Sustainatopia: Miami’s Ethical Fashion Forum Poses Important Questions

By Bianca Alexander

Photo: Victoria’s Secret model and wildlife photographer Amber Arbucci received a GOOD award at this year’s Sustainatopia conference, along with Indigenous Designs.

The sustainable fashion movement continued to gain momentum this month with thought leaders, designers and consumers who convened under the warm sun and palm trees of Miami’s South Beach for the Ethical Fashion and Sustainable Design Summit. Launched at this year’s Sustainatopia conference, one of the largest events in the world promoting social, financial and environmental sustainability, the summit served as both a gathering of like minds and a call to action to push conscious fashion deeper into the mainstream.

The summit kicked off with a fashionable garden party and awards ceremony at Miami Beach’s Botanical Gardens for guests including White House staffer Bina Venkataraman, Executive Director of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation Cameron Sinclair, and Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine. Home to hundreds of meticulously landscaped native flora, the venue served as an ideal backdrop for an eco-fashion runway show featuring looks from brands like Indigenous Designs, Amour Vert, Modavanti and Stewart + Brown, styled by Jill Heller of the Pure Thread and produced by Aushim Raswant of 3V Creative. The final runway segment served as a tribute to Fashion Revolution Day and the 1133 victims of the April 24, 2013 Rana Plaza sweatshop factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with models wearing looks #insideout to bring more justice and transparency to the garment workers who make our clothes.

Sustainatopia drew over 50 international speakers from various sectors of the industry, including pioneering fashion entrepreneurs like Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy/Portico Brands Group, Debera Johnson, Executive Director of the Pratt Design Institute and Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator, and Matt Reynolds, President & Founder of Indigenous, who sponsored and helped moderate the event.

Despite comprehensive panel discussions covering topics like maximizing impact and profit from the global supply chain, marketing the firm, and the future of fashion, at least two big questions remained unanswered throughout the event: How do we create a standard definition of “ethical” fashion, and how do we get mainstream consumers to buy it? These two questions seem to be inextricably linked, and whomever manifests the answer is sure to usher the tipping point that seems so desperately needed to push the proverbial needle forward.

Read more about the Ethical Fashion Summit, including images from the opening night runway show, here on The Pure Thread.

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