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business Campaigns Editor's pick Retail technology

7 ways fashion brands are harnessing hologram technology

We all remember the vision of Tupac being brought back to life by hologram technology during Coachella in 2012. 

Divided though opinion was, the interesting fact lay in the advance of the tech itself. Today, it is entirely possible for life-like constructs to be achieved in 3D so as to be visible to the naked eye. And more to the point, increasingly in a cost-effective way too. 

Today, it is estimated that the holography market will be worth $5.5 billion by 2020.

Fashion is one industry that has been experimenting in this space for some time, using holograms as both elaborate marketing techniques, as well as more immersive in-store opportunities aiming to drive brand engagement. 

Here are seven of the most interesting examples we’ve seen released over the years…

Alexander McQueen
Kate Moss hologram

In 2006, Kate Moss became the first human hologram to be featured as a part of a major fashion show. Alexander McQueen presented the 3D rendering of the supermodel as the finale of his ‘Windows of Culloden’ show in Paris. The hologram of Moss in a flowing white gown appeared out of nowhere to the audience from inside an empty glass pyramid following an elaborate puff of white smoke. The model danced for a few seconds before shrinking and dematerializing.

This iconic hologram, designed by video maker Baillie Walsh and directed by Lee McQueen himself, has become an iconic moment in fashion history and as such even saw revivals in 2011 and 2015 at the Savage Beauty Exhibits, dedicated to McQueen, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London respectively.

Diesel
Diesel SS08

In 2007, contemporary denim brand Diesel took the concept one step further from McQueen’s show the previous year by creating the biggest holographic fashion show to date for its Summer 2008 collection in Florence. The ‘Liquid Space’ show incorporated holograms that were created using the Pepper’s Ghost effect, an optical illusion that uses angled glass and hidden spaces, the technology for which was provided by tech specialist company Vizoo.

The campaign centred around marine creatures in space and used hologram technology to merge 2D projections of a high definition multi-screen video of the creatures with the real life models. The video images? were projected onto multiple transparent screens while careful lighting illuminated the catwalk with little or no scatter on the holographic screens. The virtual and real life elements on the catwalk consequently appeared as one to the audience.

Pinar&Viola
Pinar & Viola hologram

Dutch artists Pinar&Viola also used hologram technology to project an entirely virtual fashion line onto real life models in 2016 at their Amsterdam Fashion Week show. The occasion was designed to prompt emotions about clothing and encourage consumers to reconsider their rate of consumption in order to reduce wasted resources. The show was created in collaboration with AMFI student Amber Slooten and inspired by the mixed reality concepts of companies like Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens. Its aim was to explore how a future of holographic garments might work. 

The technology also allowed each piece of clothing to be animated through the allocation of characteristics such as eyes and mouths to further emphasize the conscious theme and help viewers to greater connect with the clothes despite them being inanimate.

Ralph Lauren
Holographic Ralph Lauren

The 2018 GQ Men of the Year Awards saw another first on the holographic medium front as pioneering designer Ralph Lauren beamed in via the medium to accept his ‘Design Lead of the Year’ award. The innovative concept was also created in celebration of the brand’s 50th anniversary. The realistic installation was created by Cinimod Holograms and used a staged box located away from the stage to create the theatre. The concept enabled the real life presenter at the awards to stand alongside and interact with Ralph’s hologram in a highly realistic and entertaining way for the audience.

This spectacle followed a series of other hologram integrations by the brand in previous years, including holographic window displays of sparring boxers in its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York in 2017 to promote the release of the new Polo Sport line, and the virtual spring 2015 Polo Womenswear show back in 2014  in Central Park.

Nicholas Kirkwood
CyFi walking at the Nicholas Kirkwood show

Footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood is another that has utilized holograms by incorporating them in his inaugural London Fashion Week show in September 2018. Current Global worked with the brand to strategize the theme of the show, enhancing its cyber-reality theme by showcasing innovative visual technologies and integrating the experience of “white-hat” hackers in the presentation.

The result also saw a number of 3D hologram displays integrated throughout the show venue in order to enhance its underlying message of non-conformity. Created by tech company, Hologrm, they presented an animated 3D version of the collection’s main boot with neon detailing.

Wrangler
Wrangler’s immersive pop-up

US denim brand Wrangler also recently got on board with holograms, marking its Wrangler Icons launch with a 360-degree immersive pop-up experience that incorporated musicians and actors as well as numerous uses of the technology. The London experience paid homage to the brand’s musical heritage and iconic star-studded clientele from across the years. 

A continuous hologram feature was used to modernize the initiative, as well as helping to link the music theme back to the brand’s western image. A small black room at the back of the space appeared at first glance to house just drums and speakers however, broadcasted on top of the various instruments were holograms of dancing Wrangler cowboys wearing jeans and cowboy hats. The futuristic projections ran on a loop throughout the duration of the event.

Cartier
Cartier holographic watch

Of all of the fashion brands that have used holography over the years, luxury jeweller Cartier has perhaps one of the longest standing relationships with the technology. Back in 1972 the brand generated a lot of attention through its projection of a diamond bracelet dangling from an elegant wrist onto the Fifth Avenue pavement from its store window, which aimed to entice customers in. The piece, which was created by artist Robert Schinella, elicited so many enquiries that it was later revived again in 1979.

Cartier has also harnessed other forms of holograms as the technology has developed over the years, including a virtual craftsman working at a physical station at the Tokyo National Museum’s Cartier Exhibition in 2009, and a store windows campaign in 2015 where a hologram story mapped onto a physical watch face showing the inner workings and intricate parts involved in a watch.

How are you thinking about new technology? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Editor's pick product sustainability

5 brands innovating this Earth Day with recycled material launches

Earth Day, an annual event designed to demonstrate support for environmental protection, has seen brands from Adidas to Ralph Lauren introduce new sustainable products this year.

Such announcements come alongside a wave of many marketing-led initiatives. New product lines such as t-shirts and canvas bags are being promoted with proceeds going to various non-profit organizations dedicated to climate change or the environment. While these moves are valid in many instances – apparel brand Tentree for instance will plant one tree for every 10 likes it receives on social media with a goal of 500,000 trees – many others feel too close to pushing the button of consumerism on a day that should be encouraging otherwise.

Here we’ve highlighted five examples where we believe strongly there’s more behind the promotional story. That’s because a new kind of consumerism is being pushed focused on circularity. In all of these announcements, the big focus is on recycled materials, with innovations ranging from an entire shoe made from one single material, to reducing the impact of water, energy and waste, as well as removing plastic bottles from landfills and the oceans.

Arguably none of these are simple in their execution, which is what makes them worth paying attention to as we celebrate this year’s Earth Day.

Adidas
Adidas Futurecraft Loop
Adidas Futurecraft Loop

Adidas presented the “Futurecraft Loop” sneaker, a running shoe made from one single material: 100% recyclable virgin synthetics. This compares to the usual running shoe where 12-15 different materials would be utilized, meaning the same number of recycling techniques would be needed. Here, what we’re looking at by comparison is simplicity when it comes to moving towards a circular economy (hence the use of the word “loop”), because the entire shoe can be recycled in one single process.

When customers return a pair to Adidas, the shoe will be broken down and reused to create new performance running sneakers. The Futurecraft Loop took almost six years to develop, and is set to be released in spring/summer 2021.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren Earth Polo
Ralph Lauren Earth Polo

Ralph Lauren launched a version of its iconic polo made from recycled plastic bottles and dyed with a zero-water process. Each “Earth Polo” takes an average of 12 bottles to create, it said. In addition, Ralph Lauren has committed to removing at least 170 million bottles from landfills and oceans by 2025.

Everlane

Tread by Everlane
Tread by Everlane

Everlane announced it will launch a new sneaker called “Tread by Everlane”. Rolling out on April 25, the shoe is made of recycled polyester laces and lining. Its soles are a combination of natural and recycled rubber for a sole that’s 94.2% free of virgin plastic, in contrast with the average sneaker sole made almost entirely of plastic.

Everlane’s sneakers are also carbon-neutral. The brand partnered with a third-party firm to calculate the emissions and says it is working with NativeEnergy to support its goal of offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions from its production.

Nike

Nike Earth Day
Nike Earth Day

Nike announced a new sustainable collection called the “Earth Day” pack, which includes new releases of the Nike Air Force 1, Cortez, and Blazer Low sneaker using Nike Flyleather, a material made with 50% recycled natural leather fiber. Flyleather, which was first introduced fully to market in late 2018, uses less water and has a lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing. It’s also makes use of a more efficient process, resulting in less waste. Each of the new shows released in this collection also feature special Earth Day designs by artist Steve Harrington. The graphics show the planet Earth being hugged, carried or “warming” due to exercise.

Nike has further announced it will have more sustainable designs coming out this year. In the summer, it will launch the new VaporMax 2 “Random”, constructed from excess FlyKnit yarn that would have ended up in a landfill.

Allbirds

Allbirds Protect Our Species
Allbirds Protect Our Species

Sustainable footwear brand Allbirds also released a limited edition sneaker line for Earth Day. Dubbed “Protect Our Species”, it comes in five new colors in honor of climate-endangered birds. Each pair costs $95, and all income from the collection will be donated to the Audubon Society bird conservation organization.

Allbirds is already known for creating sneakers from renewable materials like eucalyptus, sugar and wool, and for continuing to push the sustainability agenda in fashion. For Earth Day, it also committed to going carbon neutral in 2019, placing a tax upon itself. This means for every tonne of carbon it emits, it will pay to then take it out of the atmosphere again.

How are you thinking about innovation? 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.

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business Podcast product Uncategorized

How Havaianas is using collaborations to take over the world

“Collaborations to me, are a love affair,” says Eno Polo, US president of Alpagartas, the parent company of the world’s most popular flip flop brand, Havaianas, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Collaborations are at the core of both the brand’s success and its wide reach, but in order to become successful, they need to remain authentic, he explains. “It has to be two-way. I think a lot of brands out there force collaborations, they pay for collaborations. But if you pay for going out with a girl, I don’t call that a love affair. I’d rather it be a natural feeling – she likes me, I like her – and we go out together. That’s what I call a true collaboration, and those are the ones I think are most successful.”

Havaianas shot onto the international stage when French designer Jean Paul Gaultier accessorized his models on the New York and Paris catwalks with the flip flops in 1999, instantly turning them into an object of desire. What followed was a series of fashion brands wanting to collaborate with the now-iconic brand, hoping to borrow some of the color and freshness that only a Brazilian label could bring to the table.

Today, Havaianas produces over 250 million pairs a year, or 10 pairs a second, and is Europe’s number one sandal brand.

Beyond its ambitious expansion plans across the globe comes a mounting pressure for the brand to tackle the issue of sustainability, which may well still be in toddler stages in its native country, but is steadily becoming a business imperative elsewhere.

For Polo, the fact that the company is scaling its retail footprint and office count across Europe and the US means there is a growing internal pressure to become more sustainable. The brand is doing so by focusing on employee welfare, but also wants to tackle and own the fight for sustainability at the beaches where its products are so ever-present.

During this conversation, Polo also talks through the company’s history from catering to Brazil’s working class to hitting the beaches of Ibiza; the importance of creating a retail experience that puts a smile on the customer’s feet; and why creating such a simple product allows the brand to remain fun.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, 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.

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Campaigns social media

CGI model Lil Miquela’s latest ad is for UGG

Lil Miquela for UGG

Digital model Lil Miquela is joining a roster of real-life influencers, such as model Adwoa Aboa and streetwear designer Heron Preston, for UGG’s 40th anniversary campaign.

According to the brand, the computer-generated model, whose full name is Miquela Souza, represents an “entire generation that is revisiting identity, reality and storytelling”. In the ads, she is seen against the same surrealist backdrops that other models in the campaign are photographed in, as if to blend seamlessly among the cast.

Created by Los Angeles-based startup Brud, the avatar straddles the line between digital and offline, and resurfaces the question of what the future of fashion influencers is. Similar to her real-life counterparts, however, Lil Miquela represents more than just a pretty face, as she has used her online platform to advocate for causes such as body positivity, immigration and most notably, the Black Lives Matter movement.

British model Aboa, on the other hand, is also the co-founder of Gurls Talk, an online platform for young women to discuss important issues pertaining to their lives, such as sexuality and self care.

For now, the use of CGI models seems more closely linked to the good publicity it brings rather than pushing a bigger conversation.

Back in 2016, Louis Vuitton was the first to deploy a digital model when “Final Fantasy” character Lightning posed for its S/S 2016 campaign; earlier this year, Prada enlisted Lil Miquela to promote a series of Instagram Stories stickers and GIFs alongside its Fall 2018 collection; and most recently, Balmain replaced its usual cast of supermodels with three virtual influencers.

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? 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.

 

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Editor's pick technology

Teen hacker CyFi fronts Nicholas Kirkwood’s LFW debut

CyFi for Nicholas Kirkwood SS19
CyFi for Nicholas Kirkwood SS19

Teenage hacker CyFi walked the runway at shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s first ever London Fashion Week show on September 16.

The 17-year-old US hacker, who was booked by Current Global to appear, was accompanied by actress and #MeToo activist, Rose McGowan. Their appearance was tied to an underlying political message from Kirkwood against conformity, with the topic of hacking seen throughout the show as both inspiration for the immersive experience and the shoe design itself.

The event began with McGowan as the leader of a resistance, surrounded by a stage environment crowded with screens and computers, so as to imply a dystopian future.

Rose McGowan for Nicholas Kirkwood SS19

Models (or the NK19 resistance rebels) strutted down the runway, mingling among the set while ‘hacking’ computers and playing with VR headsets. To add to the immersive undertone, the show culminated with the undercover police force (known as the Anti-Creative PoliZe Force) then directing showgoers to the Evidence Room where they could explore the collection from up close.

CyFi, who is one of the leading female hackers in the world, began her coding career at the age of 10. These days, she uses hacking to teach children how to protect themselves online. Most notably, she runs the yearly r00tz Asylum conference, a hacking and cybersecurity event held during DEF CON in Vegas, to help children practice cryptography and reverse-engineering, and learn more about tech security and privacy.

Current Global also booked a hologram technology for the Kirkwood show experience, which was on display on entering the warehouse venue in Central London. The collection’s main shoe, a boot with neon yellow detail, was showcased in 3D by UK company Hologrm.

Nicholas Kirkwood SS19
Nicholas Kirkwood SS19

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. Current Global 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.

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Campaigns Editor's pick product sustainability Uncategorized

Reebok releases plant-based sneaker as part of sustainable pledge

Reebok, Cotton, Corn, Sustainable, Footwear, Sole, Biodegradable
Rebook’s Cotton + Corn

Reebok has released its first ever biodegradable sneaker made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole.

The launch is part of the brand’s Cotton + Corn product initiative that aims to reduce the brand’s environmental footprint with biodegradable products. In order to achieve the sustainable innovation, the initiative is investigating materials that grow, choosing to use plants rather than oil-based alternatives.

“Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems,” says Bill McInnis VP, Reebok Future at Reebok. “With 20 billion pairs of shoes made every year, this is not a sustainable way of making footwear.” 

The shoe is also the first in its category to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture to consist of 75% bio-based content.

The sneaker was created in partnership with the US manufacturer DuPont Tate & Lyle, who developed a petroleum-free and non-toxic material called Susterra Propanediol that is used in the sole, making it 100% biodegradable. Additionally, the top of the sneaker is made out of 100% woven cotton, keeping its natural color as the brand refrained from using any chemical dyes.

To further enhance the sneaker’s sustainability credentials, it comes in a 100% recycled box. 

The Cotton + Corn initiative, announced in April 2017, aims to encourage circularity with biodegradable shoes that can be composted after use, thus serving as part of the soil that will grow materials for the next sneaker range, and so forth.

Speaking at the announcement last year, McInnis outlined the brand’s future product development plans under this initiative, which are split into three phases: “First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today,” he says. “Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform.” The final step, says McInnis, is the aforementioned afterlife of the shoe once the wearer is done with it.

The NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker is currently available exclusively on Reebok’s website and retails for $95.

Reebok is not the first company to explore alternative materials to plastic however, with direct-to-consumer newcomer Allbirds having recently launched its own sustainable sole material, made from sugarcane.

Meanwhile Reebok’s parent company Adidas has been proactive in its efforts to decrease plastic waste, partnering with the NGO Parley for The Oceans to declare a 2024 moonshot to only use recycled ocean plastics.

How are you thinking about 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.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

Allbirds makes sustainable shoe material open source

AllBirds, B-Corp, Flip-Flop, Sustainability, Footwear
AllBirds

Allbirds has announced the launch of a new sustainable material that will replace the acetate alternative traditionally used in shoe soles. The direct-to-consumer brand is also planning on making this technology, titled SweetFoam, freely available to other companies.

“Our goal was to innovate and show the industry that this could be done,” said Jad Finck, the brand’s VP of sustainability and innovation to Fast Company. “But if this is actually going to take hold and have an impact, it is critical for this to scale beyond ourselves.”

Shoe soles have been commonly known to be harmful to the environment as one of its raw materials, a foam known as EVA, is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable and polluting material. The company’s solution to this problem was to replace the petroleum for sugarcane, a plant-based and renewable material.

This marks an important achievement in the industry, as the material is the first ever carbon-neutral green alternative to EVA foam. By collaborating with Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem, the company has produced its first SweetFoam shoe range, a line of flip flops called Sugar Zeffers.

At a price point of $35, the range further emphasizes how the sustainable material does not have a significant impact on pricing, or ultimately design, which the company hopes will help convince others in the industry to follow suit.

The motivation for Allbirds to develop this technology can be easily traced back to its company values. As a B-Corp certified company, the brand has been continuously improving the sustainability credentials of its product range, such as ensuring ethical sourcing and renewable energy sources for its popular wool slippers.

How are you thinking about 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.

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business Editor's pick product

From streetwear to food and beverage: Fashion collaborations continue to thrive

AllBirds x Shake Shack
AllBirds x Shake Shack

Unconventional collaborations aren’t a completely novel concept in fashion, but heat is building with streetwear and more commercial entities alike, in a bid to gain share of voice in an increasingly populated space.

Ever since Vetements teamed up with DHL, there’s been a continuing race for more interesting partnerships. Alexander Wang and Adidas Originals is small fry alongside a major delivery service and a then-cult luxury line. We’ve also seen Louis Vuitton and Supreme, Off-White and Levi’s, and even Balenciaga and Crocs. The high-low feel knows no bounds.

In the past few weeks alone there have been a myriad of further launches in this vein, but this time from more accessible brands. Here we see them both tapping into the streetwear vibe, as well as nodding to a more commercial side by stepping towards the food and beverage space. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

PrettyLittleThing x Karl Kani

PrettyLittleThing x Karl Kani
PrettyLittleThing x Karl Kani
British fast fashon e-tailer PrettyLittleThing has teamed up with 90s hip-hop label Karl Kani. The 45-piece line includes signature jerseys, bodysuits, denim and croptops. It’s the perfect blend of nostalgia and streetwear in line with today’s Gen Z demands.

A promo video aims to educate the young consumer on Karl Kani’s past, showcasing stars including Aaliyah, Biggie, Tupac wearing the brand back in the day, alongside the new collaboration pieces featured on actress and recording artist Teyana Taylor.

AllBirds x Shake Shack

AllBirds x Shake Shack
AllBirds x Shake Shack
Direct-to-consumer sneaker brand AllBirds has collaborated with fast food chain Shake Shack on a limited edition shoe acknowledging the latter’s branding of white and green. There’s also a tiny burger featured on the tongue.

The Shake Shack Tree Runner shoe was on sale for one day only in New York’s Madison Square Park, where fans had to line up for several hours to get their hands on a pair. They were also treated to a new shake called the Hokey Pokey while they were waiting.

BooHoo.com x Pepsi

BooHoo.com x Pepsi
BooHoo.com x Pepsi
Fast fashion retailer BooHoo.com, as well as its menswear arm, BooHoo MAN.com, have teamed up with Pepsi for a capsule collection celebrating soccer.

The sportswear influenced line incorporates matching track sets, loungewear and sports tops. The interest comes in however in the fact each of the designs have been inspired by five emerging visual artists from around the world, spotlighted in the Pepsi collective campaign: Argentina’s DIYE, Brazil’s Bicicleta Sem Freio, Germany’s DXTR, US’ Kim Sielbeck and UK’s Iain Macarthur.

Other collaborations we’re waiting for: NASA x Vans; Uniqlo x KAWS x Sesame Street; H&M x Moschino.

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Campaigns Editor's pick film

Human rights foundation highlights modern slavery with unboxing video stunt

Unboxing the Truth - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Unboxing the Truth – Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), which works with journalists and organizations to bring to light human rights abuses and corruption, is tapping into the millennial behaviour of unboxing videos to highlight one of its causes.

To do so, the foundation teamed up with Jacques Slade, a YouTube personality known for videos where he unboxes sneakers to a 851,000-strong audience, to highlight the plight of modern slavery.

Slade’s video begins with a disclaimer explaning that he was sent a mystery box and viewers should stick around to learn a really important message. He then proceeds to open the package, to reveal a high-end shoe box where the word “Humanmade” is replaced by “Slavemade” once it is fully opened. As the pair of shoes is revealed so are stats about modern slavery, which can be found on the shoe’s tongue, laces and soles.

Stats disclose that slavery still exists in 161 countries and counting, while also highlighting that less than 2% of slaves will ever be rescued. Slade then shows the shoe’s dust bag, in which a printed letter addressed to him and his viewers explains that they do not expect people to stop buying sneakers, but rather to stop and ask themselves: “What is the human price of the products you buy?”

Slade, whose core audience is men aged 13-24, explains that he was initially contacted by a creative agency on behalf of an “unspecified nonprofit organization” to take part in a video about forced labour, and that was the extent of what he knew prior to recording the video.

The stunt aimed to tap into an audience who is highly engaged about their passion, which in this case is owning and cherishing limited-edition footwear by the likes of Nike and adidas.

As part of the campaign, the organization is asking for donations towards its fight against slavery and human trafficking. Donations will go towards funding media coverage, training and mentoring journalists in specific geographies with a high prevalence of slavery, and bringing frontline activists to the Trust Conference where they would learn new skills.

Unboxing the Truth - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Unboxing the Truth – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Editor's pick product sustainability technology

SXSW 2018: Adidas declares 2024 moonshot to only use recycled plastics

Adidas x Parley for the Oceans - SXSW
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans

Adidas is aiming for all of its products to be made from recycled plastics by 2024, according to Eric Liedtke, head of global brands at the company.

The initiative is a follow on to the brand’s partnership with Parley for the Oceans, which has already resulted in one million pairs of shoes sold created from recycled plastics recovered from the oceans. In 2018, it is expected to hit five million.

Each pair of shoes uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles, meaning Adidas is recycling some 55 million plastic bottles this year, Liedtke explained on stage at SXSW this week.

To put the trajectory ahead into context however, the company makes 450 million pairs of shoes every year right now, meaning that goal really is a moonshot. “You think five million is a lot but it’s not, it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said.

In the context of the 270 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean right now, not to mention the further eight million tonnes being added every year, he explained how important it is to get to this point. “The growth of plastic just doesn’t stop. It was a great invention, but it was made to never go away, so all that has been made is still floating around the world today. It becomes a real call to arms to fixing that.”

And the fact is that plastics are not only insidious, but everywhere. Most of the shirts Adidas produces are made from polyester, which is another name for petroleum based plastics. It’s also in the micro pellets in our shower gel, and of course in the plastic bags we receive. Adidas has already eliminated use of both of those latter two.

Liedtke says the next step is to “turn off the virgin plastic tap”. The aim is to get to the point where no new plastic is made at all, because the resource is already there – all that’s needed is for the existing plastics in the system to be used again and again. From cradle to grave to cradle, he explained. “We need to redesign the problem.”

Importantly, however, is the fact doing all of this also makes good business sense, Liedtke added. “I want to prove to the world that it is good for the bottom line. This is not philanthropy. It’s good business. This is what is critical.”

He added that the consumer is expecting and demanding it more than ever as well, especially when you look at the younger generation. “Gen Z wants to give back. They’ve grown up in a world that is highly stressed… they’re looking for trusted brands they can rely on – there’s a huge opportunity for us to step in. Authenticity is going to be core for this,” he said. “People don’t just buy what you make, they buy what you stand for.”

Adidas’ mission with Parley is to enter into full-time collecting and recycling ocean plastics to enable a fully sustainable supply chain, not just for its own brand but anyone interested. The worst problem the industry has right now is inaction, he added. “Everyone has to opt in, put their hand in the pile and play.”

Update: The original version of this story reported live from SXSW quoted Eric Liedtke stating that Adidas was aiming for all of its products to be made from recycled plastics recovered from the ocean by 2024. It is in fact to use 100% recycled polyester in every product and on every application where a solution exists by that year. This ambition is not tied specifically to ocean plastic.