Page one of the CFDA’s new sustainability report asks a broad, burning question: “What is sustainability?” The answer tends to change depending on whom you ask. For some of us, sustainable fashion has to do with a brand’s environmental impact; others think social justice is more important; others are focused on preserving artisanal crafts and supporting developing economies; and still more are concerned with animal rights. Truthfully, sustainability is an umbrella term that encompasses all of the above, and then some. Thus, the CFDA guide comes at a good time: Sustainability is a complex, multifaceted issue, and understanding it requires serious research and energy – plus even more research and energy to put it all into practice. Many designers simply don’t have time to dig into it, but this guide will provide them with the resources, strategies and contacts they need.
1. Sustainable design starts from the ground up
From the outset, the CFDA report insists that improving your manufacturing and social impact doesn’t mean sacrificing fashion. “Sustainability is great design,” it says. “It is based on a deep understanding that all things are interconnected in this world. Sustainability provides the ability to design and produce indefinitely. This requires that the design, development, production and use of fashion products meet today’s needs – without preventing those needs from being met by future generations.”
2. Be a team player!
The CFDA points out a string of conferences, summits, and tools for designers who want to learn more about sustainability and connect with like-minded peers: There’s the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the largest global gathering around sustainable fashion; the CEO Agenda, a guide for executives who want to “future-proof” their companies; the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the industry’s leading alliance for sustainable production, and its HIGG Index, which helps companies measure their sustainability performance; the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report (published by the Boston Consulting Group), which reveals the business opportunities that lie in embracing sustainability; and the list goes on. No designer can attend every summit, read every report, or visit every sustainable factory or manufacturer – so the CFDA is encouraging collaboration and having a “common agenda.”
3. Consider your company’s culture
Reimagining your business or changing your supply chain isn’t a one-person task. It requires an all-hands-on-deck approach – but even the best ideas fail if a team isn’t inspired or given the means to succeed. Fashion has always been an industry supported by behind-the-scenes workers—seamstresses, patternmakers, assistants et al – and they’re instrumental in making these changes happen. The CFDA referenced a January 2017 report by Bain & Company, which found that 98 per cent of sustainability initiatives fail because they “do not have senior leadership support to ensure that the project has adequate resources, that employees are engaged and supportive, that other priorities don’t get in the way, and that there are clear metrics for success.”
4. Don’t get hung up on “efficiency”
As humans, we’re naturally inclined to make things easier and more efficient for ourselves; it’s a basic principle of evolution. However, in the fashion industry – and in many other industries – efficiency is often confused with the “best” way of doing things. When it comes to natural resources, efficiency is obviously important: “Efficiency with material inputs like water and energy is not only good, but vital,” the CFDA writes. “We want to use and waste as little of these precious natural resources as possible.” But efficiency can be detrimental if you’re hiring low-wage workers because they work quickly, for example, or eliminating jobs and crafts because a computer or machine can knit a sweater faster and cheaper.
To read the full article as published on Vogue click here: https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/cfda-sustainable-fashion-directory