H&M has launched a new tool that lists all suppliers and factories attached to an individual product, giving consumers an unprecedented level of access and transparency to its supply chain.
Available from today on all 47 local H&M websites, a ‘product sustainability’ button on individual product pages will display details on materials, as well as the country, city and factory (including address and number of workers) that garment was created in. In-store, that information can be obtained by scanning price tags through the H&M app.
“We are so proud to be the first global fashion retailer of our size to launch this level of product transparency,” said Isak Roth, head of sustainability at H&M. “By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices.”
As consumers become increasingly worried about social and environmental issues (such as fair labor and sustainable resources), radical transparency has surfaced as one of the top 10 trends that will shape the industry in 2019, according to The State of Fashion Report 2019 by McKinsey & Company and the Business of Fashion. According to the report, 42% of millennials say they want to know what goes into products and how they’re made before they buy, compared with 37% of Gen Z.
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The North Face is launching Explore Mode, a campaign encouraging its employees and customers to explore the outdoors during Earth Day (April 22). As part of the activation, the outdoor brand is also calling for the day to become a national holiday in the US.
On April 22, the brand is shutting down all 113 of its stores in the US and Canada to give its employees time to explore the outdoors. Meanwhile across the globe, the campaign will partner with musicians, artists and culinary influencers at major cities including London, Munich and Paris on a series of experiences.
From a weekend camping at the Mecklenburg lake district near Berlin to helping clean up Butler Memorial Sanctuary trails in New York, TNF searched for activities that would encourage its brand fans to unplug and learn more about the environment. All experiences can be booked via a dedicated page on the brand’s website.
This is the first time TNF has closed its stores for a cause, which aims to match a wider mission to inspire a global movement of exploration and adventure. “As a brand that has been enabling exploration for over 50 years, we believe that when people take time to appreciate and explore the earth, they feel more likely to protect it,” said Tim Bantle, global general manager of lifestyle at The North Face, to Fast Company.
Taking it one step further, the company has also launched a petition to make Earth Day an official national holiday in the US.
Outdoor brands from TNF to Patagonia are upping their efforts in order to bring attention to the importance of keeping the environment clean and sustainable by creating activations that foster a sense of wonderment emotional attachment.
For the past four years, REI has run #OptOutside, an award-winning campaign that sees all of its operations – from stores to factories – shut down on Black Friday in order to encourage employees and consumers to spend more time outside with family and friends, as well as ignite a conversation on overconsumption. REI’s 2018 numbers show the company’s strategy of closing stores on the busiest commerce day of the year is paying off: the co-op reached a record $2.78 billion in revenue, representing 6% growth.
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Consumer demand for more responsible products is clearer than ever, and companies – from legacy names to newer players in the field – are evolving their business models to incorporate more sustainable practices.
To hit their ambitious sustainability goals, the approach is diverse, from using blockchain in the supply chain to finding new ways to bioengineering innovative textiles.
Last year, TheCurrent Global’s Innovators podcast spoke to some of the world’s top brands and companies on what it means to be sustainable at this day and age, and how to create a more responsible future that will enable them to still be around in decades to come.
H&M has some of the fashion industry’s most ambitious goals: by 2030, it aims to use 100% recyclable or sustainably sourced materials. Nina Shariati, who leads transparency at H&M, spoke to TheCurrent Global on how the group’s size in the fast fashion space could work in their – and everyone’s – favour: “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions], and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”
For example last year already, 36% of H&M’s total material buy was recycled or sustainably sourced. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry so that you can compare your product across brands,” adds Shariati. “We are far from the time where it’s OK to work in silos.” The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions.
For Matt Scanlan, CEO and co-founder of the disruptive cashmere brand Naadam, being sustainable means transforming your supply chain into a community. The brand was conceived after he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert learning about their lifestyles. He eventually returned with $2 million in cash to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from herders, thus allowing them to earn 50% more profit than in a traditional fashion supply chain. His ambition to disrupt the cashmere industry has grown rapidly since.
But Scanlan still holds some skepticism about reaching 100% sustainability in the supply chain, which he thinks is both fake and impossible to achieve. Speaking to Innovators co-host Liz Bacelar, he also talks passionately about the human side of the industry which, after all, is built on relationships.
Ikea is focusing on creating products and services that can support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthfully, every day.
According to Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at the Swedish giant, to achieve its sustainable strategy, the company’s approach is threefold: look at its use of energy and resources – by 2020, it will be generating at least as much energy as it is consuming in their operations; focus on its people and its supply chain; and lastly, work on how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.
Since the original episode was published, Ikea has opened what it claims to be its most sustainable store in the world in Greenwich, London, featuring solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a geothermal heating system. It has also introduced a furniture leasing pilot in Switzerland.
Blockchain has an emerging and important role in sustainability, and UK-based designer Martine Jarlgaard was one of the early adopters of the technology in order to investigate a more sustainable supply chain.
In 2017, her namesake label teamed up with London-based startup Provenance to register and trace each step of the journey of a garment on a blockchain platform, which consumers could access by scanning a QR code found on its label.
Speaking to co-host Rachel Arthur last summer, Jarlgaard weighed in on how brands need to redefine the value of a product to change the way in which consumers shop, and emphasized the huge responsibility that sits on the industry’s shoulders to start driving sustainability ahead. “We are such a closed, centralized system. Being open and transparent is the only way forward.”
San Francisco-based bioengineering startup Bolt Threads is arguably one of the most known names disrupting the fashion industry, largely due to its relationship with eco-luxury label Stella McCartney. Working with the brand, it has so far launched pilot products such as a dress made of of lab-grown spider silk, as well as most recently, a ‘leather’ bag constructed out of mushroom leather, or mycelium.
Sustainable innovation and the power it now carries are a direct response to a shift in consumer behavior, he says. “Ultimately it is up to the consumer. [We’re] seeing the speed at which consumer taste is changing – 2017 was a transformative year for sustainability,” adding, “It is getting big really fast and it’s becoming one of the issues at the forefront of the industry because it touches everyone.”
UK outdoor media owner Ocean Outdoor is teaming up with eco-label VIN + OMI to launch an exclusive collection during London Fashion Week that will be manufactured entirely from vinyl panels taken from billboard displays.
The partnership will feature men’s and women’s accessories and not be available for sale. Instead, Ocean will donate the pieces to its charity partner, the Marine Conservation Society, to help fund the fight against plastic pollution in order to protect the world’s oceans and marine line. This is in one with Ocean’s commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation, as the majority of its out-of-home advertising is already purely digital.
“As a 95 percent based digital media company, Ocean is actively moving away from the use of vinyl,” said Liliana Teixeira, Ocean’s senior marketing executive. “That said, it’s important we find the best possible way to upcycle the vinyl we do still use. This partnership also allows us to support emerging creative talent which adds to its scale and impact,”
UK-born VIN + OMI works in developing recycled polyester (rPET) textiles, including silk-like finishes and wool which are spun from salvaged plastic primarily sourced from rivers and oceans. For this project, it will be working with students from Oxford Brookes University who will help design the collection. This means that in addition teaching a new generation how to work with sustainable garments, the project will further bring together a community with the common goal of raising awareness to the cause.
The range will feature at VIN + OMI’s London Fashion Week show on February 14, while Ocean will display highlights of the presentation on February 18 across its The Grid digital displays country-wide as well as on the iconic Piccadilly Lights display in Piccadilly Circus, London. Last fashion week season, Ocean teamed up with designer Victoria Beckham to livestream her show on the same screens, marking the first time the company streamed live content on its 4K displays.
Are you thinking innovatively enough about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Direct-to-consumer brand Everlane has committed to be completely free of virgin plastics by 2021.
To announce the launch, founder Michael Preysman, as well as Natalie Massenet and Nick Brown, who invested in the brand through their fund Imaginary Ventures, hosted a dinner in NYC on Tuesday (October 16), where guests were introduced to the brand’s new ReNew fleece, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
“For me, whenever I see product that comes out that’s virgin [plastic], I think, these companies are actively choosing [to not recycle], to say money and profit is more important to us than doing the right thing for the environment,” Preysman told Vogue. “I think that has to change; I think that time is over.”
By 2021, all materials, including polyester and nylon, which are made from virgin plastic, will be made out of plastic water bottles and renewed materials, the brand has announced.
Preysman estimates that in the next five years, Everlane expects to use about 100 million water bottles through its system. He admits this is merely a humble contribution, as there are currently 500 billion water bottles produced every year.
This pledge furthers the brand’s commitment to the idea of “radical transparency” that has been at the heart of its business model since inception, from pricing to production practices. The overarching industry focus on reducing the use of plastics, however, comes with staggering numbers: according to Preysman, there are eight billion tons of plastic on the planet, which is roughly one ton per person.
Before embarking on a sustainable plastics strategy, Preysman says the brand had to come to terms with the scale of how much it engages with the material across the supply chain: “We’re producing millions of units and every unit that goes out is wrapped in plastic. At the beginning, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s just take off all these plastic bags’. There are a lot of complications to that. Everything you buy in the world comes wrapped in plastic when it comes out of the factory.”
Realizing the impact of using plastics is also part of this journey too, he adds. “It’s a really convenient thing, but it’s actually incredibly damaging because once plastic is made, we use it for a second but it lasts forever.”
As the fight against plastic continues to pick up speed, brands across the spectrum – from smaller, DTC names to sportswear giants – are investigating different material innovations as replacements. Earlier this year at SXSW, adidas announced that by 2024, it will use only recycled ocean plastics; Reebok has recently launched a biodegradable shoe made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole; and DTC sneaker brand Allbirds has launched a pair of flip flops made with a new material made out of sugar cane – of which the recipe is open source for other brands to tap into.
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Madewell has launched a new line of sustainable denim that uses shrimp shell fibers in the dying process, significantly reducing the use of chemicals and water needed during manufacturing.
The J.Crew-owned brand is working with the Candiani mill in Italy to use its Kitotex® product, which is made with byproducts of the food industry (such as thrown away shrimp or lobster shells) to dye textiles. The exoskeleton of crustaceans contains chitosan, which is a fiber that helps bind dyes to fabric, while eliminating some of the chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing of denim.
By using Kitotex and organic cotton also supplied by the Italian factory, Madewell’s Eco Collection is using 65% less chemicals and 75% less H2O than conventional material.
Once the fabric has been manufactured and dyed it gets sent to Saitex, the same Vietnamese factory responsible for G-Star RAW’s and Everlane’s sustainable denim. The factory recycles 98% of its water and turns manufacturing waste into bricks for affordable housing.
For this inaugural collection, the American label is launching six styles of eco denim, from jeans to overalls. This is a part of its fall 2018 launch, which also includes the introduction of bigger sizes to 40% of its collection. Recently, J.Crew’s CEO Jim Brett has also noted that the brand will soon be launching a menswear line for the very first time, which should help push it towards its billion-dollar goal.
How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
American label Eileen Fisher has opened a concept store in Brooklyn where it will be running workshops that teach consumers how to live more sustainably.
In line with the label’s long-established mission of creating ethical, ‘timeless’ clothing that inspires simplicity and creativity, the store, called Making Space, focuses on “community-centered retail”. It does so by engaging with locals and visitors through workshops, movie screenings, gallery exhibitions and other events.
A workshop under the “Renew” theme will help consumers understand how the company’s take-back program, which started three years ago and now receives back over 800 used garments a day, helps clothing receive a second life, for instance.
Meanwhile, “Lifework” workshops will aim to help consumers live more mindfully from the inside out, and will feature experts and teachers whose work the brand is passionate about.
Lastly at the front of the store, a dedicated area will have artists-in-residence demonstrating their craft and teaching techniques like dyeing clothing with flowers and food byproducts, as demonstrated by the inaugural artist, Cara Marie Piazza.
Eileen Fisher merchandise will also be on display, through four different product categories: Remade, which are one-of-a-kind pieces made from worn Eileen Fisher clothing; Renew, which are older, worn styles that have been cleaned and mended; 111, of limited-edition samples; and lastly, current collections. Color-coded rings on individual hangers will identify each collection accordingly.
Throughout the store the designer’s commitment to sustainability affects every element of its design and decor, from seat cushions made from recycled denim, to the worn Eileen Fisher clothing that has been repurposed as rag rugs and fitting room curtains. The pièce de résistance however is a seven-foot by six-foot sculpture by artist Derick Melander, which features a tower comprised of 2,000 reclaimed garments.
The Brooklyn store represents the future of the Eileen Fisher brand. It is also currently designing a “Brooklyn Lite” prototype to test the concept at two existing stores in Seattle and Michigan, before rolling it out to its remaining 65 outposts.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Lifestyle brand Gant is launching a line of shirts made out of recycled polyester-fibres gathered from the ocean under its new “Gant Beacons Project”.
The collection is the latest initiative by the brand in its ongoing commitment to build a more sustainable business. It follows numerous others from the world of fashion and sport introducing recycled plastics into their products, led by the likes of adidas working with Parley for the Oceans.
In this case, Gant employed Mediterranean fishermen to help gather and remove some of the estimated 165 million tons of plastic floating in the sea. This was then used to produce an upcycled polyester in partnership with fiber brand Seaquel.
As Brian Grevy, CMO at Gant, said: “Through the Gant Beacons Project, we launched a completely new process for creating beautiful products via a conscious, sustainable approach, which will grow and evolve with time. We do everything we can to ensure we take responsibility and do what we can to make the planet even better because the ocean belongs to everyone after all.”
A statement on the website, adds: “We believe this conscious, sustainable approach to designing beautiful products is the future of good business.”
To make the resulting Tech Prep line shirts comfortable for the wearer, Gant used a cotton blend and classic weaving, as well as adding breathability, wicking and quick-drying properties. The shirt buttons and packaging were made from recycled plastics as well.
The shirts, which are now available online, come in a variety of styles and colors for both men and women.
It was only 10-15 years ago H&M used to lock its supplier list in a safe in Stockholm, with only five people having the code to get to it. That move was about competitive advantage, Nina Shariati, who is responsible for the retail group’s transparency efforts worldwide, explains in our most recent edition of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
A disclosed supplier list is now old news for the business, but it kickstarted its goal to have transparency as a red thread through everything it does. “It’s been a journey,” Shariati explains.
Her role is to set the strategy connected to what type of data it wants to be transparent with and to then make that happen. The group’s most recent efforts including adding a layer of transparency to the actual product pages of its new Arket brand, for instance.
That sort of move is all part of a wider effort to become a more sustainable organization. H&M’s focus is to offer “fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way”. More specifically it has ambitious goals to be 100% leading the change, 100% circular and renewable, and 100% fair and equal.
The question is whether the second largest clothing retailer in the world can really ever be considered eco-conscious and sustainable while pumping out fast fashion?
The fact is millennial consumers seem to be more concerned about manufacturing practices and their effects on the environment than ever, Shariati explains. “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions] and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”
But she argues that this sort of consumer awareness is only possible if there is collaboration industry-wide. “Many challenges that we face as a brand are big challenges that are being recognized in the industry as a whole… No single brand can come up with a solution,” she explains. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry, so you can compare your product across brands. We are far from the time where it’s ok to work in siloes.”
The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions. “Some consumers are aware some consumers will be more aware, and eventually we will have this harmonized way of measuring things. When that’s in place then consumer can make more active choices.”
TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.