Helsinki Fash­ion Week puts the spot­light on sus­tain­able fash­ion

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - Contents - Words Lynette Botha Pho­to­graphs Henry Marsh

For Eve­lyn Mora, cre­at­ing the first sus­tain­able fash­ion week in the world was non-ne­go­tiable. Eve­lyn, at only 26, made it her mis­sion to en­sure that Helsinki Fash­ion Week (HFW) 2018 was as eco-con­scious as pos­si­ble. With so­lar pan­els to power the en­tire event, Tes­las to chauf­feur the in­dus­try who’s who back and forth, ve­gan cater­ing made from food ‘waste’, and yoga ses­sions be­side the sea in be­tween shows, the team proved that liv­ing sus­tain­ably can still be so­phis­ti­cated.

Lo­cated in­side a for­mer oil silo, HFW was any­thing but an or­di­nary fash­ion week. The eco-vil­lage con­cept was based on a cir­cu­lar econ­omy and sus­tain­able val­ues, cre­at­ing a mi­cro-so­ci­ety that en­cour­ages con­nect­ing and co-cre­at­ing be­tween var­i­ous in­dus­tries. Also im­por­tant to note is the fact that ev­ery­one be­hind HFW, in­clud­ing Eve­lyn, is a vol­un­teer. They cre­ated and pro­duced the en­tire show­case based on a shared vi­sion and a passion to en­cour­age change. At HFW, sus­tain­able de­sign­ers from all over the world united to dis­play col­lec­tions that were at once on-trend and eth­i­cal, prov­ing that we’ve moved far beyond just hemp and bam­boo al­ter­na­tives.

Speak­ing about why she ap­proached HFW 2018 in this way, Eve­lyn says, ‘Sus­tain­abil­ity in fash­ion – and in ev­ery­day life – is no longer an op­tion; this is the only way to move for­ward, es­pe­cially in the fash­ion and tex­tile in­dus­try.’ And she’s not alone in her quest for a more eco-con­scious fash­ion land­scape. This year also saw the an­nual Lon­don Tex­tile Fair host­ing a sus­tain­able-sourc­ing plat­form, and invit­ing The Fu­ture Fab­rics Vir­tual Expo to par­tic­i­pate for the first time. Two sem­i­nars were held daily. The first was by The Sus­tain­able An­gle cu­ra­tor Amanda John­ston, high­light­ing the cur­rent im­pact of fash­ion and tex­tiles, and ‘the crit­i­cal need to think more in­tel­li­gently about out­dated mod­els that pol­lute, waste pre­cious re­sources and per­pe­trate the abuse of hu­man rights and an­i­mal ethics’. The se­cond, hosted by Oya Bar­las Bingül from Len­z­ing Group (a global tex­tile firm), in­tro­duced the com­pany’s award-win­ning low-im­pact cel­lu­lose fi­bres, Ten­cel and Re­fi­bra.

While en­cour­ag­ing steps are be­ing taken daily to­wards ed­u­cat­ing both the in­dus­try and con­sumers about a more ‘green’ fash­ion world, there is still a lot of work to be done. The ‘Pulse of the Fash­ion In­dus­try’ is an an­nual re­port com­piled by Global Fash­ion Agenda and The Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group. In 2018 it noted greater strides to­wards a more sus­tain­able in­dus­try, but stated that ‘the Pulse of the fash­ion in­dus­try is still weak. The global Pulse Score, a health mea­sure for the fash­ion in­dus­try, is 38 out of 100. The Pulse Sur­vey, cov­er­ing the per­spec­tives of de­ci­sion­mak­ers from all in­dus­try seg­ments, con­firms that sus­tain­abil­ity is ris­ing on the cor­po­rate agenda. Of the ex­ec­u­tives polled, 52% re­ported that sus­tain­abil­ity tar­gets acted as a guid­ing prin­ci­ple for nearly every strate­gic de­ci­sion they made – an in­crease of 18 per­cent­age points from last year. While en­cour­ag­ing, these re­sults also speak to the need for still more move­ment to­wards in­creas­ingly re­spon­si­ble prac­tices.’

‘In the lux­ury sec­tor, what sets us apart is the in­flu­ence we have in es­tab­lish­ing the trends,’ says MarieClaire Daveu, chief sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer of Ker­ing, the own­ers of Gucci, Saint Lau­rent, Ba­len­ci­aga and oth­ers. ‘Sim­i­larly, lux­ury has a lead­er­ship role in sus­tain­abil­ity but driv­ing its up­take re­quires a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach, both in­side and out­side a com­pany. An un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment from the CEO and man­agers is cru­cial to in­te­grate sus­tain­abil­ity into the busi­ness strat­egy of a com­pany.’

Some pos­i­tive ini­tia­tives from big brands in­clude Hugo Boss stop­ping the prepa­ra­tion of phys­i­cal sam­ples for its 2018 pre-autumn col­lec­tions. In­stead, all items ap­pear on large touch­screens pre­sented in dig­i­tal show­rooms, elim­i­nat­ing the re­sources to pro­duce sam­ples and sav­ing trans­port costs. Sim­i­larly, Nike has de­vel­oped an app in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion that seeks to en­able de­sign­ers to cre­ate more sus­tain­able prod­ucts based on the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of their ma­te­rial choices. The app, called Mak­ing, pro­vides a user-friendly tool that ranks ma­te­ri­als by four en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact ar­eas: water, chem­istry, en­ergy and waste. Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo re­cently an­nounced that it will be the first brand to use fab­rics made by Or­ange Fiber, an Ital­ian in­no­va­tor that has spe­cialised in cre­at­ing a cel­lu­lose yarn from the byprod­ucts of citrus juice, which serves as the ba­sis for a sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive to silk.

‘We ex­pect trans­parency to be­come the norm in the near fu­ture, with more and more brands pub­lish­ing or map­ping their sup­plier list,’ says Or­sola de Cas­tro, the founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of Fash­ion Rev­o­lu­tion. ‘Trans­parency is only the first step to­wards brands be­com­ing re­spon­si­ble and ac­count­able for their sup­ply chain, but it en­cour­ages a cul­ture of scru­tiny and vig­i­lance, which will even­tu­ally lead to best prac­tice.’

More than just sourc­ing sus­tain­able fab­rics and pro­duc­ing cloth­ing in an eco-con­scious way, the sus­tain­able fash­ion move­ment is also con­cerned with as­pects such as an­i­mal cru­elty, the use of toxic chem­i­cals, pol­lu­tion, and fair liv­ing wages for mak­ers. The H&M group is one of the fron­trun­ners in the last cat­e­gory; it im­ple­mented its fair-wage man­age­ment sys­tem at 227 fac­to­ries, rep­re­sent­ing 40% of its pro­duc­tion vol­ume.

‘The big chal­lenges fac­ing the world can only be tack­led by work­ing to­gether. This is a pre­req­ui­site for mak­ing the fash­ion in­dus­try part of the so­lu­tion rather than part of the prob­lem. Our col­lab­o­ra­tive mind­set has, for ex­am­ple, helped us when set­ting the am­bi­tious goal to be­come cli­mate pos­i­tive by 2040,’ says Kar­lJo­han Pers­son, CEO of H&M Group. ‘This means that we will go beyond min­imis­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of our busi­ness to cre­ate a pos­i­tive im­pact on the planet. But no mat­ter if the chal­lenges are about re­cy­cling in­no­va­tion, new sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als or work­ing conditions for the peo­ple mak­ing our clothes, our col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­ers is the key to make last­ing change.’

However, an­other el­e­ment slow­ing down the in­dus­try’s trans­for­ma­tion is fast fash­ion. The rate at which fash­ion is con­sumed is a huge con­cern. In an ar­ti­cle for The­con­ver­sa­tion.com, Mark Sumner, a lec­turer in Sus­tain­abil­ity, Fash­ion and Retail at the Univer­sity of Leeds, notes, ‘Fast fash­ion is seen by many as the fun­da­men­tal cause of all the sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues the

in­dus­try faces. And so it has been sug­gested by nu­mer­ous com­men­ta­tors, aca­demics and NGOs that eth­i­cal con­sumerism can and will lead to a par­a­digm shift in be­hav­iour. Over time, it is thought, slow fash­ion will be­come the norm, with con­sumers wear­ing classically styled gar­ments that last for 10 years.’

He goes on to ar­gue that con­sump­tion, and in par­tic­u­lar fash­ion con­sump­tion, is quite ir­ra­tional. ‘Pur­chase de­ci­sions are more likely to be driven by de­sires linked to plea­sure and ex­cite­ment. Fash­ion is a so­cial ac­tiv­ity for set­ting our sta­tus (the ego­is­ti­cal driv­ers) but it is also an ac­tiv­ity that is driven by emo­tional de­sires such as the fan­tasy, ex­cite­ment and as­pi­ra­tions of liv­ing a bet­ter, more ful­fill­ing life.’

Con­sumers have a big re­spon­si­bil­ity when it comes to shap­ing the in­dus­try, and the key to trans­form­ing the con­sumer is ed­u­ca­tion. At the end of the day, fash­ion is made for the peo­ple, and if the peo­ple are not on board – or knowl­edge­able about why they should in­vest in a sus­tain­ably cre­ated item rather than low-cost fast fash­ion – the loop re­mains open. We need a con­sumer rev­o­lu­tion as much as a fash­ion one. mc

Some of the sus­tain­able de­signs shown by Ber­lin-based brand Fuenf at HFW 2018

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE Anna Ruo­ho­nen’s ranges are hand­man­u­fac­tured in Fin­land us­ing eth­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal best prac­tice; a model on the run­way wear­ing Kata Szegedi at HFW; Helsinki Fash­ion Week founder and fash­ion sus­tain­abil­ity pi­o­neer Eve­lyn Mora

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