Stella McCartney Issues Dramatic Plea for Critical Sustainability Changes in Fashion Industry

Amber Valletta, Chu Wong + Emma Laird Front Stella McCartney Fall 2019 by Johnny Dufort Stella McCartney Fall 2019 Ad Campaign

Stella McCartney’s Fall 2019 ad campaign features Amber Valletta, Chu Wong and Emma Laird lensed by Johnny Dufort./ Makeup by Thomas De Kluyver; hair by Gary Gill

Stella McCartney Open Letter on Sustainability Sept. 15, 2019

In advance of her Spring 2020 Women’s Ready-to-Wear show McCartney issued an industry letter published in London’s Sunday Times Style magazine. The designer known for her relentless work with the fashion industry around issues of sustainability is calling for immediate action in all sectors of garment manufacturing.

"The fashion industry is at a crossroads, and I believe that this is a moment for us to come together to achieve systemic, sustainable change in our industry. “

Designer Stella McCartney

Designer Stella McCartney

McCartney is calling for a shift towards circularity and reuse of what we already have, helping to reduce the insatiable need for newness that has ravaged the planet in the last 20 years.

"The fashion industry is one of the most polluting and damaging industries in the world. Every single second, the equivalent of one rubbish truck of textiles is sent to landfill or burnt.

"The fashion industry accounts for more than a third of ocean microplastics, while textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will be using up to a quarter of the world's carbon budget.

"This way of working is not sustainable. The world is crying out for change, and it is our responsibility to act now... The science is clear, and we need to do more than just incremental shifts; keeping business as usual is no longer an option."

As well as encouraging rental, resale and recycling of clothing, Stella wants companies to embrace new "tools" and "innovators" to create their garments.

As well as encouraging rental, resale and recycling of clothing, Stella wants companies to embrace new "tools" and "innovators" to create their garments.

"The Ellen MacArthur Foundation tells us that only 1% of textiles are recycled back into textiles each year -- this is simply unacceptable. Supporting innovators will help to drastically increase this number, but we need this shift now.

"Companies we work with, like Econyl and Evrnu, are enabling true textile-to-textile recycling. More brands could help these innovators scale, and governments should support their development.

"For decades the fashion industry has relied on the same 10 to 12 fibres to make almost all of our garments, and I believe that it is time for us to add some new tools to our toolbox. Incredible innovators like Bolt Threads are using cutting-edge technology and biology to develop new textiles and materials.

"They are reimagining what the building blocks of our industry could be, and we are working closely with them as they develop incredible mycelium-based 'leather', grown in a lab and not harming a single creature in the process.

"The production of leather, which can account for up to 10% of the commercial value of a cow, shares full responsibility for the same environmental hazards as the meat industry; most critically, it is a leading cause of climate change. I believe with these new technologies that we are on the brink of something very exciting."

New AOC Writing on Sustainability

Adwoa, Jill and Ebonee Headline H&M Fall 2019 Conscious Recycled PET Bottles Collection

H&M Conscious Collection Fall 2019.jpg

Adwoa, Jill and Ebonee Headline H&M Fall 2019 Conscious Recycled PET Bottles Collection

Top model and activist Adwoa Aboah joins Jill Kortleve and Ebonee Davis in launching H&M’s Fall 2019 Conscious collection and campaign. The collection will be released worldwide in September.

Recycled polyester is the key material for H&M’s Fall 2019 Conscious Collection, found in the dresses, shirts, knitwear, outerwear and tailored pieces. Most often made from used PET bottles, recycled polyester is processed and spun to create a fabric that’s easy to care for. Meanwhile, the jersey pieces in the collection are made from organic cotton or blend made out of TENCEL™ lyocell fibres.

Fast fashion lies: Will they really change their ways in a climate crisis?

Fast fashion lies: Will they really change their ways in a climate crisis?

By Anika Kozlowski, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Ethics and Sustainnability, School of Fashion, Ryerson University. First published on The Conversation.

Recently Zara introduced a sustainability pledge. But how can Zara ever be sustainable? As the largest fast-fashion retailer in the world, they produce around 450 million garments a year and release 500 new designs a week, about 20,000 a year. Zara’s fast-fashion model has been so successful it has inspired an entire industry to shift — churning out an unprecedented number of fashion garments year-round.

We live in an era of hyper-consumption in the middle of a climate crisis.

Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014. The average consumer bought 60 per cent more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment half as long. Apparel consumption is projected to to rise by 63 per cent in the next 10 years. And less than one per cent of all clothing produced globally is recycled.

With production numbers like these, can any fast-fashion retailer claim sustainability?

The Role of Fashion Shoes and Trump's Trade War Soybean Fallout in Burning the Amazon

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One of the larges corporate responses to the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest has come from VF Corp. whose brands include Timberland, Vans and The North Face. The company issued a statement saying that it will discontinue using Brazilian leather until it has “the confidence and assurance that the materials used in our products do not contribute to environmental harm in the country.”

The Amazon, which spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs" . Estimates show that nearly 20% of oxygen produced by the Earth's land comes from the Amazon rainforest. In addition, the Amazon puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere, regulating global temperatures as a result.

Environmentalists blame the policies of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for the 77% increase in fires in 2019, compared to one year ago. Even worse, half of the fires have been detected in the last month. A highly-controversial supporter of US president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has encouraged farmers to burn the land in order to meet the growing demand for beef worldwide.

Overall, the demand for beef is increasing as the demand for leather shoes is decreasing, according to the LA Times, June 2018. Once a status symbol, leather shoes are often a symbol of anti-environmentalism, especially to young customers. Hides and other byproducts account for about 44% of the slaughtered animal’s weight but less than 10% of its value, according to government data.

As both corporate management and humans become more committed to sustainability issues and customers take ownership of being complicit with large corporations in environmental destruction, Vogue Business asks the provocative question: Is footware funding the burning of the Amazon?

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

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In recent years, companies such as LVMH, Kering and Nike have committed to sourcing only deforestation-free leather. (LVMH said it would provide €10 million in aid to fight the Amazon fires.) Traceabilty is a problem, writes Vogue Business, quoting Nathalie Walker at National Wildlife Federation.

“Many still think that because they buy ‘Italian leather’, that means it is not from Brazil, but that is untrue,” says Walker, director of tropical forests and agriculture at NWF. In fact, the Italian leather industry sources heavily from Brazilian suppliers like Frigorífico Redentor, a company that Amazon Watch describes as a “notorious illegal deforester in Brazil” and pegs as partly responsible for the recent surge to clear land. Grupo Bihl, Frigorífico Redentor’s parent company, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Gucci parent Kering says that it now traces 80 percent of its skins to the slaughterhouse, with the goal of 100 percent traceable by 2025.

Not mentioned in the Vogue Business article is an answer to the key question AOC just asked and answered? Is the Amazon burning so that Brazil can meet the demand for soybeans, now that China has stopped buying soybeans from American farmers due to the trade war between the two nations.

There’s a surprising amount of writing on this topic in the past week. They include:

Fires in Amazon rainforest are being fuelled by US-China trade war, experts say SCMP

How Trump’s trade wars are fueling Amazon fires The Guardian

Trump’s Trade War Could Be Fueling Amazon Fires Bloomberg

Chief Sustainability Officers Become Collaborative C-Suite Execs with Major Fashion Influence

Virginie-Helias-CSO Procter Gamble (top) Marie-Claire Daveau CSO Kering (bottom)

Virginie-Helias-CSO Procter Gamble (top) Marie-Claire Daveau CSO Kering (bottom)

Vogue Business profiles the growing influence of corporate Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO) including Kering’s CSO and head of international institutional affairs Marie-Claire Daveu, who sits on Karing’s 13-person executive committee; Virginie Helias, who actually created her top-level position at Procter & Gamble, by pitching it to the CEO; Nike’s CSO Noel Kinder, who reports to Nike COO, Eric Sprunk and Tom Berry, who is the global director of sustainable business at Farfetch.

The position of CSO could also be good for career advancement, writes VB. Tom Berry sees the role eventually becoming attached to the role of chief innovation or strategy officers.

“I’m convinced that in the coming decade, more CSOs will progress toward other C-suite roles,” says Daveu. “A successful CSO has to be a visionary thinker, a creative problem solver, an operational implementer and a collaborative leader.”

“It’s now seen as a transversal mission. It’s all about courageous leadership toward things that have not been done before, and about being able to develop an ambitious vision,” says Helias.

Article Take Aways

1) The Global Fashion Agenda’s recent Pulse of the Fashion Industry report concluded that fashion isn’t implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to offset the negative environmental and social impacts that come with their growth.

2) The vast range of skills associated with developing sustainable practices prompts the trends towards inter and intra-industry collaboration. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which P&G joined with at least 40 companies in early 2019, is an example of the number of interests involved. 

“I’m spending more of my time thinking about how to collaborate externally,” says Kinder, who is now working through the Global Fashion Agenda and the United Nations. “H&M has been really ambitious externally, and Adidas — probably our closest competitor — does a nice job of collaborating. There has not been any reluctance to working [together] on big topics like waste or climate change. The challenges we face as an industry and as a species are bigger than any one brand.”

Noel Kinder NIKE COS

Noel Kinder NIKE COS

Cynthia Rowley Asks: Is Your Swimsuit Hurting the Oceans? Change Your Ways Then

Cynthia Rowley plastic in oceans - eco-conscious swimwear.png

If anyone can benefit from surfing in the Atlantic Ocean as a form of meditation, it’s veteran designer Cynthia Rowley. Montauk’s CR Suf Camp is headquarters for a meetup between Rowley and ELLE writer Faran Krentcil.

Rowley has battled fierce financial challenges for the last year, but her life is calm compared to the state of the world’s oceans. And surfers play their part in environmental damage. “Surfing is a reminder the world is bigger than me," Rowley explains, urging me back into the sea as the tide calms down. "The ocean is bigger than any of my problems.”

“Surfers are some of the most eco-conscious people in the world,” says Rowley, who's teamed with charities like the Surfrider Foundation to help promote cleaner beaches worldwide. “But for a long time, our primary uniform—the wetsuit—was made with polyester and really harmful plastics! The irony is mind-boggling... Once I saw how much plastic was in normal neoprene, I knew [surf wear] had to evolve.”

At a time when new designers are burnishing their eco-cred, Rowley has been marketing sustainable wetsuits, one-pieces, and bikinis for nearly 12 years. Partnering with a Thai factory for 12 years, Rowley may be one of the unsung heroes in today’s battle for sick oceans.

Cynthia Rowley plastic in oceans.png

“We started with the basic stuff—figuring out how to make swimsuit ‘skin’ from recycled plastic bottles,” Rowley explains. “The ‘carbon black,’ which is the spongy filler inside neoprene? We make it with recycled tires. And then there are components nobody thinks about, like glue. Every wetsuit uses glue, and so do a ton of swimsuits. But glue is often made from harsh chemicals—we don’t want that. So we found a water-based glue instead. If some of it sheds or erodes, that’s okay—it’s water!” As for the neoprene itself, Rowley’s team makes it with limestone instead of liquid plastic, swapping out a toxic material for one that biodegrades.

And why not wear wetsuits year-round, asks Rowley. And be a poser? In response to die-hard surfers who object to wannabes co-opting their authentic fashion gear, the designer is frankly philosophical. “On the one hand, I get that some surfers treat their wetsuit like a tool, something that really belongs to them as part of surf culture, and they don’t want it co-opted as a fashion item. But we’re trying to change that, because surf culture can’t exist without sustainable living. And if you can turn one item of clothing into like three different outfits, and you love how you look? Then screw it and wear what you want.”

Stopping by CynthiaRowley.com to shop swimsuits, we note that there’s no mention of the great story behind the designer’s sustainable credentials. Searching in earnest for discussion of her commitment to sustainability, we note her CR Surf Camp story but nada on any mention of her concern for oceans.

Perhaps this is why eco-conscious fashionistas know little about Cynthia Rowley’s passion for returning our oceans to their natural glory. That’s a shame, because her story is a good one. ~ Anne

Cynthia Rowley’s CR Girls Camp in Montauk, Long Island, New York

Cynthia Rowley’s CR Girls Camp in Montauk, Long Island, New York