How can brands speed up their transition to sustainability?
As part of its series of conferences on the theme of a more responsible fashion industry, the trade show Who’s Next, which ran in Paris until September 9, invited Maéva Bessis to speak on the subject of how brands can transition to be more sustainable. The executive director of La Caserne, the future accelerator for sustainable fashion which will open its doors in January 2021, called on seven fashion industry names to discuss the issue.
Amongst the participants in the conference were Camille Le Gal and Laure Betsch of the Fair-trade sourcing business Fairly Made; Edith Cabane, co-founder of the brand Mirae; Caroline Rey, co-founder of the women’s tailoring business 17h10; Christèle Merter, director of Gentle Factory; Jérôme Malavoy of the supply chain modelling platform Transparency One; and Sandrine Pannetier, director of the fashion consulting business LeherpeurParis. The conference focused on three main points, sourcing raw materials, the traceability of raw materials, and production volumes.
Camille Le Gal and Laure Betsch of Fairly Made have managed to create a library of resources, listing around 800 eco-friendly fabrics, some of which they have used for their recent collaboration with the brand Des Petits Hauts. To organise these hundreds of textiles, the two entrepreneurs have developed a way of classifying them as natural, synthetic, and cellulosic fibres. “In general, sustainable textiles are 10 to 15% more expensive than the classics, but in large quantities, this extra cost can be reduced,” said the founders of Fairly Made.
This is a problem that the brand Mirae has encountered. Due to its small-batch production and use of the most sustainable materials possible, the brand had to raise its prices just several months after its launch, for reasons of profitability. The brand’s designers Edith Cabane, Camille, and Tara Jarmon chose not to make an announcement on the subject but to explain their reasoning to any customers who contacted them about it. “When we select our fabrics, we choose Oeko-Tex certified materials and we exclude synthetic textiles. Above all, the textiles have to be desirable,” said Edith Cabane.
Gentle Factory chooses to go up each level of the supply chain to ensure that all eco-friendly and sustainable criteria are met. However, controlling each step of the value chain is not easy which is why Jérôme Malavoy launched Transparency One.
“The platform functions like a social network. The brand can ask its tier 1 suppliers to give detailed information on their materials which can ask its tier 2 suppliers etc. On average, we see seven ranks of suppliers penetrating the market,” said Malavoy.
The entrepreneur has worked with the US department store Macy’s for the past nine months and the Swiss multinational specialising in inspection, verification, testing, and certification, SGS, has acquired a 20% stake in the business.
This is a platform which could prove highly useful, as remarked by Edith Cabane and Caroline Rey, because it is sometimes difficult to obtain the certifications of suppliers which often lack the time to respond to questions from smaller brands.
Volumes of production and durability
The last big challenge for the change-makers was the durability of products. “We have built our brand on simple and timeless products. We have our own small internal laboratory where we test textiles and then the finished products. If we have a problem with a certain product, as we did with a shirt that shrank, we organise up-cycling workshops so that the product isn’t wasted,” said Christèle Merter.
This is an approach that is in line with the changes in consumption that Sandrine Pannetier has seen. “Socially, fashion has been highly criticised in recent years. We are seeing a change in societal values,” said Pannetier.
“Fast fashion had initially democratised fashion but today we have reached a state of binging. So now, when we produce, we must produce well across all areas while still offering clothing that can remain in the wardrobe for a long time. Our customers haver been questioning us on the subject for a while and certain brands have been ahead and already found answers- usually young brands that are free and committed.”
Commitment is therefore necessary, but not forgetting that “clothing is not merely functional, there is an emotional charge that we must imperatively recreate,” said Edith Cabane.
“With Mirae, we wanted to create clothing that we like, the dress we will hang on to, the skirt we will wear again and again, to restore a sense of value to the act of purchasing.”
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