October 12th- 18th kicked-off the first F4TE week hosted by St Andrews Charity Fashion Show- a time dedicated to drawing attention and awareness towards sustainability in fashion. I had the opportunity to attend the opening panel discussion for F4TE week which included speakers currently thriving within the field, sharing their thoughts on the sustainable fashion industry, and the work they were doing to create solutions. Before opening up the panel, our host shared some shocking statistics regarding the current lack of sustainability in the industry. While I was aware of the concept of fast fashion and the waste it produced, I was unaware of just how damaging it was to the environment. For example, the fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year, produces 20% of global wastewater, and since 2005, has killed over 1800 garment workers in Bangladesh. Kerry Murphy, co-founder of The Fabricant, Noa Ben Moshe, founder of Style With a Smile Blog, and Francois Souchet, leader of Make Fashion Circular for The Ellen MacArthur Foundation all gave their take on these issues. Helping ask questions and moderate the discussion was Kerry Bannigan, founder of the Conscious Fashion Campaign and a founding member and executive producer of the SDG Media Zone.
The panel began by discussing the journeys of our three guests towards working in the sustainable fashion sector. For Kerry Murphy, his work started in advertising before founding his company The Fabricant. For Noa Ben Moshe, her work began in animal activism and creating content related to veganism. For Francois Souchet, his work started within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation not exclusively working with fashion. I found it surprising how different each of the panelist’s backgrounds were. It was inspiring to see that regardless of their background, the sustainable fashion sector seeks individuals wanting to create an impact in any way they can. In discussing their backgrounds, Noa shared her thoughts on the connection between veganism and sustainable fashion. In her opinion, veganism is all about reducing the negative impact on animals and all living things. This relates directly to the core concept of sustainable fashion- to create as little harm as possible and always remain mindful of the environment. One aspect of the panel that I found very informative, was the discussion about the rise of digital fashion and Kerry’s company, The Fabricant. Started in 2016, The Fabricant started as more of a marketing exercise, but is now focused on helping brands digitize their clothing. They are researching and developing a formula that helps brands sell clothing on exclusively digital platforms. The concept of digital clothing was new to me, but with the increase in virtual communication the business has only grown in popularity.
Transitioning to the topic of Covid-19, the panelists shared both their successes and struggles during this time. Looking at the realm of digital fashion, there has been rapid growth over the last few months with more brands looking to digitizing their clothing. Similarly, many people have more time on their hands and are taking it as an opportunity to educate themselves on sustainability in the fashion industry and on living a more environmentally conscious life, Interestingly, both Noa and Francois found greater involvement from people reading and studying the topic. However, like many businesses during this time there is a need for adapting to the changing environment. For Kerry, he described the difficulty in educating brands looking to digitize on how different the process is compared to the speed that big brands can normally manufacture clothes. Similarly, Noa found difficulty in seeking collaborations for her blog as many partnerships withdrew due to the pandemic.
In the final few minutes of the event, the panelists took questions from the students. I found that the questions asked by my fellow students were incredibly insightful. Many individuals took the opportunity to ask three leading innovators in this field what we can do to change. The answer to this question often seems daunting as sustainable fashion is a very complex part of the industry, crossing disciplines between fashion and science and overall being an ethical consumer. However, the best advice given by the panelists was to simply buy less. According to all three of the panelists, a small change that everyone should aim to limit is their consumption of fast fashion. Instead of going out to buy more, take care of the clothes you already own and make them last as long as possible. If you are looking to buy something new, try to find a clothing swap or look into reselling clothes you no longer need. Overall, I found this event incredibly inspiring and informative. All of the panelists had so much drive and passion for the work they were doing and overall creating an impact in the world.