Why Fashion for Good has the right pattern to make a sustainable fashion industry

pattern is the template from which the parts of a garment are traced onto fabric before being cut out and assembled

At the end of March, in a newly renovated Amsterdam Town House overlooking the famous Rokin canal, something quite special happened. Fashion for Good, an industry-wide call for collaboration to transform the global apparel industry, moved from an ambitious idea, into a reality.

Fashion for Good began its journey when William McDonough of McDonough Innovation went to speak to the shareholders of the retail giant, C&A. Also in the audience was Leslie Johnston, the CEO of the C&A Foundation, who, like the shareholders, was struck by the possibility being outlined by McDonough, of transforming a deeply unsustainable industry, into one that could be endlessly good.

And deeply unsustainable is a harsh, but fair, description of the global fashion industry. The industry faces all the environmental and social challenges it’s possible to think of, from a heavy natural resource footprint, to a whole raft of human rights issues, from bonded labour to trafficking. And then there’s us, the end consumer, who, by and large, are happy to pay next to nothing for our clothes, wear them a few times, and then throw them away.

This isn’t new news, the fashion industry has been working hard to address these issues for the last couple of decades. But progress is slow. One of the reasons behind slow progress is that the challenges we need to address in order to transform the industry are systemic in nature – they are multi-faceted and multi-causal, and can’t be solved by one organisation alone. This is why initaitives such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition are so important, and are seeing success, as they enable key players in the industry to come together and tackle these systemic challenges. In the case of the SAC, the development of the Higg Index has given brands, retailers and facilities of all sizes, a tool to use at every stage in their sustainability journey, to measure their environmental and social and labour impacts and identify areas for improvement. By measuring sustainability performance, the industry can address inefficiencies, resolve damaging practices, and achieve the environmental and social transparency that consumers are starting to demand.

 

Image credit: Sartoria
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