The Candid Entrepreneur’s talk on Sustainable Fashion

Last week I went to one of the best sustainable fashion events I have been to in a while. The Candid Entrepreneur’s talk on Sustainable Fashion. If you aren’t already familiar with Candid, they organize quarterly talks on various topics with industry leaders, their last talk was on the cannabis industry, and this quarter was sustainable fashion… YES!

so, what was so great about this event?

If you follow the blog, you probably know by now, that for the most part, like McKayla Maroney, I have been unimpressed with the sustainable and ethical fashion scene here in NYC.

Where every “event” is basically just another pop-up shop pushing material consumerism. Candid’s event was a group of four industry established and interesting women, talking about their opinions on the current and future state of sustainable fashion while skipping the sales pitch! I have been waiting for someone to do something like this for a while and it finally happened (minus the girl who stood up at the end during q+a and gave what felt like a never-ending sales pitch about her time in Africa and her eco-company… sit down, there is a fine line between self-promotion and being tacky and you’ve crossed it).

the panelists

Amanda Parkes, Chief Innovation Office, Fashion Tech Lab. Frustrated with the trashy techno wearables that were being promoted as the future of fashion tech, Amanda uses technology to create sustainable products that will change the way we manufacture, consume, and care for our clothing.

Tabea Soriano Huches, Managing Partner, FutureMadeGroup, former head of Product at Reformation. FutureMadeGroup works with startups and established businesses to green-up their practices. They use a practical approach, to help companies incorporate greener strategies while maintaining their bottom lines.

Lona Alia Duncan, Founder, Style Lend. Style Lend is a company that allows women to connect directly to one another and share what is already in their closets. Clothes can be bought and sold, but most women use the platform to borrow from one another. By sharing clothes, consumers can buy less, and less will end up in landfills

Celine Semaan Vernon of Slow Factory. Basically, Slow Factory digitally prints silk scarves. TBH from a product standpoint, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but what makes her interesting is her strong political stances that each of her designs represents. She is funding Syrian refugees education in Lebanon, but her site doesn’t say exactly how or how much.

highlights of the panel

Amanda Parkes is my Hero — This is a badass lady, who knows the industry. Her goal is to create technology that seamlessly blends into the user’s experience, so they don’t even know they are wearing it. She is the pioneer behind vegan leather synthesized from mushrooms, which took 12 years to develop!

Some of the other technologies she spoke about and is working on could revolutionize the industry. First, she spoke about biological dyes that can be grown to display different colors, pretty cool right? She also touched upon new textiles for the fast fashion industry that could be worn once, and then completely biodegrade the next day. One material that is already in trials is a plastic that can get wet in normal water, but as soon as it ends up in salt water completely biodegrades. That would be amazing considering 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year.

When the topic of home garment care came up the other panelists offered the normal suggestions of don’t dry-clean, wash by hand, don’t dry to save energy. But, Amanda suggested a new take on the solving the problem, she suggested changing the way energy is made so we don’t have to worry about how much we use. I would love for her to do her own talk about all the cool new tech she has seen and is working on that most of us have no idea exists yet!

Tabea suggested using random acts of greenness to help companies start becoming eco-friendly. I like the idea. Becoming an eco company can seem overwhelmingly impossible sometimes, but, by implementing random acts of greenness companies can do what little they can when they can.

Lona brought up some interesting points about consumer education and promotion. She mentioned that mainstream media will never be able to tell the whole story of eco-fashion because the majority of their advertizing dollars come from fast fashion. Because fast fashion is funding their publications they are endowed to promoting and protecting those advertizers interests, which are for us to consume more fast fashion.

Probably one of my favourite moments of the panel was when Celine was justifying her high retail costs because of making in NY, stating a pair of shorts costs her over $300 to make. To which I rolled my eyes, ummmm no. During the q+a, my new obsession, Bunny from The Squirllz, called her out and told her to come see her after the panel for manufacturing options that were a fraction of the price and also benefitted immigrant women in NYC… yaaazzzz. Amazing. Seriously, Bunny rocks.

take aways

Sustainable and ethical fashion is a class issue. As always, most of the audience complained that they wanted to do more but, the price of entry into sustainable fashion was too high. Yes, sustainable and ethical fashion will never be as cheap as Forever 21. From the brand side, eco companies also need to stop with the over the top markups for green products. It feels like now that we have stopped exploiting the people who make our clothes, we are trying to make up the cash difference at the expense of the consumer’s wallet… but, that is a topic for another day. To sum it up, people want eco products, they just can’t afford them.

and, as an added bonus…

As some of you may know, for the past 2 years I have been asking Reformation to release the math behind their calculations. If you look at their site you will see icons for every style claiming how much they “save the planet” and some vague explanation about how they arrive at those numbers. Tabea explained that there is no real way of knowing exactly how much and of what you are using/saving because of the complexities of the fashion supply chain. To which I say, thank you for the honesty.

There is an industry trend in eco-fashion that everyone seems to want to give facts figures, and numbers to sound official. But, most people don’t even know where those numbers come from or what they mean. No one is arguing fast fashion isn’t bad, so what is the industry’s obsession with quantifying just how bad? You don’t need a statistic to watch a video clip about a community poisoned by its water supply to understand the fast fashion system of manufacturing is not ok.