The New York Times dropped a bomb on us earlier this month regarding the UN’s conclusion on the current climate change crisis. There was one key takeaway from the article, the change starts with YOU. As individuals, we need to step-up by making personal changes on how we consume so we avoid catastrophic consequences. The Times article quoted Myles Allen, an Oxford University Climate Scientist saying “It’s telling us [UN Report] we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime”. On a DIME. Not some time in the near future -- instantly. It's all hands on deck now. But imagine how much quicker change would emerge if businesses also stepped up. That’s why we were thrilled to learn Vionnet is actually shutting down operations in order to completely restructure the company with ecological and social responsibility at the core of all decision making. They are going completely dark for a season or two, a decision likely to lose the brand a ton of revenue, but they are doing this for the greater good. The kind of attitude, fingers crossed, more companies will adopt. A.S.A.P. This reboot by Vionnet also comes with plans to nix fashion week presentations, a bold move, but we hope people will rally behind this heritage brand and support the positive changes they are making on behalf of the fashion industry. We certainly can’t wait to see these changes unfold.
Eileen Fisher didn’t jump on the sustainability bandwagon, she’s been driving it! Mitigating the damaging effects fashion has on our environment has been at the forefront of her business, unexpectedly forging an entirely new revenue stream.
Without a doubt, one of the culprits contributing to the 25.5 billion pounds of REUSABLE textiles thrown away each year is, gulp, trends. Fashion brands all over the world are selling you on the idea of newness, and we’re just as guilty for falling for it. Eileen Fisher may not be one of the contemporary brands we vie after but we can certainly get behind her ethos of creating timeless, high quality pieces that will carry you from season to season and wish some of her junior counterparts in the industry followed in her lead.
The Eileen Fisher company has two arms of sustainability, Design Work and Renew which allow the company to circumvent almost all waste. Through the Renew initiative, customers have the opportunity to sell back there unwanted Eileen Fisher garments to the company for $5 a piece. You read that correctly, Eileen Fisher is paying their customers. Over 4,000 pieces arrive at the company’s factory every week, validating that consumers are looking for options besides le garbage.
The items are thoroughly inspected and either designated unsalvageable or re-sewn. The re-sewn pieces are then used to make entirely new garments, or repaired and resold at reduced pricing. How’s that for responsible business practices (cough, cough, Burberry). The Renew collection alone is a $3MM annual business.
I bet you’re wondering what happens to the unsalvageable pile? We were too. The Design Work team invested in something called a felting machine, which is primarily employed by the automotive industry. For the price of one Hermes bag this machine helps the team recycle not only the unsalvageable garments but also the tons of scraps accumulating at its factories. From this one ethical, non-profit driven decision the company carved out a new business in home goods. Design Work uses the new recycled textiles to create large-scale works of wall art, accessories, upholstery pillows and other home furnishings. The pillows are now sold ABC Carpet & Home while the wall works have been commissioned by private collectors, hotels, office buildings, museums and other corporate institutions.
The next time you see an Eileen Fisher store, remember that she is the OG trend setter of sustainability.
Farm-to-table restaurants are our favorite. We appreciate knowing what influenced the latest craft beer, that the greens came from Werp Farms, and the cheese from Beechers. We're looking at you Sweetgreen chalkboard. We also know we aren't the only ones who prefer to dine this way, which is why we find it interesting the same considerations aren't taken with clothing. Who made them? Where did the fibers come from? Were they properly sourced? We aren't programmed to ask these important questions when we are purchasing a final product rather than raw ingredients but that dress started as a pile of raw materials, so why should it be any different?
We may avoid asking the questions because the majority of clothing is made on the opposite side of the planet, so we'll never talk to that cotton farmer or seamstress anyhow. It's for that reason, proactively requesting information from brands is more important than ever. Like who stitched the seams of the dress and in what condition was it done? You know your coffee is Fair Trade, but what about your top?
Fashion Revolution is a global movement made up of activists and leaders in the fashion industry who believe clothes shouldn't come at the cost of people or our planet. Each year they publish the Fashion Transparency Index which ranks how much the top global brands disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies/practices, and social and environmental impact. Only 10% of the 150 biggest global fashion brands scored over a 50% transparency. The average? Only 21%. Shame on them.
Fashion Revolution explains why the industry needs to step-up it's transparency: 'Lack of Transparency costs lives. It is impossible for companies to make sure woman rights are respected, working conditions are adequate and the environment is safeguarded without knowing where their products are made. Transparency requires that companies know who makes their clothes - from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton - and under what conditions.'
By knowing this information, and sharing it with the general public, brands can do their part to ensure raw materials are sourced in the best manners. Brands hopefully will recognize that consumers are happy to be their ally in this fight for transparency. Consumers will pay a higher price for ethically manufactured clothing just as they're willing to pay more for organic eggs. Right now, the general public doesn't understand that buying cheaper clothing does not mean they are being cost savvy, it means they don't understand how manufacturers are cutting costs. But if consumers did understand, we believe many of them would support brands that don't cut corners even if they are more expensive.
Fashion Revolution declares 'If we know the facilities where our clothes are being made, if we have access to information about the factories, mills and farms where brands are sourcing then the public can help hold the industry accountable for bad practices and encourage and support those brands who follow good practices.'
One brand that gives us all the feels is REI. Yeah, not high-fashion but any retailer who is willing to lead the charge towards change is a brand we support because of the kaleidoscope effect it will have industry wide. The multi-brand retailer has informed all 1,000+ vendors that unless they comply with REI's new code of sustainability, they will not sell their products in the store. Fair working conditions being one of those codes, in fact, it's even a category you can search for on their website. We are so proud and supportive of this initiative at REI that we are more than pleased to tell those who aren't doing something similar to take a hike. It's even inspired us to plan a mountain getaway, JUST so we can find a reason to spend our money at REI (eh hem voting dollars), the real way to effect change.
Fashion is a EUR 1.3 trillion industry, employing over 60 million people. It is easily one of the largest industries in the world, which also makes it one of the most resource intensive, reading environmental challenges that are a major threat to the planet and the long-term success of the industry.
Enter, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the industry's Mr. Miyagi of sustainable business practices. GFA's mission is to "mobilize the global fashion system to change the way we produce, market and consume fashion, for a world beyond next season". In short, they are mentoring the fashion world out of this mess by facilitating solution sharing, and collecting and spreading insights so decision makers can actually implement change.
GFA gets all the major players together each year for a summit to discuss the hot topic of sustainability and then publishes an annual report called The Pulse of the Industry. WWD summarizes this 124 page report in one headline "Sustainability in Fashion is Growing, but 'Systemic' Change a Ways Off". Ways off. While the ball is rolling, it's more like that of a novice bowler...a sluggish roll that most likely ends up stagnant in the middle of the lane.
We were happy to learn efficient water use and supply chain traceability have improved over the last year, however raw materials are still the biggest challenge facing the industry (i.e. continuing to use non-renewable resources and simultaneously overproducing clothes). Waste is another big concern, one we're very passionate about too. Companies like Nike Inc., Hugo Boss and Inditex made notable efforts to cut back on material waste, but the overall score of the industry is still at 38 out of 100. That's like an F and out high school self would have been grounded for life.
Lastly, GFA's report urged fashion companies to 'join forces with suppliers, investors, regulators, non-governmental organizations, academia and consumers to create an ecosystem that supports transformational innovation and disruptive business models," especially around raw materials and end-of-use issues. End-of-use (clothing disposal) is a natural part of a person's wardrobe lifecycle, but at Tulerie we're hoping the "use" part of the equation is maximized by embracing closet sharing so we are contributing less at the end. Dare to share.