cool is that?” as we’ll experience a surge in zero-waste collections, circular-economy efforts and solutions to textile waste from designers like Daniel Silverstein, brands such as Skunkfunk, factories like The Renewal Workshop, materials like Recover, and certification/collaboration efforts such as those of the Cradle to Cradle Innovation Institute’s “Fashion Positive” initiative.
CARMEN ARTIGAS (SUSTAINABLE DESIGNER AND CONSULTANT)
Nature is a conscious and intelligent force that provides endless abundance for life’s needs, but few realize that we have gone over the limits and we might be facing scarcity soon. As we enter the circular fashion era, it is time more people choose quality over quantity and apply mindful consumption. Developing a philosophy of life can nurture a full understanding of personal identity and individual responsibility for the planet’s wellbeing. I’m inspired by the work of Ellen MacArthur Foundation working to accelerate a transition towards a circular economy, which encourages companies to seek ways of retaining more of the value of the material, energy, and labor inputs that go into their products. And the coherent definition and framework for circular fashion developed by Anna Brismar. The fashion industry must find ways to address and communicate resource scarcity, avoid seasonal collections and deliveries that could be affected by anthropogenic global warming, anticipate supply-chain disruptions due to rising manufacturing and energy costs through tracking analytic tools, and implement environmental and social accountability during the design process. A beautiful and powerful quote by László Moholy-Nagy is perfect for 2017:
“All things in Nature work silently. They come into being and possess nothing. They fulfill their functions and make no claim. All things alike do their work, and then we see them subside. When they have reached their bloom each returns to its origin. Returning to their origin means rest, or fulfillment of destiny. This reversion is an eternal law. To know law is wisdom.”—Chinese poetry from the Shi Ching
“The forces of change are embodied in conscious individuals rather than political systems.”
JAVIER GOYENECHE (PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, ECOALF)We see 2017 as a year of change. I believe that this change will not be driven by governments but by small companies who will step by step guide the small customers towards a world compromised with sustainability and, in addition, demonstrate that things can be done in a different way. A new generation of brands searching for new ways to improve the impact on the environment whilst creating a great product. Transparency and the future proof of products and brands are the luxury redefinition of our generation.
JOHN PATRICK (DESIGNER, ORGANIC BY JOHN PATRICK)New dynamics for communicating again have already taken off. Finding things randomly and magically will return to the forefront
of our human existences. The experience of physical reality is taking over. Our new outpost in Marfa, Texas, has shown me that the hand touch is critical to our
communication technique on the forward march:
Communitie.net and the Communitie Marfa.
GALAHAD CLARK (FOUNDER, Vivobarefoot)Eco-fashion predictions (dreams) from a cobbler, where a lot of the big shoe companies are taking significant “green steps.” But, unfortunately, in most cases they are doing more of the wrong things “righter.” Every company should fundamentally reevaluate everything they do from a sustainability philosophy point of view. A couple of contrasting predictions:
- The definition of sustainability will galvanize more around “use”: To quote John Ehrenfelds, sustainability is the “possibility that humans and other life will ‘flourish’ on Earth forever.” The only excuse for filling the world up with more “stuff” is that products should do at least one of three things: connect us more to nature, make us feel more human, or ask important environmental and ethical questions. Vivobarefoot genuinely lives up to this definition of sustainability and hopefully more companies will follow suit in helping to bring natural healthy movement back to the world.
- Genuine closed-loop technology: In slight contradiction to the above definition, where the culture of use is more important than technical and material progress, I predict that real breakthroughs will come in polyester recycling which is exciting for apparel, footwear, furniture and bottling. Worn Again is about to commercialize re-polymerization process that will be a genuine game changer.
JUSSARA LEE (DESIGNER, JUSSARA LEE)I predict 2017 will be a wakening year, where we will make real strides towards sustaining our existence and avoiding the collapse of our species. We have produced too much garbage with the consumer-driven economic model and adjustments are of essence. Educating everyone on the need to keep our planet healthy is a start towards fundamental change. We are ready to graduate to a more spiritual level, with less emphasis on form and material values.
FRANCISCA PINEDA (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BHAVA)As quickly as 2016 flew by, expect an increase in blurring of lines for 2017 across all aspects of life. Travel, entrepreneurship, politics, technology, and economic systems continue to intertwine. Seeking to understand will prove increasingly difficult in an era where the unexpected is the norm. From one cataclysm to the next, global desensitization is of concern and a heightened sensitization to the realities of other’s pain will be essential. In eco-fashion, carving out a brand identity will not be a result of qualitative strategy, but rather by the perceptions forged during customer experience. The conscious consumer has a heightened intuition which can at one moment lead to salvation or ruin. Demand for genuine connection will stand out in contrast to the superficial claims of transparency that had been acceptable in the past. As the public questions their role and purpose in the world, so too must eco-fashion continue to evolve to a movement representing not only hope, but quantitative global solutions.
HOWARD BROWN AND KAREN STEWART (FOUNDERS, STEWART + BROWN)We see two distinct trends at the forefront of utilizing innovative technology and business methodologies to address the industry’s most challenging problems. Long-turn offshore manufacturing is the production model of the past. Regional manufacturing to satisfy immediate regional demand is the manufacturing model of the future. Customization—single on-demand items that have a unique combination of colors, fabrics, and/or fit—is the future of fashion. Since most fashion and accessory products are made overseas, it can take several weeks to manufacture and ship goods to recipients. In our modern world of instant gratification, this is a deal breaker. What is needed to satisfy this demand are regional factories operating on the cutting edge of technical innovation and specializing in small batch, highly technical, quick-turn apparel. This will level the playing field for domestic versus offshore apparel and accessory manufacturing and support the onslaught of wearable technologies. More and more college graduate students are passionate about making society a better place by becoming social entrepreneurs. Interest in social enterprises–businesses that aim to solve social problems, is growing among budding entrepreneurs. Many of the nation’s top business schools, including Harvard and MIT, now offer programs and courses on social enterprises. These programs integrate social, environmental, and ethical issues into core management courses found in traditional business school curriculums. They include courses such as poverty alleviation, race and gender inequality, and healthcare policy. Many grads from these programs are now launching startups that aim to use the power of innovation and markets to effect social and economic change.
JOSHUA KATCHER (DESIGNER, BRAVE GENTLEMAN; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, PARSONS SCHOOL OF DESIGN, THE NEW SCHOOL)2017 will be the year that biofabrication goes mainstream. Conventional skins, furs, wools and silks are well on their way to obsolescence—and for good reason. They are responsible for some of the worst cruelties, and as the new Kering Environmental Profit & Loss Account points out, animal materials pose some of the hugest ecological impacts, with cashmere having the single greatest impact of all materials. Japan closed their last remaining fur farm right at the end of 2016, and we are poised to see cellular agriculture step into the material innovation and evolution spotlight. With companies like AMsilk, Bolt Threads, and Spiber already producing biosynthesized spider silk at scale, and Modern Meadow and others poised to synthesize biologically identical skins, 2017 will be a year of leaps and bounds toward a more efficient, customizable, sustainable, and kind fashion future.
RACHEL KIBBE (PROPRIETOR, HELPSY)I think it’s safe to say the ethical-fashion movement is in full force and finally most consumers have heard something about it. I think, as we move into the new year, the biggest issues in this movement will be to keep it pure and honest. More and more companies are using the concept of eco- and ethical fashion to “greenwash,” which is only changing small parts of their production chains for the better for marketing purposes, while leaving the bulk of their chains the same or actually increasingly worse. While there is room for little, by little, and step-by-step change too—it is harder to change large production systems rapidly, admittedly—I also think it’s our job as leaders of the movement and consumers of clothes, to hold companies accountable as increasing numbers of fashion designers are realizing the increasing importance of fair production to their target consumers and the monetary value in marketing sustainability. For example, it is very easy to throw around terms like “natural” and “eco” for marketing purposes while also abusing labor and other parts of the huge fashion production chain. So we need to be more careful than ever about who we are buying from and ask them lots of questions about how they are making what they’re making. Buyer beware!
JILL HELLER (PROPRIETOR, THE PURE THREAD)I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Greenery” is Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year. The life-affirming shade of Greenery gives us hope. It’s a color that is emblematic of the pursuit of vitality and personal passions. We will look away from the lackluster political and corporate picture, toward our cities, our towns, our homes—toward ourselves. Thus the natural world and its pleasures and benefits should bloom heartily on a local level. Much will be centered on designing ourselves the way we want to. With the food we eat, the fitness we embrace, and likewise with the fashion we wear, we will seek to buy or experience products and disciplines that make us healthier people, and in turn make the world around us more sustainable as well. Integrity and integration will dominate our experience with a product or a provider. Personalization will be key. Shoppers will have the chance to sculpt their own profile within the marketplace, and the marketplace will be able to more personally target a consumer. In this environment, brick-and-mortar “showrooms” will take on greater meaning and same day deliveries by companies like Amazon will begin to become the norm. The radical speed of this personalization and delivery will dominate every market, ever more than it has to date. Fashion follows the food movement, and fashion brands can take a look at Pippin Foods, a New York–based company that recently launched a pilot program placing tablets alongside produce sections to connect grocery stores with farmers producing the food. Consumers can read about the farm where their vegetables were grown and the methods the farmers used to grow it. So too could fashion ever more delve the consumer into the origins of our sourcing, those stories taking on even greater importance. Designers and brands need to be distinctive in their own way, and have something special to communicate. The customer is hungry to see what fashion brands are doing, they are hungry to apply meaning to the clothes they wear. Bring the audience into your creative process and your relationship with your audience will deepen and sustain you. Communicate, reach out, and touch peoples lives.
DAVID DIETZ (FOUNDER, MODAVANTI)What has been a difficult year politically, has been an exciting year for innovation in the fashion industry with new sustainable brands popping surging onto the scene and bigger brands making stronger environmental commitments. This trend will continue in 2017 with the biggest progress being made on the textile level. Companies such as Bionic Yarn, Recover, and Worn Again are turning textile waste and even plastic water bottles into high-performance, sustainable thread. These inventive textiles and recycling processes are welcomed advances for an industry that is responsible for disproportionate contributions to global landfills and have the potential to drastically reduce textile waste. After years of R&D, these companies and others have found ways to make new textiles more sustainable, higher quality, and price competitive. With major retailers taking notice. the future is bright for sustainable innovation in textiles.
SUZANNE MCKENZIE (FOUNDER, CEO, AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ABLE MADE)In 2017, I see design leading the charge on making an impact in product offerings in all categories, from cars to fashion. I anticipate more innovations in eco textiles and sustainable materials to help create more exciting and dynamic products. In addition to the introduction of more inspiring conscious materials for designers to use in their design process, I see an increasing focus on creativity and pushing the envelope in product design to compete more seriously with mainstream brands. Accessibility and democratization of sustainable products by finding ways to offer less expensive price points will bridge the gap between brands and consumers, and will introduce more people to well-intentioned companies and better products for people and planet.
AMY DUFAULT (WRITER; CONSULTANT; DIGITAL CONTENT AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, PRATT INSTITUTE’S BROOKLYN FASHION AND DESIGN ACCELERATOR)Lots of predictions this year from biomaterials getting the spotlight they need to grow to the battles we will have with Donald Trump in office and his “Trumpwashing.” we will get to see first hand regarding American manufacturing. But I think for the first time in a decade. I am finally seeing strides within the sustainable fashion community being seen as having real value as guides. 2016 for sure brought personal records for me from large brands reaching out with interest in incorporating sustainability into their bottom line. There aren’t enough hours in a day to handle the demand which has been exciting. I’ve watched colleagues get cherry picked by H&M for consulting, seen large brands have real interest in talking with smaller brands to see how tough this “sustainability” is, and have had many conversations with long-timers in this world who are also seeing the change. I see this “guiding” happening a lot more this year as companies realize it’s not that it’s just the right thing to do, but something they have to do to stay relevant in the fashion industry. Not to mention the fact that we have limited resources to support those brands might also be a factor in why they are also getting to the table. And with all the technology entering the scene and the ability to present this information in a real exciting way to brands, I see less defeatism and more “I can do this” which is where it all begins.
BIANCA ALEXANDER (CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND HOST, CONSCIOUS LIVING TV)Although we live In a “highly connected” world with lighting speed internet connections and constant connections to our “friends,” many people today actually feel less emotionally and spiritually connected to the world we live in than ever before. As such, consumers today are soul searching for more true connections and authenticity to help fill the void. One way they will seek to find this connection and authenticity will be through the clothes they wear. A demand for a more minimal, meaningful wardrobe comprised of pieces representing a deeper connection to the earth through natural fabrics (organic cottons, wools, peace silks), and to the people and cultures who make their clothes through artisanal crafting and design will help to fulfill consumers’ desire to simplify things and get back to their roots. A great example of this is a recent layover we took through the Insadong district in Seoul, South Korea. Surrounded by dozens of shops filled with cheap souvenirs and fast fashion on every corner, the most fascinating and memorable stop on our journey was wandering into a tiny boutique displaying beautiful dresses, pants and scarves made from silk and plant-fiber textiles. We met the owners and the makers, a mother-daughter team who lovingly showed us how each garment was painted by hand with all-natural dyes using an indigenous artisanal technique passed down through their family for over four generations! I will forever treasure the traditional hanbok style tied-dyed tunic they picked out for me. The trend this year for more authentic, indigenous fashion will not only help consumers express their individuality with one of a kind looks, but to also feel good about supporting small social enterprises creating opportunities for indigenous cultures from the remotest of places to share their techniques with the world. And that’s a lot to feel good about.
JULIE ZERBO (FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE FASHION LAW)This will be a great year for sustainability-minded designers, ranging from those at luxury conglomerate-owned houses (who acknowledge that a sustainable model is good for the bottom line) to those fresh out of design school (who are equipped with truly valuable knowledge), and consumers by extension. What was once a diminutive number of brands and ecommerce sites offering eco-friendly, sustainably made, and/or thoughtfully designed garments has become a much greater and more diverse pool. In order to achieve widespread change, we need alternatives at various price points and we need them to be just as fashion-oriented as everything else in the market. 2017 will be momentous in this respect, particularly with brands like Gucci leading the way. Companies like this prove that consumers need not sacrifice style for sustainability. That was the old model. The new guard is here and they are out to prove that it is possible—and profitable—to move towards more sustainable production techniques, while still maintaining an image of luxury and high fashion.
STARRE VARTAN (PUBLISHER, ECO-CHICK)2017 will see circular design ideas mainstreamed. Many have already made the connection between the bad ideas of make-use-dispose and most of our environmental and social problems. Waste is a sign of bad design. Smart fashion designers, companies and brands are already moving forward with implementing circular design—which ensure that materials used to make, say, a pair of pants, can be made again into a new pair of pants, or shirt, or shoes. A circle, not a one-way ticket to the dump. Circular design is a simple and elegant solution to myriad problems that the fashion industry has been trying (and failing) to deal with over the past 15 years that I’ve been covering it. Does this idea introduce some restraints and challenges to designers? Of course. But as Lewis Perkins, president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, said at the panel discussion on circular design that my site produced in November, “innovation in design happens under limitations and constraints.” Rethinking the whole system in this way leaves room for clothing, shoes and accessories to last a lifetime—or longer (I have several pieces of my great-grandmother’s that I use, and lots from my grandma, too). It also leaves room for a T-shirt, pair of jeans or fleece to be created, used, and then cycled into something else on a shorter timeline. There’s space in a circular system for handmade fabrics made by craftspeople—initiatives like Seek Collective, Indigo Handloom, Spratters & Jayne, and Ace & Jig (where I personally choose to spend my fashion dollars). And there’s room for larger companies to not only reduce their impact but—radical idea—actually leave air and water cleaner than they were before, and workers better off, not discarded as fast as the fashion they make. “That which we throw away, we fail to value,” wrote Victor Papanak in his seminal design text, Design for the Real World. It’s a simple idea that you don’t need to be a designer to understand.