Introducing legislation along the lines of a Global Green New Deal is mandatory for the future of our planet and the existence of the fashion industry within it, says designer and activist Katharine Hamnett on the Innovators podcast.
“That’s the dream, isn’t it? We reclaim the destroyed lands, we get out of burning fossil fuels and killing the planet, we go to renewables. People find interesting jobs, rewarding jobs… you know, building a better world – it’s exciting for everybody and is the way that we’ve got to go,” she explains.
AGlobal Green New Deal suggests investment in key areas such as net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, clean air, water, access to nature and more. It’s not brand new, it’s an evolution on from a United Nations paper in 2009 that focused on helping power a job-rich global economic recovery through decarbonization, and before that a Franklin D Roosevelt term from the 1930s.
While it’s got a lot of mixed opinions, it supports the idea ultimately that we need a stronger push around climate change legislation, and that the needs are now too big for businesses to do it alone.
The commercial endeavours of industry full stop mean there just isn’t incentive enough there to do so in a way that results in any tangible change. So we have to make it mandatory, and, as per Hamnett’s thoughts, we have to lobby existing governments to introduce the sort of regulatory methods that will actually lead us somewhere.
Hamnett herself is one of the original fashion activists. Her brand is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, but she is a designer that has become particularly well known for her t-shirts supporting various movements, from helping refugees to indeed, supporting a Global Green New Deal. And she’s now lobbying for it too.
Join us as we dive into what her view is on the sort of regulations we need in the UK and Europe particularly, what activism today should really look like both for businesses and for us as individuals, and why she doesn’t believe the answer is about reducing how many clothes we all actually buy.
“Being creative gives us the ability to help change the world”, says Roland Mouret, a designer on a mission to eradicate single-use plastics in the supply chain, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.
“Let’s not consider our creativity penalized by the fact that we have to become responsible,” he explains during the recording at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum this year.
His view is that the concept of luxury that dominated the past few decades has been destroyed by the climate crisis, meaning having money, logos and power are no longer the values consumers want to be associated with.
Instead, we’re seeing a global shift to a more sustainable approach, he explains. This makes for a highly complex business shift, he acknowledges, but he’s doing so by taking a small step that could add up to a big change if adopted across the industry.
Consequently, one of his focuses is around the humble coat hanger. Not those glamorous types you see in luxury stores, but the cheap plastic ones that flood the supply chain to get products from manufacturer to shop floor, and ultimately end up going to waste. He is working with a startup called Arch & Hook to do so.
He refers to hangers as the plastic straws of the fashion industry, highlighting their need to be replaced by sustainable alternatives. In doing so he ties the fashion supply chain in with the overconsumption challenge of single-use plastic. Worldwide, about eight million tons of it leak into the ocean every year.
Join us for this episode where we also talk to Mouret about why he’s on a mission to make sustainability sexy, the major trend he thinks is dying out in fashion right now, and how the climate crisis is redefining power and the luxury industry.
Google today announces the launch of an experiment in collaboration with innovation consultancy Current Global, to build-out a data analytics and machine learning tool powered by Google Cloud technology that will enable fashion brands to make more responsible sourcing decisions.
The initiative, revealed at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the fashion industry’s key sustainability events of the year, aims to focus on the raw materials stage (referred to as ‘Tier 4’ of the supply chain), providing brands with greater visibility as to the environmental impact of different textiles. The hope is to translate data into meaningful insights so the industry can take action.
Sustainability in fashion is a global environmental emergency. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the fashion industry accounts for 20% of wastewater and 10% of carbon emissions worldwide. The 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report also shows the fashion industry is not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance the harmful environmental and social impacts of its rapid growth.
Current Global, an innovation consultancy that empowers fashion brands to reach their sustainability goals through the use of relevant technologies, analyzed where the industry’s largest environmental challenges are, and worked with Google to determine how it could help be part of the solution through the use of cloud-based tools for data collection and analysis.
What was identified was the need to focus on Tier 4, where brands have little to no visibility. This is an industry wide problem, where supply chains are highly fragmented, unregulated and with little transparency, yet where the majority of negative impact occurs.
Many organizations and brands have been trailblazers in an effort to collect and surface data that can lead to better sourcing decisions, but gaps in the data continue to persist due to its complexity and global nature. The aim of this experiment, is to bring together information in a way that will complement existing tools, consolidating and building on the data to shine a light into the furthest parts of the fashion supply chain.
“Lack of data in the fashion industry is one of the most pressing and complex issues we’re faced with. If you can’t see it, you can’t measure it, and if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. In other words, without insights the industry is not empowered to make strategic and beneficial decisions for the sake of reducing their environmental impact,” Rachel Arthur, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Current Global, says. “We teamed up with Google to identify the strategic places within the supply chain that would benefit from its access to global data and its machine learning power to launch an experiment to create a decision making tool for the industry in order to enable a more sustainable fashion future. We know that if we could understand the nuance of the raw materials we source – information right now that is essentially impossible to accurately calculate – we could make an enormous dent into the overall composition of the clothes that are produced.”
To bring it to life, we’ll be collaborating closely with Stella McCartney on the first pilot project. This brand has been a pioneer in leading the fashion industry towards sustainability, helping to launch the UN Fashion Industry Charter for climate change and recently introducing Stella McCartney Cares Green, one of the arms of the Stella McCartney Foundation, to further promote sustainability and environmental protection.
As Kate Brandt, sustainability officer at Google, explains: “Stella McCartney has been a forerunner in the fashion industry embracing and leading the charge for sustainable fashion. At Google, we also strive to build sustainability into everything that we do whether that’s operating efficiency data centers to having our own Responsible Supply Chain Program. In 2016 we celebrated 10 years of carbon neutrality and we are the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. Outside of Google, we aspire to build tools to help people understand the planet, improve environmental impact, and take sustainable action. This pilot with Stella is a great step in the fashion industry’s bid to become more sustainable.”
The tool will use data analytics and machine learning on Google Cloud, focused on sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials, relevant to key environmental factors such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity.
To start, it will look at cotton and viscose, each chosen due to the scale of their production, data availability and impact considerations. More specifically, cotton accounts for 25% of all fibers used by the fashion industry, with a notable impact on water and pesticide use. Viscose production is smaller but growing in demand, and has links to the destruction of forests—some endangered—which are critical in mitigating carbon emissions.
The goal is not only to be able to determine the impact of producing these raw materials, but also compare the impacts of these in different regions where they are produced. This pilot will enable us to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.
Ian Pattison, customer engineering manager for Google Cloud UK, says: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The challenge facing the fashion industry is one of information – taking fragmented and somewhat incomplete information and quickly translating it into meaningful insights to take action. In this case, understanding how fabrics are grown or made, what impact different sourcing decisions has on the environment, and ensuring that data is visible across the whole supply chain. Google’s 20-year leadership of data technologies, cloud computing and machine learning capabilities, coupled with our commitment to sustainability and our unrivalled global mapping, means that we are uniquely placed to work with the brands to address the challenge of reducing the environmental footprint of fashion.”
This is the first phase of the experiment. Google and Current Global are now actively working with further fashion brands, experts, NGOs and industry bodies with the ambition of creating an open industry-wide tool, and plan to continue driving collaboration with other key players—large and small.
The hope is that the experiment will give fashion brands greater visibility of impact within their supply chain and actionable insights to make better raw material sourcing decisions with sustainability in mind.
Adds Maria McClay, industry head of fashion and luxury at Google: “We have been hearing increasingly from clients, our industry partners and consumers the growing urgency around the fashion sector to make a dent in their negative environmental impact given the magnitude of the problem. If nothing changes, what is at stake is our future and that of our children’s. Google empowers its teams to find moonshots – really difficult, complex problems to solve where our technology can help make a 10x contribution, not just a marginal improvement. We believe that this could be our moonshot for the industry.”
How are you thinking about your sustainable innovation strategy? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear 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.
How are you thinking about material 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.
Timberland is celebrating its 45-year anniversary with a pop-up park and 13-foot replica of its iconic Premium 6-Inch Wheat Boot in New York City.
Displayed in Flatiron District for one day only (Tuesday, October 16), the park and the boot installation represent the intersection of the brand’s New England roots and today’s modern city lifestyle.
The pop-up park has grass, benches, and living birch trees where visitors are encouraged to write and post their own eco-pledges. They are also invited to build their own potted succulent plant, a gift to green their personal space in the office or at home.
The park’s opening is otherwise the kick-off to a week-long series of events. On Wednesday, elements of the pop-up will then find a home at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem. More than 150 volunteers from Timberland, Journeys and the Student Conservation Association are coming together to restore a rooftop greenhouse, install a living roof and construct an outdoor classroom and gathering space.
This is part of Timberland’s pledge to create or restore 500K square feet of green space in US cities over the next five years. To increase the visibility of those actions, Timberland partnered with YouTube phenom Mahogany Lox, this season’s brand ambassador.
“At Timberland, we are guided by a greater purpose — to step outside, work together and make it better. Urban greening is a powerful way to bring this notion to life,” said Jim Pisani, global brand president at Timberland. “Green spaces are the heartbeat of a community. They not only provide a place to play and explore, they also help enhance quality of life. Simply put, they make neighborhoods stronger. We are proud to make this commitment today, so these vibrant city spaces can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
The end of the celebration takes place at the brand’s newly launched pop-up store, located at 511 Fifth Avenue until January 2019. The concept space embraces nature and experiences with shopgoers surrounded by 2,000 native New England plant species and able to see Instagram-friendly spaces called “Rain Room,” and ”Snow Room”.
All day on Friday, October 19, the public will have access to entertainment, giveaways, and boots raffled off every hour beginning at 12:30pm in the store.
Further urban greening events are taking place in Chicago and Los Angeles during the week.
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.
“We’ve been set up as a business to understand how people live and to provide solutions that help them live better,” says Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at Ikea, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
Since its inception 75 years ago, the Swedish flatpack retailer has been known for affordable – and arguably, disposable – furniture that is a staple in young people’s homes. But after identifying a shift in how we consume and live our lives, Ikea is on a much bigger mission, which is to think of what products and services it can provide that support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthily, everyday, Yarrow explains.
Speaking to Rachel Arthur, she says that sustainability has always been at the core of Ikea, but one of the biggest mistakes it has made is not to have engaged with consumers on their sustainable journey up until now.
But times have shifted, and with mainstream consumers now maturing from supporting a single cause, such as saving water, to attempting to become more sustainable in every aspect of their lives, Ikea is aiming to follow suit. 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); look at people and it supply chain; and lastly, how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.
The company is due to release its new strategy in June, which will focus on its consumers and how to create affordability, accessibility and sustainability for all. Customers of the Greenwich, London store due to open in 2019 will be able to trial some of the company’s upcoming features, which include upcycling stations, solar panels, green walls and rain water harvesting, among other components.
During the conversation, Yarrow also talks about her background as the child of eco-warriors in England, how brands can no longer afford to just greenwash, and her belief that no one brand will ever be able to achieve sustainability alone, making collaboration key.
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.