The Future of Fashion Webinar with CoGo App.

By Kev Boon

Introduction

CoGo is an app which helps consumers to understand their personal fashion impact and equip them to act on it by connecting them to businesses that match their values.

Host Mike Barry from CoGo was in conversation with:

Safia Minney MBE

Safia is one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. She is an executive coach, sustainable business consultant and keynote speaker. She is the Founder of People Tree and author of Slave to Fashion.

Eva von Alvensburg 

Eva is Executive Director of the Fashion Pact, a global coalition of companies in the fashion and textile industry including their suppliers and distributors, all committed to a common core of key environmental goals in three areas: stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans.

Professor Rebecca Earley 

Rebecca is the leading professor, sustainable fashion textile designer and co-founder of Centre for Circular Design at Chelsea College of Arts.

Fashion is at the heart of the interconnected climate, ecological and social crises. COVID has provided an opportunity to re-imagine our consumption of fashion. It has highlighted the short-term philosophy of an industry that pays little attention to environmental or social externalities. Some brands have been supporting suppliers during the pandemic but most have not leaving already vulnerable garment workers in even more precarious situations. This has exacerbated the systemic racism at the core of production. A positive aspect of the shutdown has been making consumers think about what’s important and what they value. 

“There are lots of solutions but we have to ask the people who have been trodden down by this process what would those solutions look like? We will then be able to fast forward this collaboration”. (Safia)

Looking forward, the drive for sustainability is being driven by millennials. A circular economy is key to reducing consumption. This means recycling, renting, repairing (Rebecca had the idea of a Menderoo service). It means sustainable materials and fibres such as cotton grown using regenerative organic farming and novel fibres from seaweed. It’s not possible to change what people want; companies need to develop sustainable solutions based on what customers enjoy and what they can afford. There has been a seismic shift in attitudes since 2019 with the rise of Extinction Rebellion and the School Strikes. To meet the challenge, there need to be disrupters to innovate and push boundaries. In response to Black Lives Matter, the industry must increase diversity in senior positions but also tackle the systemic racism of exploitation and slavery. There needs to be “value addition” with a greater proportion of profit transferred to labour. Some brands are setting very ambitious science based carbon emission targets. A current high-profile challenge is micro-fibre pollution. Research has found marine life to contain more cellulose-based fibres than synthetic ones. Two of the five key chemicals associated with the natural fibres are from cotton agriculture. The study also found that most fibres are derived from fabric production not washing of clothes. 

“We need to start bold action and do that together”. (Eva)

The urgency of the crises faced means that stakeholders need to collaborate. Civic society and industry must put pressure on governments to take action. The Fashion Pact focuses on climate, biodiversity and oceans, and now has 67 members including brands, suppliers and retailers. Innovation requires investment so we need luxury brands to develop solutions and open source their findings. Solutions that already exist need to be introduced on a large scale. It is important to have a partnership rather than a top-down approach to supply chains. Working in collaboration will be a challenge. It will require a change in mentality and new skill sets. 

“Not just keep the user in the loop, start with them; forget the problems, look at the opportunities and then meet them with radical new solutions”. (Rebecca)