Another year, another opportunity to begin afresh. But what does 2017 hold for the fashion industry? We asked more than 40 eco-fashion movers and shakers, including an overseer of a multi-brand conglomerate, Greenpeace campaigner, a founding dean, a fashion compliance attorney, a vegan footwear designer, a “slow fashion” boutique owner, and a few of our media comrades in arms to play soothsayer and offer predictions for the year ahead.
- Marie-Claire Daveu (Kering)
- Simone Cipriani (Ethical Fashion Initiative)
- Livia Firth (Eco-Age, Green Carpet Challenge)
- Kirsten Brodde (Greenpeace)
- Judy Gearhart (International Labor Rights Forum)
- Scott Nova (Worker Rights Consortium)
- Christina Sewell (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
- Lewis Perkins (Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute)
- LaRhea Pepper (Textile Exchange)
- Sabine Ritter (Made-By)
- Jason Kibbey (Sustainable Apparel Coalition)
- Orsola de Castro (Fashion Revolution)
- Debera Johnson (Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator)
- Christina Dean (Redress)
- Nicole Rycroft (Canopy)
- Helena Barbour (Patagonia)
- Paul Dillinger (Levi Strauss & Co.)
- Amy Hall (Eileen Fisher)
- Kathleen Talbot (Reformation)
- Lucy Siegle (The Guardian)
- Sass Brown (Eco-Fashion Talk)
- Timo Rissanen (Parsons School of Design, The New School)
- Giusy Bettoni (C.L.A.S.S.)
- Deanna Clark (Fashion Institute of Technology)
- Natalie Flournoy Grillon (Project JUST)
- Shannon Whitehead Lohr (Factory45)
- Anthony Lilore (Restore Clothing, Save the Garment Center)
- Giulio Bonazzi (Aquafil)
- Marci Zaroff (Under the Canopy, MetaWear)
- Carmen Artigas (Sustainable designer and consultant)
- Javier Goyeneche (Ecoalf)
- John Patrick (Organic by John Patrick)
- Galahad Clark (Vivobarefoot)
- Jussara Lee (Jussara Lee)
- Francisca Pineda (Bhava)
- Karen Stewart and Howard Brown (Stewart + Brown)
- Joshua Katcher (Brave GentleMan)
- Rachel Kibbe (Helpsy)
- Jill Heller (The Pure Thread)
- David Dietz (Modavanti)
- Suzanne McKenzie (Able Made)
- Amy DuFault (Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator)
- Bianca Alexander (Conscious Living TV)
- Julie Zerbo (The Fashion Law)
- Starre Vartan (Eco-Chick)
- Kestrel Jenkins (Awear World, Conscious Chatter)
MARIE-CLAIRE DAVEU (CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER AND HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS, KERING)
In 2017, we will see a heightened focus on sustainability in our industry and it will be endorsed proactively by more fashion brands and also through increased consumer concern.
Enhanced transparency within the supply chain—both social and environmental—will be at the foundation of this movement and linking sustainability and the stories behind clothing will continue to grow in importance to consumers.
The drive to embed sustainability within the industry will elicit an increase in innovative fabrics and fibres from new and more sustainable materials, whether through biotech or other solutions.
And linked to this will be a shift from the current general concept of a circular economy to one that is more concrete as different key elements in the supply chain, such as end-of-life collection or the technology for closed-loop textile recycling, start to be implemented more and more.
SIMONE CIPRIANI (HEAD AND FOUNDER, INTERNATIONAL TRADE CENTRE’S ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE)
Migration and widespread conflict (a real third world war) are the challenges of today.
The fashion value chain is one of the biggest employers (and exploiters) of people in the developing world.
It is high time for all those who are engaged in it to realize their potential to bring about decent work and living conditions and thus to contribute towards reducing conflict and illegal migration (which benefits mainly human traffickers).
2017 may be the year of awakening and awareness or that of irresponsibility and business as usual.
LIVIA FIRTH (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ECO-AGE; CO-FOUNDER, GREEN CARPET CHALLENGE)
With the UN Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals as they have now been rebranded, we have a 17-point plan for the future.
Whether we are talking about gender equality, no poverty, sustainable consumption, sustainable cities and communities, they represent the only roadmap to progress.
At Eco-Age, we recognize the power of fashion to be a prism through which the SDGs can be unpacked, as every single day we all get dressed and if we start a journey into the supply chain of anything we wear, one will find all of the SDGs represented through this analogy.
No poverty? The people who make our clothes still earn less than half of what they need to meet their basic needs. Gender equality? Approximately 80 percent of garment workers globally are women. Sustainable Cities and Communities? The garment industry environmental impact on communities is huge. And so on …
At Eco-Age, we have proven that fashion is a very powerful vehicle for social change.
The fashion community, which has embraced social media like no other, can connect and engage with the world with an almost unique skill, delivering unique outcomes.
So in 2017, let’s embrace “social media for social change” – let’s make sure what we wear every day has a positive impact in our world and let’s share it on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and whatever you use to communicate with the world.
Let fashion claim back a seat on the political agenda.
Photo by Roman Pawlowski for Greenpeace
KIRSTEN BRODDE (CAMPAIGN LEADER, DETOX MY FASHION, GREENPEACE)
Many current fashion industry initiatives aim to develop a closed loop system, while maintaining the current business model of overproduction.
Given the high amount of resources wasted on producing unnecessary and short-lived clothes, circularity is not sufficient to aim for.
We need companies to foster solutions that are far less technical and more consumer-friendly.
Innovative brands already design garments that are more durable or offer free repair services. Others will offer garments connected with a leasing system or resell their own secondhand clothes.
Such approaches aiming for a longer, sustainable use of clothing need to come to fruition.
The biggest environmental challenge—and an existential threat for the sportswear- and outdoor industry—is the shedding of microfibers of polyester and other synthetic materials that threaten our oceans and our health.
In 2017, we should avoid to invent easy techno fixes like coatings coming with a new load of chemicals. Rather, we should re-think how many non-biodegradable polyester pieces we really need to produce and buy.
JUDY GEARHART (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM)
I believe even mainstream fashion brands are slowly waking up to the understanding, after 20 years of investing in supply-chain monitoring and corporate social responsibility, that these initiatives are structurally limited in their ability to change workers’ lives.
Their voluntary, confidential structures have sidelined the role of workers and their organizations. Smaller, alternative brands will have an opportunity to lead the search for new and effective solutions and help the more mainstream brands leave behind the “sunk cost” thinking that has limited a more complete redesign of their approach.
The next wave of effective solutions will elevate workers’ voices and guarantee their ability to organize, bargain collectively and negotiate contractual commitments for changes in brand and employer behavior.
The best solutions will address national policies as well as brand policies and they will report transparently how they impact workers’ wages, hours, and job security. Witness how, despite all the investments and progress in factory safety in Bangladesh, a December 2016 crackdown on organizers is undermining unions and workers’ rights.
The importance of worker-driven solutions will grow and there will be more nascent engagement between brands and trade unions, with attempts to build on the contractual commitment negotiated with brands that created the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
This interest in worker leadership will help elevate the need to ensure apparel industry jobs are actually improving the lives of workers, especially the majority women workers.
There will be growing collaboration between the women’s movement and worker movements, which will hopefully push apparel industry visionaries to better address the challenges women apparel workers face when they seek to gain power at work and at home.
ILRF will be working with One Billion Rising and many others around the globe to promote actions from V-Day (February 14 ) to International Women’s Day (March 8) to raise awareness about the exploitative conditions in the apparel industry and demands of women workers for change.
This global activism for women’s rights will dovetail with sustainable eco-fashion that guarantees living wages and safe working conditions, helping further fuel consumer demand.
SCOTT NOVA (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORKER RIGHTS CONSORTIUM)
Here’s what I think we will see in the fashion industry in 2017:
- On labor rights, we will see a whole lot more of the same.Every major brand and retailer will continue to organize its business around the existing supply chain model, which is enormously effective at producing two things: cheap clothing and labor rights abuses.Via this model, brands put intense and relentless price pressure on factories. The factories respond by using unlawful means to reduce the cost of labor.They get away with it because of weak labor law enforcement and because of industry monitoring systems that are designed to fail and do so spectacularly.This model works very well for the brands, which will continue to procure clothing more cheaply and more quickly than they could if factories actually had to obey the law.
Most garment workers, meanwhile, will continue to work long hours, for sub-poverty wages, in dangerous factories, run by abusive managers.
- And we will endure the onward march of “CSR.” Brands and retailers will continue to aggressively manage the reputational risk that arises from labor rights abuses in their supply chains. They do so through communications strategies that are designed to conjure an alternate reality, in which “socially responsible” apparel corporations care as much about the well-being of workers as they do about gross margins and act accordingly.The purpose is to obscure the harsh reality for workers and the fundamental contradiction between the industry’s pricing practices and its stated labor rights goals.Continuing a long-term trend, these strategies will be employed with increasing sophistication in the year ahead, with new tactics incorporated as old ones lose their pop, enabling brands and retailers to avert reputational damage without having to actually improve working conditions.
- But we will also see the brightening of some glimmers of hope that have emerged in recent years.The Bangladesh Accord, which replaced the brands’ voluntary worker safety promises with an enforceable contract, will complete much of its remaining work, adding thousands more essential safety upgrades in factories employing millions of garment workers.With many brands now on record promising living wages in their global supply chains, demands will increase from advocates and unions for demonstrable results, and conversations will begin about how to translate those promises into the kind of binding commitments that power the Accord.Garment workers all over the world will continue to organize, facing down employer retaliation, gaining stronger footholds in more apparel exporting countries, giving meaning to the words in national laws and buyer codes that say workers have the right to freedom of association, persevering despite the massive organizational challenges and severe personal risks.Progress on this front will be painstaking, but it will be cumulative, creating a better foundation on which more can be built. Finally, advocates will counter the brands’ evolving communication strategies with increasingly well-coordinated efforts to illuminate labor rights realities and expose the emptiness of the industry’s monitoring systems and its “social responsibility” rhetoric.
This will increase the pressure for real change.
CHRISTINA SEWELL (FASHION CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS)
Fashion is more than the clothes that you wear. It’s a story about who you are. So what’s your story, exactly?
The fashion industry is now the second-largest polluter on the planet: Animal skins are loaded with toxic chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and cyanide-based coal-tar derivatives to keep them from decomposing, and animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.
Animal-derived fashion is also responsible for the slaughter of millions of living beings every year.
No matter your unique fashion sense, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the harmful processes that we’re collectively supporting as consumers.
Last year, PETA videos were viewed more than 1 billion times, an unprecedented milestone that helped raise awareness of animal issues—including how leather, wool, down, fur, and other animal-derived materials create looks that kill, literally.
We saw Joaquin Phoenix and Alicia Silverstone exposed systemic cruelty to sheep in the wool industry, and reality star Nicole Williams and singer Davey Havok revealed that cows are branded and beaten before being killed for leather.
Singer Jhené Aiko bared it all to raise awareness of animals who are strangled, bludgeoned, and skinned alive for their fur, and actor Torrey DeVitto spoke up for reptiles who are often still conscious, flailing and kicking, even minutes after workers cut them open.
There was action to back up that talk, too. Companies saw our eyewitness accounts and knew that their policies on corporate social responsibility meant nothing if they refused to live up to them.
And if you’ve heard of David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, and Rachel Zoe, you should know that their brands banned the use of ostrich skin and feathers after PETA investigated the largest ostrich-slaughter companies in the world.
All this was followed by a PETA exposé of goose farms across China—where 80 percent of the world’s down and feathers originate—which revealed live plucking at numerous facilities.
As a result, mega retailer Topshop and many others banned down feathers.
None of this progress will limit your wardrobe in the slightest. There are many ethical, vegan options to choose from today, including handsome and durable leather substitutes such as cork, microfiber (made from recycled plastic bottles), and Ultrasuede (made from post-industrial polyester); down alternatives such as Plumtech, PolarGuard, PrimaLoft, and Thinsulate, and abundant wool-free blends made of acrylic, bamboo, cotton, hemp, Tencel, and viscose.
We’re covered in more ways than one when it comes to putting together a killer look that doesn’t kill animals and the environment.
What story, then, will we tell with our fashion choices once we’re armed with the knowledge to do better?
2016 proved to all of us that fixing broken systems can’t be put off until tomorrow. We have the power—today—to transform fashion into a positive and empowering means of self-expression, and it’s clear that the most effective way to do so is by wearing vegan.
LARHEA PEPPER (MANAGING DIRECTOR, TEXTILE EXCHANGE)
2017 will be a year of seeing the amazing collaborations and partnerships that have been in motion to reach critical mass with the core leaders for a reimagined and transformed global textile industry.
I am super-optimistic and believe our industry is on a trajectory of its own to achieve a tipping point on many levels.
It’s not unlike the evolution of clean, renewable energy—it’s happening and it’s growing fast.
The economics of alternatives are now competing with, and in some cases better than, conventional fossil fuel–based options.
The train has left the station and it’s moving swiftly down the track. It’s simply smarter, better business.
At Textile Exchange, we are honored to be a part of this transformation and aligned with our many members, large and small, who are at the forefront of leading this charge.
SABINE RITTER (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MADE-BY)
2017 will be the year of disruptive innovations for sustainable fashion:
- Focused towards implementing a circular vision of clothes and textiles, with innovative business models, technologies and ways to finance innovations, driven by the necessity to drastically improve the working conditions and drastically reduce the footprint of the fashion industry;
- Facilitated by new and entrepreneurial collaborations in our industry —moving far beyond the current one-to-one strategic partnerships—across industries, bringing all actors together to leverage the best ideas;
- Enabled by transparency and traceability using the most innovative technologies and standards, so they become current practice and affordable;
- Driven by consumers demanding sustainable fashion and being prepared to act.
We will raise the debate about how we will sustainably dress 9 billion people in 2040, based upon the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
JASON KIBBEY (CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SUSTAINABLE APPAREL COALITION)
In 2017, designers will make better decisions to shape the sustainability of the clothing and footwear they create.
It is often repeated that 80 percent of a product’s impact is determined during the design phase.
Using the new Higg Design & Development Module, those designers can make fashion sustainable before it is even produced.
2017 will also be the year factory-level transparency starts to become mainstream.
ORSOLA DE CASTRO (FASHION DESIGNER; CO-FOUNDER, FASHION REVOLUTION)
I predict an end to language laziness: 2017 will be when we’ll start to say it as it is.
For years we’ve been skirting the true issues trying to make sustainability sound sexy, forgetting to explore the real terminology, ignoring the words that have meaning.
Prepare yourself to know all about collective bargaining, unauthorized subcontracting, non-compliance and industrial relations.
This is no time for a glosswash—transparency demands that we get to know the problem before we can resolve it.
The language of sustainability may be grittier than what is normally used in fashion
talk, but it makes for a more convincing conversation.
CHRISTINA DEAN (FOUNDER AND CEO, REDRESS)
I’m typically an optimist. But I am struggling to maintain this outlook for the coming year.
I think we are experiencing a nasty hangover in the air caused by dashed hopes that governments and companies will solve our problems.
So 2017 will be a heavy wake-up call that the powers that be won’t solve the problems.
I think the harsh reality of the failing times we live in means more people will realize it’s time to take personal action.
We are bombarded with bad news; take your pick from a very long list that could include anything from U.S. and EU political polarization, rampant environmental degradation and continued loss of biodiversity to the devastating impact of the fashion industry.
The huge scale of these issues previously seemed beyond our direct control, but now people are putting their own hands up to deal with what’s on their own home patch, whether this means shopping more ethically, controlling consumption, or raising their concerns and frustrations more with the corporate world.
What I am positive about is that this will be a year where the “power to the people” mantra will become more of the norm as people take matters into their own hands.
DEBERA JOHNSON (FOUNDER, PRATT INSTITUTE’S BROOKLYN FASHION + DESIGN ACCELERATOR)
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 over 10 percent of our apparel will be connected to the Internet.
For the consumer, this will influence how and why we buy our clothes.
For brands, it will drive function, aesthetics and the user experience.
For operations. it will influence the immediacy of trend forecasting and the shift to on-demand and bespoke production.
And on the horizon, block-chains will trace the individual life cycle of products and bio-engineered materials will transform supply chains that bring new commodities onto the landscape.
HELENA BARBOUR (SENIOR DIRECTOR, GLOBAL SPORTSWEAR, PATAGONIA)
2017 is a year where our industry will have to stand up for the planet.
Climate change is a fact, and “business as usual” needs to give way to “business as a change agent.”
Innovation to reduce dependence on fossil fuel; promoting practices that reduce our use of water, energy and chemicals; and expanding regenerative agriculture will all be key to making this happen.
Given the events of 2016, around the world and in our communities, we as an apparel industry need to work towards this more than ever.
PAUL DILLINGER (HEAD OF GLOBAL INNOVATION, LEVI STRAUSS & CO.)
Voting doesn’t just happen every two years in November.
People are starting to realize that every dollar they spend is a vote: a public demonstration of their values.
Each purchase we make can be a small vote for sustainable industry, or for irresponsible excess.
It can be a vote for renewable energy policy, or for sustained reliance on fossil fuels.
Products, like politicians, represent a set values.
I predict that conscious consumers will become more mindful of these considerations and will expect more transparency from the companies who are “asking for their vote.”
NICOLE RYCROFT (FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CANOPY)
Roosters religiously herald the dawn of a new day.
With the Chinese zodiac turning to the rooster, 2017 will see the start of a new era where being stylish is the nexus of devastatingly cool and sustainable.
The coming year will build on the success of collaborations that have focused on impact and tangible results, be it for the wellbeing of garment workers, frontline communities living in endangered forests, our climate or the species we share this planet with.
We’ve seen this in Canopy Style where leading designers like Eileen Fisher and Stella McCartney joined forces with NGO Canopy, Marks and Spencer and “fast fashion” giants H&M, Topshop/Arcadia Group and Zara/Inditex to halt the use of endangered forests in rayon and viscose fabrics.
2017 will see big-name global retailers and designers join the 68 brands already committed to Canopy Style.
The work done by early innovator brands has blazed the trail for the transformation that is taking place within the viscose supply chain as rayon producers responsible for 70 percent of global production advance with implementation of their own endangered forest policies.
The Year of the Rooster will also see…
- The hatching of new fabrics that catalyze a circular economy with recycled fabrics and straw as raw materials and biomaterials like mushroom leathers gaining momentum and market success;
- Fashion brands (along with other private sector leaders) playing greater roles in advancing environmental and social issues as we grapple with significant shifts in the constellation and alignment of world governments;
- Brands clearing their supply chains of controversial sourcing and advocating for conservation and community rights in endangered forests such as Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem and Canada’s Boreal gem, the Broadback Forest;
- Greater transparency by brands and fashion suppliers on their social and environmental performance.
2017 will be the year where the chances that your clothing does not come from endangered forests will be forever better.
Fashionable plus good for our forests, planet and communities? Now that’s something to crow about.
AMY HALL (DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, EILEEN FISHER)
The race is on! The “golden ticket” for 2017 will be circular product made from post-consumer fiber.
Brands are investing substantial resources in emerging innovations, each hoping to be the first to achieve mass production levels.
Meanwhile, nothing will change on the labor front. Workers will continue to bear the burden of our “fast fashion” economy, with long hours, low pay and little hope for meaningful work.
Which brands will take the first step toward co-creating a “slow fashion” economy? One that recognizes the true value of each individual who contributes to our success and profitability?
KATHLEEN TALBOT (DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY AND BUSINESS OPERATIONS, REFORMATION)
Sustainable fashion is quickly going from niche to best practice, and I feel really optimistic about the gains we can make in 2017 together.
They say you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So we’ll continue to refine and expand our RefScale tool and our sustainability report to make sure we are counting the true costs of fashion that matter, and holding ourselves to be better and better.
We will need to keep innovating new recycled and regenerated fibers and efficient dyestuffs to really decrease the footprint of the stuff we make.
The most powerful thing about the sustainable fashion movement is illuminating the people (and the work conditions) behind our clothes.
At Reformation, our sustainable factory and ethical manufacturing is more than “made in the U.S.A.” but is about opportunity, dignity, and truly fair work.
I think consumers are demanding that more and more, and we’ll see brands respond with greater transparency about how clothes are made.
SASS BROWN (AUTHOR; PUBLISHER, ECO-FASHION TALK; FOUNDING DEAN, DUBAI INSTITUTE OF DESIGN AND INNOVATION)
2017 is going to be a year of change for so many of us. For myself, leaving the U.S. and taking up a new position as founding dean of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), is going to challenge me in completely new ways.
It allows me to affect far greater change than I have previously been able to achieve whether through my writing, research or educational undertakings.
That makes for an exciting 2017 for me, one full of possibility and opportunity, something that is paralleled in the fashion industry itself.
Each of us has the ability to affect change in how we consume, and how we support sustainable change in the fashion industry, whether on a personal level, an educational one, or a corporate one, and I think 2017 will see a lot more people wielding that power to affect positive change.
One of the biggest shifts I see on the horizon is the decentralization of power from big global brands to a myriad of artisans, producers, makers, designers, activists, NGOs, and others, who collectively make an impact through endless small acts that collectively add up to a massive
shift in our how we do business.
It has become painfully clear that we cannot solve today’s problems with the
same thinking that created them (to paraphrase Albert Einstein), so I challenge
everyone to be a change maker, and to support others disrupting business as
MARCI ZAROFF (FOUNDER, UNDER THE CANOPY; FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, METAWEAR)
2017 will be another big year in the rapidly growing eco-fashion movement.
And we can’t “make America great again” without a rebirth of U.S. manufacturing, so expect to see an increase in “made in the U.S.A.” labels produced at innovative domestic factories like MetaWear in Fairfax, Va.
We’ll enjoy a new wave of purpose driven fashion statements on eco-chic tees from leading brands, millennial entrepreneurs. and even celebrities.
Note, for example, “Matriarchy Now” T-shirts by Chiara Hardy (daughter of world-renowned jewelry designer and green activist John Hardy), or “Just Water” apparel from water advocate Jaden Smith (son of powerhouse actor Will Smith).
As a timely solution to address UN Sustainable Development Goal hot topics such as climate change and water, organic-cotton apparel, and home fashion will get more attention than ever before as the next frontier of an organic and conscious lifestyle—from media, consumers, young and established brands (from Under the Canopy to Kering’s Outerknown and Stella McCartney) and on the shelves and websites of major retailers.
“Farm to table” has now birthed the “Farm to closet” movement, as the dots from food to fiber connect and are now being embraced.
And in the words of my friend Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers, “how cool is that?” as we’ll experience a surge in zero-waste collections, circular-economy efforts and solutions to textile waste from designers like Daniel Silverstein, brands such as Skunkfunk, factories like The Renewal Workshop, materials like Recover, and certification/collaboration efforts such as those of the Cradle to Cradle Innovation Institute’s “Fashion Positive” initiative.
FRANCISCA PINEDA (CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BHAVA)
As quickly as 2016 flew by, expect an increase in blurring of lines for 2017 across all aspects of life.
Travel, entrepreneurship, politics, technology, and economic systems continue to intertwine.
Seeking to understand will prove increasingly difficult in an era where the unexpected is the norm.
From one cataclysm to the next, global desensitization is of concern and a heightened sensitization to the realities of other’s pain will be essential.
In eco-fashion, carving out a brand identity will not be a result of qualitative strategy, but rather by the perceptions forged during customer experience.
The conscious consumer has a heightened intuition which can at one moment lead to salvation or ruin.
Demand for genuine connection will stand out in contrast to the superficial claims of transparency that had been acceptable in the past.
As the public questions their role and purpose in the world, so too must eco-fashion continue to evolve to a movement representing not only hope, but quantitative global solutions.
JOSHUA KATCHER (DESIGNER, BRAVE GENTLEMAN; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, PARSONS SCHOOL OF DESIGN, THE NEW SCHOOL)
2017 will be the year that biofabrication goes mainstream.
Conventional skins, furs, wools and silks are well on their way to obsolescence—and for good reason. They are responsible for some of the worst cruelties, and as the new Kering Environmental Profit & Loss Account points out, animal materials pose some of the hugest ecological impacts, with cashmere having the single greatest impact of all materials.
Japan closed their last remaining fur farm right at the end of 2016, and we are poised to see cellular agriculture step into the material innovation and evolution spotlight.
With companies like AMsilk, Bolt Threads, and Spiber already producing biosynthesized spider silk at scale, and Modern Meadow and others poised to synthesize biologically identical skins, 2017 will be a year of leaps and bounds toward a more efficient, customizable, sustainable, and kind fashion future.
RACHEL KIBBE (PROPRIETOR, HELPSY)
I think it’s safe to say the ethical-fashion movement is in full force and finally most consumers have heard something about it.
I think, as we move into the new year, the biggest issues in this movement will be to keep it pure and honest.
More and more companies are using the concept of eco- and ethical fashion to “greenwash,” which is only changing small parts of their production chains for the better for marketing purposes, while leaving the bulk of their chains the same or actually increasingly worse.
While there is room for little, by little, and step-by-step change too—it is harder to change large production systems rapidly, admittedly—I also think it’s our job as leaders of the movement and consumers of clothes, to hold companies accountable as increasing numbers of fashion designers are realizing the increasing importance of fair production to their target consumers and the monetary value in marketing sustainability.
For example, it is very easy to throw around terms like “natural” and “eco” for marketing purposes while also abusing labor and other parts of the huge fashion production chain.
So we need to be more careful than ever about who we are buying from and ask them lots of questions about how they are making what they’re making.
BIANCA ALEXANDER (CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND HOST, CONSCIOUS LIVING TV)
Although we live In a “highly connected” world with lighting speed internet connections and constant connections to our “friends,” many people today actually feel less emotionally and spiritually connected to the world we live in than ever before.
As such, consumers today are soul searching for more true connections and authenticity to help fill the void. One way they will seek to find this connection and authenticity will be through the clothes they wear.
A demand for a more minimal, meaningful wardrobe comprised of pieces representing a deeper connection to the earth through natural fabrics (organic cottons, wools, peace silks), and to the people and cultures who make their clothes through artisanal crafting and design will help to fulfill consumers’ desire to simplify things and get back to their roots.
A great example of this is a recent layover we took through the Insadong district in Seoul, South Korea. Surrounded by dozens of shops filled with cheap souvenirs and fast fashion on every corner, the most fascinating and memorable stop on our journey was wandering into a tiny boutique displaying beautiful dresses, pants and scarves made from silk and plant-fiber textiles.
We met the owners and the makers, a mother-daughter team who lovingly showed us how each garment was painted by hand with all-natural dyes using an indigenous artisanal technique passed down through their family for over four generations! I will forever treasure the traditional hanbok style tied-dyed tunic they picked out for me.
The trend this year for more authentic, indigenous fashion will not only help consumers express their individuality with one of a kind looks, but to also feel good about supporting small social enterprises creating opportunities for indigenous cultures from the remotest of places to share their techniques with the world.
And that’s a lot to feel good about.
KESTREL JENKINS (FOUNDER, AWEAR WORLD; HOST, CONSCIOUS CHATTER)
We are on the verge of a millennial power shift. And when it comes to the future of fashion, this means shoppers are thinking beyond the price tag.
As the 2015 Cone Communications study showed, “more than nine in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause, and two-thirds use social media to engage around CSR.”
With higher fashion education integrating sustainability into their curriculums, the realities behind supply chains will become more transparent for the future generation of designers.
“Fast fashion” will continue to lose its “cool factor” with the “cool kids,” as they demand more answers and connected stories from the brands they support.