19 June 2017

The demands of climate change and the sustainability agenda are turning fashion brands into innovation labs where a scientific paper or NGO report on toxic impacts to ecosystems is read alongside the latest trends forecast magazine.  I was recently speaking on an industry panel with representatives from two pioneering brands in the sustainability space – Levis and Patagonia. Listening to them speak, I was reminded of how embedded sustainability principles are in these company’s overall strategy and product offer, and the level of in-depth research they do internally.  As fashion industry professionals, they may have been trained in design or supply chain management, but alongside this they have become well-versed in sustainability concepts and strategies and are collaborating with scientists and experts in environmental management to make better fashion products.

Traditionally the innovation process for fashion brands and designers was to constantly develop new trends, whereas now fashion brands are exploring a more holistic approach to their innovation process based on sustainability principles. The Swedish brand Filippa K has even gone to the extent of partnering with a team of academics and researchers (my old colleagues from TED in London) on their Front Runners collection of sustainable garments. The researchers and brand staff work collaboratively on developing a range of garments that are closed-loop and low impact. While these initiative are most often not a main line collection, it shows the extent of these brands’ willingness to commit to finding new ways of doing business.

The sustainability agenda demands that the fashion industry changes the way they produce garments and do business. The way forward is to understand the lifecycle impacts of your business activities and be willing to invest time, money and resources in innovating new approaches.

Image: Filippa K