On Wednesday, Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey and Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum CEO, gathered more than 30 fashion industry insiders, including Catarina Midby of H&M, the Telegraph’s Hilary Alexander, and designer Roland Mouret at the Houses of Parliament in London. The agenda? How to scale sustainable fashion so it becomes less of a niche product and more of the status quo. Despite the sea change in consumer attitudes in recent years, it’s an issue the industry continues to struggle with, and one that Lejeune says she hopes that the launch of her organization’s online “Mysource” platform (formerly known as the “Source”) will soon address. Ecouterre caught up with Lejeune to talk about the rebranded initiative, how she thinks Mysource can supply the tools fashion professionals need to “do business better,” and why collaboration and transparency are key to building successful brands.
What sparked the decision to rebrand the Source?
With the URL www.ethicalfashionforum.com, professionals and businesses come to Source primarily because they’re already interested in building their supply chains in an ethical way or they’re already doing it.
While we’re making great progress working with these businesses, they only represent a very small percentage of the fashion industry. Mintel estimates that less than 1 percent of the fashion industry is dedicated to ethical and sustainable product. And, it is the businesses that are least engaged with sustainability—and least likely to visit www.ethicalfashionforum.com—that are having the most negative impact on the people behind their products—and the environment.
It was clear to us that if we wanted to achieve real change in this industry, scale up our impact, and deliver best for our members, we needed to create a fundamental tool, relevant to all fashion professionals and businesses.
“Mysource is primarily a tool to help anyone, based anywhere, to access the right resources and connections.”
Mysource is primarily a tool to help anyone, based anywhere, to access the right resources and connections to build and grow a successful fashion business, whether or not they are interested in sustainability.
Once on the platform, businesses with higher ethical and sustainability standards benefit from higher search rankings, more connections with buyers, and a greater profile on the site.
Rather than working only with the small sector of the industry that is already dedicated to sustainable practices, we’re able to incentivize and reward best practice by all fashion professionals and support them on the way through training and resources dedicated to their needs.
As well as rebranding, we’re streamlining our current services, so that we can deliver better solutions to more fashion people.
“When users log in to their dashboard, they are matched with information and connections in line with their needs.
Through our work with the Source platform, we’ve found that our users get the best experience when we help to match them directly with the things that they’re looking for—a connection, a market report, or a piece of training—saving them hours of searching and helping move their business forward in the right way.
However, we are a small team and this bespoke, personal approach is expensive and time-consuming.
The new platform, Mysource, is designed to do all of this automatically using a powerful matching algorithm. When users log in to their dashboard, they are matched with information and connections in line with their needs.
They get a curated experience, saving time on searching and sifting through to find exactly what they need. That’s why we’re calling it Mysource.
How has the ethical fashion market changed since you began the original Source? What are today’s biggest challenges?
I’ve seen a lot change in the past 10 years of working in fashion and sustainability. I’ve witnessed extraordinary fashion pioneers doing incredible things, driving forward better practices across the industry, in businesses large and small. Initiatives like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Higgs Index have engaged more large fashion businesses with sustainability, in a more meaningful way, than ever before.
Most notably, I’ve seen a major shift in fashion education. In 10 years, sustainability had gone from being a concept students are interested in—and given very little support around‚to becoming near the top of the agenda for fashion course leaders, and increasingly integrated with fashion course curricula.
“Across the industry, sustainability is still perceived as a cost, rather than a commercial opportunity.”
This is having an important impact on fashion business. Graduates employed in large fashion businesses are asking questions, and those who are setting up fashion businesses are choosing to integrate sustainability at the heart of their business models.
However, when it comes to integrating a triple-bottom-line approach to fashion business—an approach that considers social and environmental alongside financial goals—all our work confirms that this is still a minority pursuit. Awareness—beyond those in corporate-social-responsibility positions—remains low.
Across the industry, sustainability is still perceived as a cost, rather than a commercial opportunity. For many, sustainability is not seen as enough of a contributor to commercial business success.
Yes, there is evidence that sustainable practices increase customer loyalty and improve brand profile; and that more sustainable practices can in fact reduce costs. But there can also be many upfront costs, like certification, training, and policy building.
Our goal with Mysource is to turn this on its head. Mysource will make sustainability profitable, create a peer network that will reward increased awareness, and reward best practices.