The topic of this break-out session was the power of sustainable fashion to change lives and bring a message for future generations. We were joined by Nicholas Allen from Patagonia, Paul Dillinger from Levi Strauss, Begoña García from Jeanologia, Gema Gómez from Slow Fashion Spain, and Enrique Segovia from WWF. Sonia Ruiz, founder of NOIMA, moderated the session.
Although fast fashion, and the pitfalls associated with it, was the topic of discussion throughout most of the event, many different issues were brought to our intention including: technological innovations in the industry, the need for partnerships among organizations, communication difficulties between businesses and consumers, and opportunities for the future.
Jeanologia is making waves for sustainable fashion with their new innovations that they are introducing to companies like Levi who heavily uses resources such as water in their production processes. One of Jeanologia’s products is a laser technology that can create the worn look of jeans that was conventionally created be washing processes using water. Paul brought up an interesting point about the need for companies like Jeanologia due to the fact that it doesn’t make feasible sense for individual vendors to invest in this new technology themselves. Many vendors work with 4-5 collections a year, and because of the uncertainty that comes with the ever changing fashion industry, they have an outlook that is just 6 months down the road. Heavily investing in new technologies is simply not incentivized enough for these companies and there is no promise of sustained business. This brings in an opportunity for outside organizations like Jeanologia to implement their products into the production stream.
Nicholas brought up the important issue of gap disconnect between companies and their consumers. There is a tendency for end consumers to not necessarily be aware of where the materials that make up their clothing are coming from, but as consumers become smarter and as the fashion industry becomes more transparent, the role of brands to go beyond their first tier suppliers in efforts to become more sustainable will hopefully be the goal of the next generation.
There is also an issue with the messages that companies are trying to convey to their customers. They have become confusing because many companies are saying similar things. Green washing has plagued companies who do take it seriously, but there is an opportunities for those companies wanting to actually do good. If you show your commitment and learn from the things you haven’t done well, you will gain the trust of your consumer. With the example of goose down, Patagonia was completely honest, and this made their job easier because they weren’t trying to keep up a false façade. They admitted their mistake and their trustful relationship with their consumers paid off in the long run. Nicholas said, “When telling the story of your sustainability journey, you need to be brutally honest at times, and this will set you apart from the others who are just talking.”
In regards to the fast fashion industry, Gema thinks there is an opportunity to engage brands and get them to think in the same way as companies breaking ground and sustainable efforts. Business-to-Business relationships are one of the most important efforts for the fast fashion industry, and companies like Jeanologia have an opportunity to implement their technologies to make it more beneficial for the fast fashion giants.
In looking to the future, Begoña sees a need for “expertise in every area of the supply chain and business in order to make sustainability big.” Enrique says, “Collaboration is fundamental.”
Wrapping up the discussion, each panelist was asked to give one word that would describe the future of the fashion industry:
“Together” – Enrique
“Regenerative” – Nicholas
“Circular” – Begoña
“Responsible” – Gema
“Less” – Paul
IESE MBA Class of 2016. Member of the Responsible Business Club and organizing committee of the Doing Good & Doing Well Conference.