Meet Elin Larsson – Sustainability Director at Filippa K & Circular Transitions Keynote Speaker

Filippa-K

Mini Bio
Elin Larsson has been the Sustainability Director at Filippa K since 2011. But she’s been with Filippa K since 1996 in a vast range of roles, so the responsible ethos of the stylish brand runs deep for her.

Having experience in logistics and supply chain management, sales, and project management gives her unique insight into how business functions will need to go from disconnected to connected in a circular economy. She’s currently working on strategies to demonstrate that environmental and commercial sustainability can comfortably coexist.

Elin also has qualifications in Sustainable Transition (exploring the crossover between politics, the economy, and environment) from Jönköping University in Sweden.

 

What are you working on at the moment?
It’s an exciting time. We’re at the beginning of a long journey to fundamentally redesign the conditions, rules, and expectations for a ‘responsible’ fashion industry and right now my team is testing new models that fit within the circular economy  – or as we at Filippa K say – our new business models respect ‘planetary boundaries’.

Our industry must change, that fact is indisputible. Either you ignore that…or you become part of the transformation and that is what we have chosen. We are highly motivated and determined to succeed.

 

What will you share at the conference that people haven’t heard before?
Our mission is to help our users build a sustainable and curated wardrobe. That seems to many like an overwhelming challenge, but I’ll be sharing how our initiatives are guiding us towards new business models and solutions that we hope will lead industry best practice.

 

Tell us about what you are excited to bring back from the conference?
It is a big system change that is needed, and organisations can’t expect to achieve success by working alone. We’re hoping to inspire others with our presentation, but also to see how others are approaching this big challenge and hopefully bring that inspiration home with us. We all need to work together to drive big change. I look forward to meeting with you all at the conference!

Meet Circular Transitions Keynote Speaker Cyndi Rhoades

 

Future 500

Cyndi is the founder/CEO of Worn Again and has led the business from its early ‘upcycling’ days to its’ focus as a technology innovation company.

With a vision to eradicate textile waste, she has worked on a series of ground-breaking products and projects with world leading designers and global brands, including Virgin Atlantic, Eurostar, Virgin Balloon Flights, M&S and most recently, a collaboration with H&M and Kering’s Sports and Lifestyles brand, Puma.

In addition to circular economies Cyndi is also passionate about canal boating & car boot sales.

 

What are you working on at the moment?
We are in development of a textile to textile recycling technology that can recapture polyester and cotton from end of use textiles to be reintroduced into the beginning of the supply chain as new. The technology will provide a crucial enabler for the industry to transition to a circular resource model.

 

What will you share at the conference that people haven’t heard before?
I’ll be talking about how a new generation of technologies achieve the biggest technological advance the industry has seen since the Industrial Revolution.

 

Follow Cindy at Twitter @cyndirhoades 

The First Trash-2-Cash Podcast

becky-and-julie_page_image_400ppi

During the Trash-2-Cash workshop in Milan in the beginning of the summer, Professor Becky Earley sat down with project partner Julie Hornix (VanBerlo) to talk social design, megatrends, and summer reading recommendations. This is the first podcast in a series that will explore the people, methods and tools involved in the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project. Once the outcomes phase of the project has been completed they will also host in-depth discussions about the impact these will have on the world. You can download the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud now! Julie has written the post below to accompany the podcast.

 

Over the past couple of months Ivo, Marjorie and I have had the pleasure of taking part in the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project representing the Dutch design agency VanBerlo.

 

VanBerlo is passionate about helping our planet.
We’re also passionate about design and technological opportunities. So for us, this partnership was a match made in heaven. Here’s a short round up of our role and goals for T2C.

 

Dream Green!
At VanBerlo, we crave new approaches to the re-use of materials and waste reduction. To dream is to think big, and by thinking big you can come up with countless ideas to help the environment through design. We love to bridge the ideas with the visual, enabling us to go that one step further.

Joining the T2C project, VanBerlo’s goal is to help recycle textile from a design-driven perspective. Alongside the other T2C partners, we aim to increase the value of the end product (instead of traditional downcycling) – to upcycle and contribute to the grave to cradle initiative – no matter which industry is involved.

 

Not only do we bring global trend research to the table, but we also explore ideas in novel ways that help to produce surprising insights.
As our Senior Designer Ivo Lamers explains,“We believe that design thinking will help bridge the gap between science, technology and practice. This approach helps to boost the entire T2C project! At VanBerlo we often use metaphors to get discussions started, intensified, structured or sometimes even ended. Using the superhero metaphor during the Helsinki workshop initiated a huge team spark and helped to create common understanding and a common language between the partners about scenarios.”

 

We make sure that our ideas aren’t just cool; but that they also answer business challenges and user needs.
At the end of the day success for us is that the results should be accessible and globally relevant, rather than just being created for a niche market.

Julie Hornix, Design Researcher, Van Berlo

 

Podcast Links

VanBerlo

Change Ahead book

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close book

This American Life podcast

99% invisible podcast

EcoSessions: The Crisis of Stuff

EcoSessions- The Crisis of Stuff_400

TED researcher Professor Rebecca Earley will be one of the panelists in EcoSessions: The Crisis of Stuff panel discussion later this week. The panel consists of Beyond Retro’s CEO Steven Bethell, the co-founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro and will be moderated by ethical fashion and sustainable living expert Kate Black.

 

The fashion industry is producing 150 billion garments per year and too many are ending up in landfill. This EcoSession focuses on the crisis of a consumerism, consumption and the opportunity for change. The panelists will give the audience a fuller, richer and more honest picture of our current ‘crisis of stuff’ and what can be done about it.

 

Steven Bethell: Beyond Retro CEO Steven Bethell has been in the recycling business for over 20 years, starting out with glass, cans, and paper before moving on to textiles. As an offshoot of his Canada-based textile trade company Bank & Vogue, Beyond Retro was an early pioneer of the east London vintage scene at its inception 13 years ago, and remains a seminal retailer for savvy secondhand shoppers across the UK and Sweden. The brand comes to Pure with its eponymous Beyond Retro Label, a fully-fledged fashion brand of apparel and accessories crafted from reclaimed materials. Bethell’s career-defining passion for sustainability makes him the perfect candidate to advise retailers on successfully integrating this message into their marketing strategy.

 

Prof. Rebecca Earley: Trained as a printed textile designer (BA Hons, Loughborough, 1992) and fashion print designer (MA, Central Saint Martins, 1994), Becky set up the B.Earley studio in 1995 with help from the Prince’s Trust, Arts Council and the Crafts Council. She is also a design researcher at University of the Arts London and an industry consultant. She divides her working life between Central Saint Martins where she is Director of TFRC, Chelsea College of Arts where she is a principal and co researcher in TED, and Sweden where she is key part of the research consortium work for MISTRA Future Fashion and the EU Horizon 2020 project, Trash-2-Cash. Prof. Earley also supervises PhD researchers who are exploring sustainable textile design and material innovation.

 

Orsola de Castro: A pioneer and internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion. In 1997 she founded From Somewhere, a label designing clothes made entirely from pre-consumer waste: disregarded materials such as surplus and production cut-offs. The label combined sustainable thinking with fashion-forward design, bringing quality and craftsmanship to ‘exquisite rubbish’. From Somewhere collaborations include Jigsaw, Tesco, Speedo, and a series of best selling capsule collections for Topshop. In 2006, she co-founded the British Fashion Council pioneering initiative Estethica, which she curated until 2014. Estethica was London Fashion Week’s showcase for labels designing sustainably: ethics and aesthetics combined. It nurtured new generations of like-minded designers and supported more established brands who are mindful of their supply chain. In 2014, with Carry Somers, she founded Fashion Revolution Day, marking the disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed killing and injuring thousands of workers. Raising public awareness of the continuing social and environmental catastrophes in our global fashion supply chains, Fashion Revolution has become a global campaign with participation in over 85 countries around the world. Orsola is a regular key note speaker and mentor as well as a Central Saint Martins Visiting Fellow and Practitioner in Residence for Central Saint Martins Fashion MA.

 

Kate Black: Recognized as an expert in ethical fashion and sustainable living, Kate Black is the founder of Magnifeco.com (launched ’09) and author of ‘Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-Toxic Beauty’ (published 10/15), which has been featured in The Guardian, Vogue Italia, Metro, NOW Magazine and more. Kate is also the founder of EcoSessions, a global event series connecting industry, designers and citizens to discuss change. Fashioned to provide learning, engagement and networking, EcoSessions are an opportunity for industry and the design communities to forge relationships and hatch collaborations and for citizens to engage directly with their favorite brands. She is highly in demand as a speaker and consults with CFDA fashion brands on elevating their Ethical IQ.

 

Book your ticket here!

 

Address:
Beyond Retro Dalston – 92-100 Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 7XB

Date:
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

‘Making… together’ by Dr Rosie Hornbuckle

Chair_400ppi

My background is product and industrial design with an interest in social innovation, so when I started working at TED on the Trash2Cash project last November, I wanted to explore how my world fits into Textile Design and the interests of TED researchers.

 

What I discovered were the many overlaps in methods and models between the two disciplines, but also the spaces in between.  In terms of making and materials there is still a difference in materials understanding; product design students are taught hard materials, fashion and textiles students are taught soft materials.  This is starting to change, for example in the ‘stitch’ option on the BA Textile Design course at Chelsea, students are putting all sorts of hard and soft materials together, and the MA Material Futures course at CSM continues to push at those traditional boundaries.

 

This intersection between hard and soft materials (and disciplines) appeared to me to be a bridge I could cross from my existing knowledge into the new (to me) world of Textiles.  At the same time, I was exploring experimental research methods that could be useful in TEDs current and future work.

 

Enter Vicky Cable, a forward-thinking upholsterer and an extraordinary person (more on that later!) who wanted to explore more sustainable methods in her work.  The ‘collaborative chairs’ idea was first suggested by Becky Earley whilst exploring ideas for the Circular Transitions conference exhibition, the seed was sewn, and so the ‘making…together’ project began.

 

The act of re-upholstery is in itself a good solution to the aging of a piece of furniture, repairing and updating the aesthetic.  Yet, as Vicky and I explored in our first meeting, it also exposes many unsustainable and worrying trends in the furniture industry, such as speed, cost and the use of inappropriate materials – all of which are currently being explored by TED researchers in relation to Textiles. In furniture, the contrast between the speeds of the materials is heightened, because hard materials are more durable and soft materials (padding as well as the fabric) degrade and wear relatively quickly.  The process of re-upholstery exposes this tension brilliantly and therefore offers a unique opportunity to understand not only how the materials used in re-upholstery could be reconsidered but also how the design and manufacture of upholstered furniture could be improved at the outset.

 

For me, sustainability is never just about materials, but also about people, so this project will also consider that angle, in terms of the designer’s activism and approach and the accessibility of more sustainable products and solutions.

Join in and listen to H&M’s Circular Lab Livestream Debate

Cloose the Loop_H&M_400ppi

April 14th, 10.00am – approx. 12.00

 

TED’s researchers Becky Earley and Kate Goldsworthy will be part of the H&M Circular Lab event this week in London. Reader of Circular Design Dr. Kate Goldsworthy will lead a break out session on A holistic approach to circularity and the need for circular design during H&M’s Circular Lab Livestream Debate this week.

 

The event will discuss the transition from a linear to a circular business model, which is one of the key challenges for the fashion industry. H&M will be sharing some of their experiences so far and release first new ambitions. H&M started their journey a few years ago with setting up a worldwide garment collecting system. Since then, they launched the first collection made of recycled material created from such collected clothes. However, much more innovation will be needed to create full circularity. H&M has invited inspiring and industry leading key note speakers and an insightful panel to discuss the next steps towards a circular future, not only for H&M but the entire fashion industry.

 

Join the debate on the 14th April at 10am via the H&M 100% Circular Lab livestream link, and bring your questions into the panel debate via twitter #HMlab

 

Key note speakers:

  • Karl-Johan Persson, CEO, H&M
  • Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M
  • Ellen MacArthur, World record sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

 

Panel:

  • Ellen MacArthur, World record sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Akshay Sethi, Inventor of the “Polyester Digester”, Ambercycle
  • Michael Arnör, Co-Founder and CEO of Sellpy
  • Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at H&M

Making Circular Transitions by Professor Becky Earley

Being interviewed at the Awards ceremony wearing my 2012 Margiela for H&M dress with a beautiful beaded handmade butterfly necklace borrowed from Clara Francis Jewellery
Being interviewed at the Awards ceremony wearing my 2012 Margiela for H&M dress with a beautiful beaded handmade butterfly necklace borrowed from Clara Francis Jewellery

2016 began with a quiet January at home, thinking about fashion textiles and circles, cycles, loops and spirals. It’s all happening with the circular economy right now – and whilst this has been building for an awfully long time, it finally feels as if some real changes are about to take place. It also feels like a lot of different projects are finally coming together…

 

Towards Global Change

Since last summer I have been on the judging panel for the H&M Conscious Foundation Global Change Awards. Just before I went to India I submitted my final selection of five winners, and was so pleased to see that when I got back 4 out of the 5 right had made it into the final line up! The winners spanned new fibres – made from paper, textile and citrus fruit waste, as well as algae – and microbes that eat polyester enabling new yarn to be created. There was also a concept for an online platform that connected textile waste from industry to potential users. (This was my favourite – it’s too easy to forget that we need more systems designed to aid the flow of existing resources, as well as the invention of new materials).

The award ceremony was a two-day extravaganza in Stockholm, with event at KTH and the Town Hall. The stair case that the winners came down is the one that the Nobel Prize winners come down. They were a great group of entrepreneurs – it was so exciting to see their ideas get this attention and support.

The keynote speaker for the award ceremony was David Roberts, from Singularity University (also a decorated Special Agent). I have great reservations about the massive investment in technology that goes across around the world, when problems seem to be so much about people, politics and broken systems. But his talk was really enlightening – I was thrilled to hear about exponential growth and technologies coming online, especially the projections he showed around solar power. (He succinctly explained the dip we experience early on with new technologies, where after an initial excitement we begin to doubt them). He brings the talk to a conclusion by showing us two animal films from You Tube, which echo his points about human nature. By joining together in collective action we are strong enough to remove danger from our community. (Oh, and, cat’s are mean…) I am not how well he relates exponential growth and the power of the bystander – it seems to hang in the air at the end. But watch the talk here and decide for yourself.

Screen+Shot+2016-02-11+at+20.53.14
The judging panel in conversation on stage at Stockholm City Hall, from left: Ellis Rubenstein, CEO of New York Academy of Sciences; Amber Valetta, entrepreneur and activist; Professor Michael Braungart, co-author of Cradle-to-Cradle; Professor Johan Rockstrom, Stockholm Resilience Centre; and me…

Meeting the other judges and Jo Confino (ex Guardian now Huffington Post) was super interesting. I enjoyed the company and conversation of Ellis Rubenstein from NYAS very much. Also Michael Braungart (C2C) and Friederike von Wedel-Parlow (ESMOD), and the great dinner chat whilst seated next to Karl-Johan Persson. I nipped out between the seven vegetarian courses to record this little podcast… with Natalia. (I come in after 23 minutes.)

Can’t finish this report without highlighting the overall winners – by public vote – our Trash 2 Cash collaborators, VTT! Congratulations to them for putting their ideas out there to multiple funders and really pushing their material innovations.

1456755056415
Watch the winners interviews here

 

Fast Talking, Hybrid Style

Before all the excitement with the awards kicked off I gave a short 8-minute pitch at Mode Hybrid, Hybrid Talks. Hosted by Mistra Future Fashion, Misum, and Stockholm School of Economics, these micro talks focus on the collaborative potential of ‘science fiction, to science fact to science fabulous‘! (To quote the dynamic founder of Hybrid, Annika Shelley!)

1455804009835
Hybrid Talking with Martin Johnson (left), Eduardo Escobedo, Susy Paisley and Annika Shelley

As Hybrid drinks came to an end I did this TV interview. Fashionomics 2 was a conversation around sustainability hosted by Ulf Skarin, Creative Director at the Veckans Affärer and Elin Frendberg, CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council with Eduardo Escobedo, Founder of the RESP – an organisation that brings together luxury brands and sustainability, and Annika Shelly, Founder of Hybrid Talks.

 

Stockholm Shirts: Making Change

When not TALKING, I am happy to be quietly thinking, making and writing. Whilst I love to talk (I think you realise that after the above!) the pleasure of silently making is essential to thinking clearly. Without making things, and writing ideas down, the whole process just isn’t complete. Whilst I used to rely on making alone to research ideas, I am now fully signed up to the rich experience of being an academic who uses many forms of exploration. It’s not just making, writing and presenting/talking. It’s also exhibition curation and film/animation script writing. When these approaches all work together, I find myself more able to deal with the complexity of sustainability, and hold on to the pleasure of creativity, whilst also finding ways to build communities and audiences.

For this Stockholm trip, I took a day to work into some second hand H&M shirts I had collected from Sweden. I used an old lace dress I found in Anxi Clothing Market in Shanghai in 2013, to create a heat photogram image on the polyester shirts. The mix of Chinese clothing and H&M product enabled me to think more about the disconnect between fashion textile designers and consumers and the industrial manufacturing processes inherent in speedy clothing lines. I am not unaware of H&M production being amongst the fastest in the world – I have questioned them about this myself. They believe in working in emerging economies to contribute to growth there with their business, and to do that in the best ways possible. They argue if they weren’t producing there, things would be much worse for the local economies and lifestyles.

The Stockholm Shirts are about continuing to think about how big business can use textile design approaches to create sustainable social innovation production models.

1455804457539
Making the print template for the Stockholm Shirts from a Chinese lace dress found in Shanghai

1455804899688
Stockholm Shirts, February 2016

 

Circular Transitions Conference

Finally, for this first post of 2016, I want to flag up our our Mistra Future Fashion Circular Transitions conference in November 2016, at Tate Britain. It has been years in the planning, so we are excited to have the chance to get the world’s design researchers together for two days to fully explore fashion textile design and the emerging circular economy. Abstracts are due in to us by 25th March 2016, so get your ideas together and come and join us for what promises to be a really valuable experience for a wide range of stakeholders – you, the trustees of the future of design and circular fashion textiles…

1455805603934

www.circulartransitions.org

Design Thinking for Materials Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Trash-2-Cash

T2CPostdoc_400ppi

We are excited to announce that University of the Arts is advertising for a second full-time, postdoctoral research assistant to undertake collaborative research in the field of design thinking and facilitation. The researcher will join the team for the EU-funded Horizon 2020 innovation project ‘Trash-2-Cash: Utilising zero-value waste textiles and fibres with design-driven technologies to create high quality products’. The project aims to solve the growing problems with paper fibre waste that originates from the continuously increasing textile consumption through design-driven innovation. This will be performed by using the waste to regenerate fibres that will be included into fashion, interior and other high-value products.

The successful candidate will have a doctoral qualification in a relevant field, such as design thinking (preferable with experience in materials), product design, co-design or sustainability as well as an established and active research profile and a proven record of published research in the relevant field.

Visit the official UAL website for more information.

Trash-2-Cash Workshop #02

t2CPrato_400ppi

Last week representatives from each of the partners travelled to Prato, Florence for Workshop #02 of the Trash-2-Cash project. Although the partners have met before, this was a particularly exciting moment in the project as the designers, materials scientists and manufacturers pooled their knowledge and capabilities to in an attempt to innovatively transform waste textiles into a cellulosic (CES) and a polymer (PES) fibre for the first time.

The workshop was generously hosted in style by Enrico Cozzoni (Grado Zero) and included a tour of the Textile Museum location, in Prato. The aim was to identify materials characteristics for the new fibres; for design and market insights to challenge materials R&D.

The workshop began with a materials showcase session which was energetically facilitated by Christian Tubito of Materials ConneXion Italia and supported by Becky Earley from University of the Arts London, Kirsi Niinimäki and Sari Berglund from Aalto Arts, Finland. Each partner brought with them a material sample to begin the discussion around potentialities both of the partner engagements and of the materials research. Large posters enabled the participants to begin to build a picture of the key benefits and limitations of existing CES and PES materials in knitted, woven and non-woven forms. A ‘wish list’ of fibre/material characteristics as well as potential applications were identified.

The real triumph of Workshop #02 was that we caught a glimpses of future scenarios for these new ‘super-fibres’; a picture emerged of how these new materials might ‘look’ in the context of peoples’ lives and lifestyles… the most exciting part is that this was materials- AND design- led, and couldn’t have happened without all of the expertise present at Prato.

TED writes for the Huffington Post

Design Life Times_400

A wee while ago Kay Politowicz was asked to respond to a question for the Huff. We thought it would be nice to share the piece with you on our TED blog.

Has global warming shifted the direction of textile research and development and how are retailers and manufacturers responding?

These huge questions are complex and interesting – so I am pleased to be able to think about them for a moment before answering!

Essentially – the research falls into the categories of: broadly academic and theoretical, institutionally funded OR industry based, technical or scientific and profit driven. Nothing wrong with either – both necessary, but largely separate in their focus and in their audiences. What is needed is some connection – especially through media communication. Fashion is entirely presented as ‘desirable image’ in popular media. The agenda- what it looks like, who is wearing it, where to get it and what’s coming next – are all promoting the consumption without reference to consequences – environmental or social. It would be interesting if some air and print time were devoted to the realities of existing production and the possibilities of alternative ideas – not just to publicise models of quality, longevity, locality, new technology and authenticity – but to explore what is really happening culturally in association with this contemporary phenomenon and what alternative activities/forms of creative engagement could become attractive to consumers.

The global warning awareness has changed the priority for research in design generally – if, by that, you link to environmental, economic and social issues. I would suggest that the most enlightened and engaged research is actually proposing a change to the role of the designer – to one who can facilitate change as well as come up with new reasons to make products.

Some 15 or so years ago – when Higher Education in the UK began seriously to fund research in art and design subjects, we set up a Research Group at Chelsea College of Arts, London, called ‘Textiles Environment Design’. The ‘we’ were a group of teachers, who were also textile designers…. in both roles, we needed to educate ourselves about the suspected environmental damage of textile production – to see whether there was any way that we could ‘design out’ some of the effects of our decisions down the production chain. It became the basis of a design practice-led research approach to our work and to the curriculum.

In many ways the distance between that moment – from THEN when our concerns were entirely about material and chemical pollution in production to the suspected waste in landfill – a ‘cradle to grave’ concern – to NOW, when it is clear that the only way to consider the impact of a design decision is to trace the journey through the ‘lifecycle’ of the material into its intended life as a product, which has a ‘cradle to cradle’ perspective in a circle of continuous use. An Internet community of researchers with this commitment is now able to propose initiatives, discuss ideas and make alliances.

Published design research over the last 10 years has raised awareness of the implications of ‘lifecycle thinking’ for designers (many), educators (some) and manufacturers (a few but increasing) – with a global map of interest in the ideas, where design thinkers and social anthropolgists have had an impact on the work of textile designers. In the UK: Jonathan Chapman, John Thackera, Daniel Miller; in USA – Michael Braungart, William McDonough; in Australia: Tony Fry; in Italy Ezio Manzini and many others. When we began our group in 1996, textile research was seen as a separate activity because of its particular technical materials development focus. It is now much more influenced by social sciences and anthropology – we believe the consumer has to be considered almost part of the ‘supply chain’ as we become aware of the global warming impact of laundry and disposal of clothing.

The increasing consumption of textiles for clothing is causing the biggest textiles impact on the environment – and gathering speed. It depends on oil and gas, consumes enormous amounts of water and contributes to vast mountains of waste. Fashion is seen by many, therefore, as the damaging industry – and must be stopped! But fashion is so much more than a problem product – it represents success, variety, entertainment, identity, ingenuity – and provides a source of economic prosperity. This fact is often overlooked by evangelistic, consumption-reducers. Practice-led design research, therefore, is being done into the production of textiles and garments that take their lead from theories of sustainability. But there is a huge gap at the moment between theoretical research and manufactured production.

In our research, we have devised a ‘TEN Strategies’ checklist for designers, by breaking down the ‘wicked’ problem into smaller elements to enable the development of a personal design brief. For example, we have been working as part of a research consortium with Swedish Government funding (MISTRA) and H&M, for the last 4 years, to make Swedish fashion greener and more profitable. They have a far-sighted approach to the problem, which has the buy-in of the giant fashion retailer H&M, one of the industrial players already committed to changing their supply chain to be more sustainable. The key to the effectiveness of this consortium of research groups is the range of expertise. Designers, political scientists, social scientist, fiber technologists, retail analysts and recycling experts are collaborating to propose systemic change for Swedish fashion. One of the most important features of the research is that it mixes funding from institutions and industrial partners. It therefore enables a bridge across the theory and practice ‘knowing-doing’ gap, to propose practical and profitable change – the only kind likely to succeed.

As for research and development within the brands – the significant players are investing in technical developments to make changes in their existing production chain. The US brand of Patagonia is an inspiration to production and development worldwide – aligning integrity with desirability in their product range. The active promotion of their values has attracted admiration worldwide. From this lead many other producers are listening for the first time to the possibility of change driven by a different set of imperatives from short-term financial profit. Puma are leading with investment into biodegradable, recyclable footwear, Levi with waste-less recycled polyester and water-less production. Considerable interest in ‘closed-loop recycling’ and Co2 waterless dyeing are providing credible developments in the production chain. Huge UK players M&S and Swedish H&M are retail leads in the link to ‘responsible’ consumer awareness.

A recent development is the interest from huge industrial partners in voluntary assessment tools to evaluate the environmental effect of decisions in the supply chain. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a trade association of brands, retailers, NGOs and academics represent more than one third of the global apparel and footwear markets. In July 2012 they launched an assessment tool, based on established evaluation tools – including the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index and Nike’s Environmental Apparel Design Tool – to better measure the comprehensive environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products. Named the Higg Index, the tool is a transparent and open-source tool currently being examined by EU politicians for its usefulness as a basis for legislation so that companies could be required to identify opportunities to reduce impacts and improve long-term sustainability throughout their supply chain. Retailers such as Primark have recently joined the SAC, entering sustainability data into an online assessment tool to generate performance scores and benchmarks. It is, of course, focused on improvements to the existing system albeit connecting sustainable improvements with profit, which is hopeful – but it does not really address system change and it is a far cry from compliance to innovation in this field. That is just beginning to emerge via a new breed of designer-producers, who see creative opportunities in new models of production for the future, where products are combined with services and waste streams are identified as raw material for production. Currently operating at a small scale on average, the hope is that the ‘scalable’ ideas being explored will become competitive with large industrial producers especially if consumers are serious about their preference for sustainable production.

The Textile Environment Design ‘TEN’ design strategy cards, referred to earlier, is one of the first design tools for textile/fashion designers to make their sample collections become demonstration models of the change they want to see in production. The message can be either explicit or implicit in their work – and a new generation of design students is being encouraged to think of positive action in this respect, as a business strategy for their professional progress.

The change from reactive to proactive developments in production can be effected with far-sighted design change to the current system. The question remains: in the face of no credible oil/gas replacement fuel, rising populations and old fashioned acquisitive aspiration in social groups worldwide – will the changes come soon enough to be still relevant?

Kay Politowicz
14.11.15