The brand activists and nonprofits deal directly with fashion policy – WWD
Hottest in lately Fashion it’s not fashion at all – it’s politics.
Last week brands, sustainable fashion experts, editors and nonprofits came together to draft a letter to the president Joe Biden – touched by the Zeitgeist piece by a journalist Call for senior fashion policy advisor. As fashion spans sectors, governments, and borders, the implications for work, health and safety, trade, pollution, domestic production, and supply chain transparency are far-reaching. And brands are committed to political reform in a concrete way.
The up-and-coming Swedish-American label Amendi was one of the first to sign the letter.
“As soon as we started [Amendi] we asked, “How do we enforce the law?” said Corey Page Spencer, co-founder of the brand. “I was looking for lawyers who could get involved in sustainability law. Not much attention is paid to it. “
But that can change if the collective weight of the Allbirds, Reformation, Everlane, ThredUp, and more is any indication.
Grassroots Efforts for Updated “Green Guides”
Long before he co-founded Amendi, Spencer was a bright-eyed student of literature and poetry, first at New York University and later at Columbia University. When he later moved into the fashion industry, it was his time at the organic denim label Nudie Jeans that gave him the feeling of arrogant practicality that he would carry into his own label and give up for free.
“Nobody made organic denim in 2001,” said Spencer, noting that the brand had shown that “fashion could be a way,” as evidence of a transition from organic food to organic clothing.
Amendi was founded in 2020 and aims to expand access to information in the luxury sector. Every garment has a “Fabrication Facts” label supported by certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standard or Global Recycled Standard, and a “fully traceable supply chain” that customers can view in a customized online module. The brand’s website features resources such as “Fashion Needs Legislation” and a comment written by Spencer entitled, “Can Poetry Cure the Climate Crisis?” (Poetry, he argued, is a climate fear coping mechanism.)
And what about the legislation? Together Amendi and Hilary Jochmans – the sustainable one Fashion Lawyer leading efforts to get the fashion tsar’s letter on Biden’s desk urge PoliticallyInFashion, an initiative by Jochmans to bring fashion into sustainable politics (a ground that is still a bit untrodden).
First on PoliticallyInFashion’s agenda is the update of the US Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, launched in 1992 to ensure businesses avoid making misleading environmental claims to consumers, and has not been updated since 2012. The group has determined that they does not reflect the current consumer landscape. As they exist today, there are no regulations governing sustainability claims and “organic” or “natural” claims (other than what is covered by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program). There is now a growing sense of Consumers distrust of brand sustainability claims in the midst of rampant greenwashing.
“Everyone says they are sustainable,” said Spencer. “Greenwashing is a tool for traditional exploitation of the way the fashion industry works.”
In recent months, both the German government and the European Parliament have proposed laws that would hold companies accountable for effects along their supply chains. The European Commission is also fighting against greenwashing and is publishing new data that shows that many fashion companies are guilty of false advertising. Up to 42 percent of the 344 allegations examined used exaggerated, false or misleading terms that could potentially be considered unfair business practices under EU rules, the Commission found.
While Jochmans believes the recent executive orders are timely, as the US rejoins the Paris Agreement to send a “strong message,” she doesn’t see any major political changes in the US – at least not yet.
“No, I don’t see sustainability as defined” [this year], and that may not be a bad thing, ”said Jochmans. However, she wants “guard rails” to delimit what is sustainability and what is not. “I think you will see more leadership from the administration when it comes to moving this conversation forward. As far as the legislation is passed, it is still 50-50 [split in the Senate]. So I don’t know if we will see laws. “
Still, she is optimistic that private sector initiatives will gain momentum as political discourse becomes more authentic in fashion.
“We saw how many brands were involved in the ‘Get out the vote’ movement … Now the work begins,” said Jochmans.
Global movements towards microplastics, waste
From well-known names like Adidas to new activewear labels like Girlfriend Collective, brands are pushing for recycled plastic. A popular source material is post-consumer waste in the form of plastic bottles and fishing nets. The only problem is whether it is recycled or not, the microfiber peeling is unhindered.
In October, the United Nations, together with companies and NGOs, re-examined the potential of a new international agreement on plastics in a joint report entitled “The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution”. The call-to-action was signed by P&G, Unilever and the H&M Group.
Surf lifestyle brand Fair Harbor believes its existence will be strengthened by reducing plastic waste – of which it will be recycling 9 million plastic bottles by the end of 2021. The company welcomes government intervention to accompany this mission where its own efforts are insufficient.
“Although we haven’t read the contract, we fully comply with all government measures to reduce our carbon footprint and hold people accountable for their individual actions,” said a spokesman for the Fair Harbor brand. “We are building a responsible company – from the products we develop to our business growth and corporate culture – and we support all efforts to motivate others to be responsible for their own actions.”
Efforts were made in February by both nonprofits and government agencies to crack down on plastics in fashion. A report titled “Fossil Fashion: The Hidden Reliance of Fashion on Fossil Fuels” by the nonprofit Changing Markets Foundation estimates that the market share of the material due to the increasing use of synthetic fibers in the industry (especially in fast fashion markets) of 69 percent to 73 percent within the next 10 years – polyester is expected to make up 85 percent of that.
Regardless of this, attention to textile waste is gaining momentum at the grassroots level. In January the US Public Interest Research Group launched a national campaign to raise awareness of textile waste. In the weeks since then, the organizers have launched state campaigns and got the industry talking. PIRG expects to publish its first report in April highlighting the brands’ fraudulent practices, such as disguising garbage incineration in reports as “Waste to Energy”.
Olivia Sullivan, Zero Waste Associate at US PIRG and the main campaign contact, said, “We are definitely open to discussion [with the fashion industry]but in the end it is too big a problem to leave it to the brands to do something voluntarily. “
Founded by Lauren Fay, the New Fashion Initiative is another nonprofit that focuses on getting brands and consumers involved in fashion policy.
Last summer, TNFI launched a weekly political education series on its Instagram platform, a year after forming a group called the Fashion Waste Policy Alliance. The group includes the textile recycler FabScrap, the Fashion Law Institute and the Model Alliance.
“We’re currently focused on highlighting laws that are relevant to sustainable fashion, from current labor, chemical and disposal laws to proposals for clothing taxes or a fashion tsar,” said Fay. “Our goal is to show the role of legislation for a sustainable fashion system and to highlight current legal loopholes.”
Can textile concepts come into play?
While fashion wants to rebuild itself, sustainability resonates in all facets, with companies wanting to see the big picture.
When Rebecca Burgess founded Fibershed in 2010, she set out to build a concept wardrobe with everything – including dyes, fibers, and labor – all within 150 miles, a concept that was later tested by The North Face four years later. Now, in 2021, the brand is regenerative again (and it is not alone).
“I realize that brands have to work before competition. This also means that we need a coalition of brands to be on the same side in order to construct these new realities even for themselves. So on the private market side we need more cooperation, for example to nominate cotton from one location, ”said Burgess of Fibershed’s efforts to convert conventional acreage not just to organic certification, but to a completely different approach to land management. This approach protects soil biology and builds up soil carbon – “things that are organic” [agriculture] doesn’t do it in itself. “
“This is a project that is going on, I’ll be able to tell more about it soon, but it’s called C4 – The California Cotton and Climate Initiative, and these brands are right now deciding how much intake they can handle – right in the middle of what’s pre-competitive Look like pounds, ”said Burgess.
She believes that fashion has tried to rule itself to its detriment.
“If Biden comes up with the Build Back Better or if Tom Steyer [chair of California’s Economic Recovery Task Force] is brought in by [California Gov.] Gavin Newsom, to build better in California, the cornerstone for me is that you would surgically look for the toughest part of the economy that will create the biggest economic multiplier and that would be manufacturing, “Burgess said. “This is the delta that we have in textiles in the US We have a few manufacturing facilities, but to get this right we need textile districts all over the US. “
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