Published on EcoFashion World:
Calling itself the ‘most important event for fashion and sustainability’ the Source Summit, held in London earlier this month, hosted talks from many of ethical fashion’s highest profile figures – from model Amber Valetta and vogue.co.uk editor Dolly Jones to Baroness Young and the designer Bruno Pieters, founder of Honesty By.
In her typically idiosyncratic manner, Orsola DeCastro (founder of Reclaim To Wear and London Fashion Week’s Estethica exhibition) summed up the movement’s current energy, ”we have seen sustainability grow; there is a thriving industry of eco-clothing. It’s not crunchy anymore, sustainability is sexy.”
Ethical fashion certainly isn’t crunchy any more, but many speakers cited the big numbers it’s beginning to crunch; Fastfetch just raised another $20m with backing from Conde Nast, while Etsy attracts 60m unique users each month along with approximately $100m in sales.
The increasing appetite to establish ethical fashion in mainstream big business was reflected in many of the speaker’s talks, including master classes in online sales from Gloople founder Warren Knight and an informative and inspiring lesson in communications from Futerra CEO, Lucy Shea.
However, Lucy expressed frustration with the fact that ethical fashion has not yet made the impact it is capable of with ‘its ability to make sustainability desirable’. In fact she believes that it could play a pivotal role in creating positive behavioral change outside of fashion too, explaining that ‘The fashion industry is the maker of modern day manners. Cast your mind back to when Kate Moss made vintage cool, and in a heartbeat second hand clothes became high status. [Fashion} has enormous influence over what we buy, but also how we live.’
As the self-styled fairy godmother of swishing, Lucy has proved this is true, promoting the re-use of second hand clothes even further – all without a mention of crunchy words like ‘ethics’ or ‘green’.
Of course, the day didn’t pass without due respect paid to the lessons that are still being learnt from Rana Plaza. Brigitte Stepputtis (Head of Couture at Viviene Westwood) reflected the increasing appetite for openness in fashion by frankly answering a range of probing questions. She summed up the perspective of many established businesses by reiterating that ‘Change is happening, but it is a process’.
This ‘process’ includes initiatives like Responsible Trade World Wide’s Supply Chain Transparency Tool (which empowers workers voices in order to create more accurate audits) who also attended the summit. Initiatives like this are beginning to provide much-needed mechanisms for the crunchy back-office business to occur. Now that the infrastructure is emerging, and ethical fashion is so hot that even the high street is getting in on it, there’s a sense of momentum to ethical fashion. As model Amber Valletta said ‘We can’t wait for the next season. The time is now’.
The potent mix of sex appeal, infrastructure, public and big business support could be transformative. Now Lucy Shea thinks it just needs to scale. Shea reinforced, “Sustainable fashion is at a tipping point. If we give people sustainable choices in abundance then ethical fashion will bloom.”