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Brand activists and nonprofits tackle fashion politics head-on – WWD




Lately, it’s not fashion at all, it’s politics.

Last week, brands, sustainable fashion experts, editors and nonprofits came together to write a letter to President Joe Biden – stirred by today’s article from a journalist calling for a high level political advisor for fashion. As fashion transcends industries, governments and borders, the effects on labor, health and safety, trade, pollution, domestic production and transparency of the supply chain are considerable. And brands are engaging in political reform in tangible ways.

Among the first signatories of the letter was the new Swedish-American label Amendi.

“Immediately when we started [Amendi] we asked, “How do we pass legislation?” said Corey Page Spencer, co-founder of the brand. “I was looking for lawyers capable of engaging in sustainability law. There isn’t a lot of attention on it.

But that may change, if the collective weight of Allbirds, Reformation, Everlane, ThredUp and more is any indication.

Grassroots efforts to update “green guides”

Long before Spencer co-founded Amendi, he was a bright-eyed student of literature and poetry, first at New York University and later at Columbia University. When he then entered the fashion industry, it was his time at organic denim brand Nudie Jeans that instilled in him the sense of authoritarian purpose that he would carry in his own brand and that he would give up at no cost.

“No one was making organic denim back in 2001,” Spencer said, noting that the brand was showing that “fashion could be a way forward,” as evidence of a transition from organic food to organic clothing.

Founded in 2020, Amendi aims to expand access to information in the luxury sector. Each garment has a “Made-to-Manufacture” label which is backed 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 personalized online module. Resources dot the brand’s website like “Fashion Needs Legislation” and an op-ed written by Spencer titled, “Can Poetry Heal the Climate Crisis?” (Poetry, he argued, is a mechanism for coping with climate anxiety.)

And what about the legislation? Together, Amendi and Hilary Jochmans – the sustainable fashion lawyer who is leading the effort to send the Fashion Tsar’s letter to Biden’s office – are pushing for awareness with PoliticallyInFashion, an initiative launched by Jochmans to engage fashion in a sustainable policy (a ground still somewhat unexplored.).

The first on PoliticallyInFashion’s agenda is to update the United States Federal Trade Commission Green Guides, which were introduced in 1992, to ensure that companies avoid making environmental claims that mislead consumers and have not been updated since 2012. The guides, as the group noted, do not reflect the current consumer landscape. As they exist today, there are no regulations for sustainability claims and “organic” or “natural” claims (except for what is covered by the US Department’s National Organic Program. of Agriculture). Meanwhile, there is a growing sense of consumer distrust of the brand’s sustainability claims amid rampant greenwashing.

“Everyone says they’re durable,” Spencer said. “Greenwashing is a tool for the traditional exploitation of the functioning of the fashion industry.”

In recent months, the German government and the European Parliament have proposed laws that would hold companies accountable for impacts along their supply chains. The European Commission is also leading a fight against greenwashing, releasing new data showing that many fashion companies are guilty of the false advertising practice. As many as 42% of the 344 complaints examined used exaggerated, false or misleading terms that could potentially qualify as unfair trading practices under EU rules, the commission found.

While Jochmans believes the recent decrees are timely, with the United States returning to the Paris Agreement sending a “strong message,” she does not foresee much political change in the United States – at least not. again.

“No, I don’t see a definition of sustainability [this year], and that might not be a bad thing, ”Jochmans said. However, she would like to see “guardrails” delimiting what sustainability is and what it is not. “I think you’ll start to see more leadership from the administration to move this conversation forward. Regarding the adopted legislation, it is still 50-50 [split in the Senate]. So I don’t know if we’ll see any legislation.

Nonetheless, she is optimistic that private sector initiatives are gaining momentum as political discourse becomes more authentic in fashion.

“We’ve seen a lot of brands involved in the ‘take out the vote’ movement… that’s where the work begins,” said Jochmans.

Global movements on microplastics, waste

Adidas is working with Parlay for the Oceans to recycle plastic waste.

Adidas is working with Parlay for the Oceans to recycle plastic waste.

From well-known brands like Adidas to new sportswear brands like Girlfriend Collective, brands are pushing recycled plastic. Post-consumer waste in the form of plastic bottles and fishing nets is a preferred raw material. The only problem is that, whether recycled or not, the loss of microfibers remains unimpeded.

In October, the United Nations, along with businesses and NGOs, revisited the potential of a new international plastics treaty in a joint report titled “The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution”. The signatories of the call to action included P&G, Unilever and H&M Group.

Surf lifestyle brand Fair Harbor believes its existence is supported by reducing plastic waste – of which it will recycle 9 million plastic bottles by the end of 2021. The company welcomes the government’s intervention to accompany this mission where its own efforts fail.

“While we haven’t read the treaty, we are fully aligned with all government actions to reduce our carbon footprint and hold people accountable for their individual actions,” said a spokesperson for the Fair Harbor brand. . “We develop a responsible business – from the products we create to the growth of our business and our corporate culture – and support all efforts to motivate others to be responsible for their own actions as well.

In February, nonprofits and government agencies saw efforts to crack down on trendy synthetics. A report titled “Fossil Fashion: The Hidden Reliance of Fashion on Fossil Fuels” by the nonprofit Changing Markets Foundation estimates that, based on the increasing use of synthetic fibers in industry (especially in the markets of fast fashion), the material’s market share will grow from 69 percent to 73 percent over the next 10 years – with polyester expected to account for 85 percent of that.

In addition, attention to textile waste arouses popular enthusiasm. In January, the US Public Interest Research Group launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about textile waste. In the weeks that followed, organizers launched state-by-state campaigns and engaged the industry in the conversation. The PIRG plans to release its inaugural report in April denouncing misleading practices by brands, such as disguising waste incineration in reports as “waste to energy.”

Olivia Sullivan, Zero Waste Associate at US PIRG and Senior Point of Contact for the Campaign, said, “We’re definitely open to the conversation. [with the fashion industry], but in the end it’s too big a deal to let brands do something of their own accord.

The New Fashion Initiative, founded by Lauren Fay, is another nonprofit focused on brand and consumer engagement in fashion policy.

Last summer, TNFI launched a weekly political education series on its Instagram platform, a year after launching a group called the Fashion Waste Policy Alliance. The group includes members like textile recycler FabScrap, the Fashion Law Institute and Model Alliance, among others.

“We are currently focusing on highlighting relevant legislation for sustainable fashion, from current labor, chemicals and disposal laws to proposals for clothing taxes or a fashion czar,” said declared Fay. “Our aim is to show the role that legislation plays in a sustainable fashion system and to highlight the current gaps in the legislation.”

Can textile concepts materialize?

As fashion seeks to rebuild itself, sustainability spills over into all facets as companies seek to see the big picture.

When Rebecca Burgess founded Fibershed in 2010, she set out to build a conceptual wardrobe with everything – including dyes, fibers and labor – all from within a 150 mile radius, a concept later tested by The North Face four years later. Now in 2021, the brand has returned to regeneration (and it is not the only one).

“What I realize is that there is a need for brands to work pre-competitively, so part of that is we need a coalition of brands to get on the same page. to be able to even build these new realities by themselves. So on the private market side, we need more cooperation to designate cotton grown from one location, for example, ”said Burgess speaking of Fibershed’s efforts to shift conventional agricultural acreage not just to organic certification, but also a really different approach to land management. This approach protects soil biology and builds soil carbon – “things that [agriculture] does not inherently.

“It’s an ongoing project, I can share more soon, but it’s called C4 – The California Cotton and Climate Initiative, and these brands are deciding right now how much adoption they can handle – just at middle of what the pre-competitive weight looks like, ”said Burgess.

She thinks fashion has tried to rule itself to its detriment.

“When Biden proposes the Build Back Better or when Tom Steyer [chair of California’s Economic Recovery Task Force] is brought by [California Gov.] Gavin Newsom to rebuild better in California, the cornerstone for me is that you surgically seek out the most robust part of the economy that is going to create the greatest economic multiplier, and that would be manufacturing, ”Burgess said. “This is the delta that we have in textiles in the United States. We have a bit of manufacturing, but to get it right we need textile districts all over the United States ”

For more information, see:

Allbirds, ThredUp, More ask Biden to name the ‘fashion czar’

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