Six Sustainable Practices for Success in Tomorrow’s Fashion Industry

2017 finished up as the warmest year globally on record, and extreme storms in the forms of hurricanes, nor’easters, droughts, and fires came at a non-stop pace. According to a 2016 Yale study, 69 percent of Americans believe man-made global warming is occurring, causing major environmental impacts that will harm future generations. In response, an increasing number of individuals and companies alike are looking to help mend the climate crisis. The fashion industry is learning to rework some of its most ingrained practices in an effort to make quality clothing sustainable for tomorrow’s consumer and planetary needs.

No longer will we only look to Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, Patagonia, and People Tree for responsibility in fashion. 75percent of companies we spoke to last year want to push their brands towards environmental responsibility, less waste, and overall more sustainable collections, with the starting point for many being the addition of organic or recycled-fiber fabrics. True innovation in the fashion industry will require us to rethink the majority of our production practices.

Let’s take a look at the prevailing and ascending techniques fashion designers and manufacturers are embracing to help reverse some of the damage. These are the six most systems-thinking practices companies can implement in their paths forward. The time is now. Your customers and our world will thank you!

1. Biomimicry

Just ten years ago, Janine Benyus introduced us to the biomimicry movement, an approach to fabrics that celebrates the imperfections in weaving, dyeing, and finishing as an emulation of nature. Every blade of grass and patch of bark is unique and different; the culmination of these idiosyncrasies makes nature breathtaking both from a distance and up close. The biomimicry movement urges us not to reject and discard fabrics that fail to meet our incredibly specific demands of coloration and texture. New and innovative biomimetic textiles came to the forefront in 2017 with biofabricated leathers, spider silks, and self-healing textiles. Appreciating nature’s designs and processes will lead us to a fashion industry that puts the planet first.

Innovators to research: Modern Meadow and Stomatex

2. Circular Fashion

The antidote to the classic make-take-waste model, circular fashion abides by the circular-economy model, meaning all waste generated from the production, distribution, and consumption of one product becomes the raw ingredients of a new one. Often seen illustrated as a circle, figure 8, or butterfly, production is visualized as a closed loop—never linear. No more throw-away materials. Everything is considered irreplaceable and matter recycles continually, mindfully designed free of chemicals and engineered for disassembly. Companies should avoid hazardous materials, dyes, or finishes and select fabrics that are not blended with synthetics to facilitate reprocessing at the post-consumer stage. Third-party certifiers such as Cradle to Cradle and Global Organic Textile Standard can guarantee sustainable materials, and brands should consider take-back or repair products to maximize longevity and true circularity.

Innovators to research: Climatex, Fabscrap, and

3. Clean Energy

As engineers make clean energy more suitable for larger industries, fashion designers have no excuse not to hop on the bandwagon. Decreasing costs, technological improvements, and global-government incentives mean solar is as sure as the rising sun.

Solar is projected to be the go-to power source for new projects developed between 2017 and 2022. This past July, Morgan Stanley stated that solar and other renewables are becoming the most inexpensive forms of energy, and coal consumption will continue to decline. Mostly everyone is now aware that burning oil and coal for energy is the greatest contributor to our dangerously high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Customers are now demanding products that promise not to contribute to this climate crisis.

Metawear’s new solar-powered sewing and printing factory here in the U.S. is a great option for those seeking a solar factory. Google is working to support carbon-neutral brands that are purchasing carbon offsets, like Mighty Good Undies and Earth Positive Apparel.

For those who source globally, pay attention to the rising number of factories in China, India, or Myanmar that are installing solar for their cutting, sewing, and pressing lines. Though a slower rise in the U.S., other countries are setting big goals. India recently announced a goal of establishing 30 times more solar-powered factories by 2020.

Innovators to research: MetaWear and Murugan Textiles

4. Full Transparency

No one wants to feel ashamed for the products they produce or purchase. Full transparency means making customers aware of who made their clothing and what environmental impacts accompany its production. Life-cycle assessments provide truth and clarity for customers rightly wary of producers. Customers are shocked by the numbers: 1,600 gallons of water needed to cultivate the cotton for just one pair of jeans.

More and more, buyers are voting with their wallets. Sustainable and transparent brands that demonstrate that 1) they measure their impacts, and 2) they are making changes based on those measurements, are winning out. Brands can calculate how much water, energy, and trees have been saved by their sustainable efforts, demonstrate how they are reducing their CO2 emissions through shipping, and create spotlights of the sewers in their fair-trade factories. The details aren’t lost on consumers—in fact, buyers are paying close attention.

Innovators to research: Zady and Reformation

5. Water Awareness

Full transparency is meaningless unless a brand’s practices actually reduce water usage and CO2 emissions. As the world population continues to increase, the amount of available water simply does not. Nor can the waters polluted by mass manufacturing be replaced. There is only one solution as we move forward: reduce or eliminate fashion’s water usage. Zero waste fashion, which does not squander water, is no small feat considering how water-intensive it is to grow cotton and dye fabrics. Luckily, water awareness is increasing, companies are innovating, and solutions are forthcoming. Selecting fabrics, dyeing, and washing techniques that recycle water, using laser technology to create stone and sand-washing effects, digital waterless printing, and recycled-cotton-fiber fabrics are up trending solutions, as are wastewater recycling, rainwater dyeing, and better water management practices—across the entire supply chain.

Earth’s water is irreplaceable and fashion has used and abused quite a bit of it in our history. It’s only becoming easier to implement water-aware practices, so why not start right now?

Innovators to research: Jeanologia and Colorzen.

6. Mindfulness and Storytelling

Short and fast supply chains, digitization, and on-demand clothing bring us instant fashion gratification. Many consumers find themselves needing a break from the constant omnichannel marketing barrage, but on the design side, mindfulness is experiencing a slower rise. The time is now to incorporate mindfulness into your company culture and share this story with your customers.

The companies marketing their mindful and slow approaches to design as well as their loving attention to detail on social media are excelling. Customers want to connect with the process by purchasing from brands that allow them to be part of the journey taken by their sweater and jeans, not just the endpoint.

Being mindful of every design and production decision, and remembering that fashion is an art and a craft are ways to help your customers connect with your brand. Explaining the processes that go into crafting a garment from concept through delivery is a story that is key to customer engagement. Discuss the fabric and trims you select and where they came from. Tell your customer why you chose them and who made them. Describe how you achieved that perfect garment drape and fit and what inspired your design detailing. Shoppers are paying close attention to these details, and are looking for more than the same styles that have nothing to offer other than a marked-down price tag.

Appreciate the craftsmanship of creating clothes for human bodies. Show off the uniqueness of each garment and its story, and customers will take note of the quality, art, ethics, and longevity, all of which our industry desperately needs at the moment.

Innovators to research: Style Saint, Tradlands, and Krochet Kids


These six sustainable fashion movements will transform your line into a top-notch, earth-friendly company. Start assessing, measuring, researching, and implementing sustainable strategies and processes into everything you do from sketching, sourcing, cutting, and shipping. Then, celebrate your initiatives by marketing them on hang tags, labels, and Instagram pages. Let the world know your company is concerned about more than profit. Let everyone know you’re part of the solution—not the problem. In turn, your bottom line will increase. After a cutthroat year of store closings with many more forecasted and already announced for 2018, passion and responsibility may just be the secret ingredients for success: modern, forward-thinking and, fresh. All that fashion should be.

-Andrea Kennedy and Katelyn Marcus, New York, NY 2/28/2018

Thanks to Fashion Manuscripy who first published this article for Fashiondex, at:


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The Brutal Reality…. Climate Reality

What does fashion have to do with the climate? Well, what I used to say was… our Earth is a system of four spheres- atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. These four are interconnected and when fashion pollutes one sphere (for instance dumping wastewater from this season’s neon pink dye into local waterways) that sphere’s pollutant, in turn, causes damage to the other three spheres. That’s the way a system works; and when we burn fuel to transport tons of fibers, fabrics, buttons and clothing around the globe we release carbon dioxide into the air, which in turn, causes damage to the other three spheres. That’s what I used to say.

Now I say something different, because back in May I decided to apply for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, an organization founded by former Vice-President Al Gore. My thoughts were, if accepted, I’d learn a few scientific facts on climate-change, which I’d then weave into my four spheres recitation and other fashion sustainability work. I thought in having those hard facts I would further translate the urgency of changing a company’s current fashion production and supply chain model. I would be more successful I thought and basically applied to help myself professionally.

In July I was accepted. I excitedly freed up my schedule for four days in October and, when the date came, flew merrily to Pittsburgh. From the moment I found my seat on the plane- the trip was exciting. My seat mate looked at me and said, “I’m en route to Pittsburgh to be trained by Al Gore.” “Me too!” said I. We chatted the whole flight. His dad, a few rows up…. also being trained. Those two across the aisle…. being trained, too. In line for the restroom…. also being trained! Giddy, and now part of a movement, we flew into Pittsburgh to learn the “Inconvenient Truth”.

Arriving at the hotel, I popped in the hotel bar and… climate reality trainees. At breakfast… climate reality galore! I was surrounded by strangers, all eager-eyed, pumped and ready to go! I hadn’t felt that energized with a bunch of people I didn’t know since…. well since wearing a pussy hat last January in DC!

With enthusiasm and smiles, we all shuttled to the city’s LEED-certified convention center. 1,300 of us were in attendance and the training did not disappoint. Nor did Al Gore, who kicked us off with a two-hour Climate Reality slide show that was visual, impactful, unsettling, eye-opening, alarming.

First off, this was much better than my explanation of the four spheres….. I sat there realizing even more urgently how fashion must change and how we must change now. Our earth and it’s atmosphere is so fragile.

Source: Nasa

Did you know that if you painted a layer of shellac on a classroom globe, you would create the same proportion of thickness of that of our atmosphere’s troposphere and the stratosphere to the Earth? It’s true. It is that thin. And if you drove a car perpendicularly up from any point on earth- you’d reach the end of the atmosphere in just six miles. Here’s another fact we trainees learned: Between all the global mass production, air freight, ocean shipping, land transport, agriculture, landfills, and oil production…. we are putting 110 million tons of manmade global warming pollution into our atmosphere every single day. Every 24 hours we release millions of tons of CO2 and other gases- onto our ceiling! Our beloved fashion industry is responsible for a great deal of these emissions. How much no one can calculate exactly, but as per Stella McCartney and Ellen MacArthur’s new report published this month, fashion emits 1.2 billion tons of greenhouses gases each year- which is more than all the international flights and ocean container ships combined. McCartney and MacArthur’s findings reminded me of Al Gore’s video clip of the Hiroshima bomb going off. He equates what we humans put into the air each day as the equivalent of the emissions of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs per day. Kaboom!

We’ve got to change faster than planned and we need new changes. This is bigger than just neon pink dye running off into the village’s water supply while making velour sweatsuits. We must change now. Al Gore presents his visuals with passioned, yet matter-of-fact, explanations and goes through slide after slide of extreme worldwide weather events, such as the numerous hurricanes we’ve had recently, the plethora of extremely hot days, and the increase in flooding. He explains evaporation from the oceans is the same process that pulls water from the soil and causes droughts and the longer more harmful fire seasons we are experiencing. Gore then presents in detail how these and other climate changes affect our global food and water supplies, as well as all the health impacts, such as the sharp increase in allergens, ticks, and infectious diseases. Gore deeply discusses the melting ice caps in Antartica and Greenland and the rising sea levels. Then we see a most-startling slide with a large graph titled Top 10 Cities at Risk from Sea Level Rise in 2070… and youza…..New York is third- in the world. These aren’t musings or fake-news type facts Mr. Gore is presenting, these are science and the sources are up there in front of us with each slide. Gore started the day with a question, “Must We Change?” After these grueling images, we all know the answer is, “Yes.”

But Mr. Gore is optimistic… he announces we have solutions at hand and clicks through multiple slides showing solar panel and wind turbine installation and explains how prices are dropping for both. We see many buildings, homes, huts, and cities with gleaming alternative-energy panels and mills. We’re shown that we can do this without fossil fuels, yes- without coal and oil extraction. We learn that wind alone can supply our worldwide electrical consumption 40 times over! Another uplifting fact we see on screen is US solar energy jobs are growing 17 times faster than the overall economy, and there’ll be over 2.6 million new jobs in solar, wind and energy-efficiency sectors in the next few years here in the US.

I am getting excited… how can I help fashion with this training? I have been discussing more responsible and sustainable sourcing and design development for years… but this is energy. This can make a big change, this is not one company switching away from viscose. This involves our industry designing energy-efficient machines, factories and processes. I start imaging solar-powered sewing machines, ironing boards and buttonhole machines. Wind-powered digital printers, laser cutters, and circular knitting machines dance in my head. We can do this. We can convert our existing machinery. We can work together to cease putting chemicals and greenhouse gases in our air. Fashion sets the trends and if we work hard and collboratively we can embrace the high-tech, renewable, clean energy movement and make our clothing in new-energy trend-setting factories and mills! If you are interested, I can share with your company Gore’s slide show, we can discuss designing with energy-efficiency and producing with clean energy. The time is now.

Al Gore was up on that stage for three days moderating panels of scientists, research professors, and speakers that included a director at Tesla and a coal miner’s daughter! The training was inspirational and motivational. Our air is heating up, so too are our oceans, we have more intense and powerful storms, and our around-the-clock global manufacturing and fossil-burinng lifestyle has created this situation. This will continue – unless we make some dramatic changes. Well, one thing I know is that fashion loves drama. So here’s the dramatic reality: The climate will soon make areas of the planet uninhabitable. Those of us alive today must deal with this crisis. It’s a crisis each of us didn’t directly create directly, and although we would certainly prefer to go on dealing the way we have been dealing, we cannot. The current reality is real. It is happening, we are in the midst of a crisis and it is urgent. So let’s get going fellow fashion people- this is real- let’s switch our production and distribution to clean energy together, educate each other, and make this happen…. our world depends on it!

– Andrea Kennedy, November 30, 2017, New York






I was asked, “Isn’t sustainability a passing fad?”

In a meeting last week, I was asked by a very seasoned fashion professional, “Isn’t sustainability a passing fad?” I sunk down in my chair. Deflated. I can’t stop thinking about the exchange.

If one fashion mover-and-shaker thinks sustainability is just a trend, then others must too. I ask myself why? The information is out there. There has been (and are) so many workshops, presentations, seminars, speakers, and blog posts raising awareness of the need of more responsible apparel-production solutions that are less toxic to the atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity of our planet. There has been (and are) so many websites, films, factory exposés and news articles reporting on the mistreatment, underpayment and abuse of garment workers around the globe. There has been (and are) so many fashion companies implementing sustainability and CSR initiatives, and/or marketing that they’re repurposing old styles or utilizing recycled materials to avoid creating more landfill waste. Yet… there has been (and are) so many decisions-makers in fashion not thinking the movement is important…. or that it’s nothing more than a passing fad.

This is a problem. Our planet has now reached its carrying capacity and will soon be on overdrive as we have an upcoming population increase of 2 billion more people to produce for with 20% less resources. Yet to some, and many I fear, sustainability is a fad. This means that to those naysayers- sustainability is in the same category as silly bands, chokers, crocs, and beanie babies. A trend that starts quickly, gets loads of attention, then speedily declines into obsolescence –like last season’s cold-shoulder tee or this season’s top-knot bun. Many think the notion of sustainability is a fashion craze.

Actually I wish it were a craze. Then at least we’d have more celebrities and fashion professionals

Photo credit: Josh Sobel

tweeting and instagramming about it, instead of assuming it’s a notion that will soon disappear. It’s hard to comprehend why, with all the attention in the last few years focusing on the fashion industry’s negative impacts on our environment and factory workers, that still less than 20% of fashion companies are taking real steps to produce responsibly. Many say 20% is hopeful. I agree, it could be worse. However it’s been a very slow rise in companies transforming and changing their traditional apparel-making ways. And most companies are still running their businesses the same way they did for the last twenty years. Now that’s crazy! Industries worldwide have collectively caused the earth’s annually rising temperatures, rapidly melting icecaps, polluted ocean waters, and coral reef and forest devastation, so industries worldwide collectively must work to halt our impacts and work on reversing the effects of the past. Fashion must do it’s share, as sustainability is not a trend, rather a response to cleaning up the mess we’ve all made of our earth, which is our home.

If somehow you have missed all the workshops, presentations, seminars, posts, websites, films, exposés and articles…. then just google “fashion pollution” and take a look at all the images that appear…. now I ask, how can sustainability be a trend? It is instead taking ownership that companies producing clothing are part of the problem, and all companies (and stakeholders in these companies) can be part of the change and produce more responsibly. For those who really think it is a trend, here is a brief list of some industry facts from one website I brought up on the screen at last week’s meeting. These are from, a website created by Robert Bergmann, another change agent working to create responsibility in the fashion world.
The textile and clothing industry ranks second behind petrochemicals in overall global pollution output. (Source: Forbes)
Growing cotton requires more pesticides than any other crop and one-third pound of pesticides are used for every cotton t-shirt produced. (Source: Forbes and NRDC)
Five of the nine pesticides used on conventionally-grown cotton are carcinogens: Cyanide, Dicofol, Naled, Propargite, and Trifluralin. (Source: EPA)
Hundreds of toxic chemicals are used in manufacturing textiles; significant amounts of these poisons remain on clothing after multiple washings. (Source: Stockholm University)
The Chinese textile industry alone creates 3 billion tons of soot/year and contributes to 8.2 % of CO2. (Source: NRDC and Ecotextiles)
Fashion’s supply chain employs an estimated 60 million people globally and is the leading employer of child-laborers. In India, an estimated 400,000 children are employed in cotton cultivation. (Source: World Wildlife Fund)
The United States alone produces 25 billion pounds of clothing waste each year and an average American throws away 69 pounds of used clothing/textile waste each year (Source: Council for Textile Recycling)

Now I ask you, if these are the facts, then is sustainability just a passing fad? Is being responsible and taking ownership of a problem we helped cause the current rage? Fortunately most people in the industry do not have this attitude. Their eyes are open, they’ve been reading the news posts, seeing the images, and listening to their hearts. They are attempting to be sustainable because it is the right thing to do. They are not practicing sustainability to be in vogue or be trendy. They are concerned and wish to be responsible.

The current situation of our planet is extremely problematic, but the problem increases as we have seasoned fashion professionals holding the reins and hesitant to change; they think it’s just a fad. We must convince them this isn’t a craze.

Perhaps the problem is calling these initiatives new at all? Maybe we label them: common, standard, traditional, old hat… Maybe we make these practices sound ordinary and comfortable. Let people realize that being sustainable is the standard, and didn’t they know? Where have they been, we can ask; this isn’t a trend, it’s the standard. Perhaps we need to change our language- the facts and the images might not be working. Let’s consider changing the way we communicate and reverse everyone’s thinking so we all feel that the new ways are the traditional ways. If sustainability is commonplace, then we will all be participating in it. We’ll all be doing the same old thing, creating clothing lines with thoughtfulness and concern for the planet and all people. We’ll all be designing and producing responsibly and no-one will ask if fashion sustainability is a passing fad. It’ll be the new normal, it’ll be status quo.

-Andrea Kennedy

Let’s Talk About Water

Let’s talk about water. Our bodies are 60% water. Our planet is 70% water. Our food, it varies, but food can be made up of 40 to 90% percent water. Water is a pretty special thing… extremely essential to life… and of that 70% water that makes up our planet- only 1% is drinkable, and none of it is replaceable. Of that 1% drinkable water, some of it’s now so polluted it is now non-renewable.

In the name of fashion…. we waste and pollute this very precious commodity daily. That’s a well-known fact. Growing cotton, producing fabric, manufacturing, dyeing and finishing clothing utilizes a massive amount of water. From there clothing goes home with a customer, who continues to use loads of water by repeatedly washing the clothing they purchase. It takes roughly 1,000 gallons of water alone to perform all those steps in the lifecycle of just one pair of jeans. One pair. And how many jeans are we making? Enough for the U.S. to buy over 450 million pairs of jeans each year, per a 2013 CNN report. That’s 45,000,000,000 gallons of water annually for American jean-shopping. Just consider the amount if we also added the water consumption in the production and usage of our whole wardrobes… if we added our tanks, tees, dresses, sweaters, suits, jackets, shoes, boots, accessories…

Other than heavily expending water, our industry pollutes water. We discard chemicals and waste water from our factories into the waterways close by. This is contaminating water all over China and India. Fashion water pollution is aiding in the destruction of diverse aquatic and botanical water life, as well as the local creatures are at risk from the contaminated water. In August of this year, a factory in Mumbai was found dumping dyestuff into a local waterway. They were caught because people witnessed blue fur on the neighborhood dogs. When factories dump untreated waste water into local waterways, chemicals are then transferred in to the water, which makes the entire communities’ water undrinkable. Once water is made toxic and unsafe, well…. it is wasted… and we only have that 1%. And that 1% is already in very high jeopardy… I was recently trained as a Climate Reality Leader and, other than the obvious reasons of climate change, we learned about warmer water temperatures every year, changes in ocean salinity, increase in coral bleaching, decrease in aquatic diversity, and all about our sea levels rapidly rising. This is the time for us to act and to change as an industry.  As a giant global industry, it is urgent we focus on reducing our water usage and keeping our water clean.

Many companies have started already, especially large fashion brands. One brand making great strides is M&S. M&S recently introduced men’s low-impact jeans, which utilize five times less water during the manufacturing process by using laser technology. This and other new high-tech processes can greatly reduce our industrial water consumption in the making of all clothing styles. Of course that’s easy to say if you’re a large brand. Most companies are not the size of M&S.

The question is how can small- to mid-size fashion companies make a difference? How can we (and how do we) dictate our textile mills, factories, finishers and employees to save water? Well, we can ask our textile suppliers for natural fibers requiring less water in their irrigation, we can source waterless dyeing methods, we can choose to produce in factories that recycle their waste water and are committed to sustainable water management. We can commit to reducing water use for our brands, by first committing to the practice ourselves. I believe the first step any brand must take is to get the staff on board- we must start with ourselves. If we become conscious about our own water footprint, if we are able to walk the walk in our homes and offices, then we can truly talk the talk to our supply chain suppliers as well. Other than Climate Reality… I also recently attended an eye-opening presentation at Grace Communications in Manhattan. I learned that the water waste in the food industry is as bad as the situation in fashion. For instance, it takes 42 gallons of water to make one slice of pizza and 56 gallons for a plain

cheese sandwich. I was shocked to have found out that 25% of fresh water used each year to make our food is wasted because we throw away 25% of our food.  Grace created an assessment that allows you to measure your own water footprint. It’s a water calculator and very thought-provoking. Go try it out at: It will determine how many gallons of water you use

each day. I learned the water usage in my home is below average. Yahoo! What was interesting is we waste most of our household water at the kitchen sink! Who knew? Well I know now and can make a few lifestyle changes accordingly. There are tips on greywater systems, collecting water and fixing leaks to explore that can help improve and reduce your water usage at home- but in your design offices and showrooms too!

When I became really aware
of the global fashion water situation several few years ago, I started researching water-responsible suppliers. Those are the suppliers we suggest to our clients now. I cannot in good conscience refer brands to textile and trim suppliers who are still using water the way they have always used water, because then they are still wasting water the way they always wasted water.  Water scarcity is an immediate threat to our planet, it is as urgent as the rising annual global temperatures and our climate crisis. We must act.  We are the fashion industry- we are an industry that sets trends. Let’s not sit back and just let other industries make all the impacts. Let’s set trends in creating fashion with clean water (and waterless) practices. Let’s start by looking at our own water usage, then try and reduce our water consumption at home and in our work. We must produce our lines responsibly and ask our factories to practice sustainable irrigation systems, waste-water recycling, start capturing rainwater, and use waterless initiatives to replace those traditionally very water-intensive processes.

The world’s water cannot be replaced and our fashion businesses use a lot of it. So let’s start using a little less of it. Together we can reduce the water footprint of our lives and of the clothing we design and manufacture. We can dive in and produce more responsibly.

Together we can make a splash!

-Andrea Kennedy, New York

On Creating Right-Brained Fashion

Thank you FASHION STUDIES JOURNAL for publishing Andrea from Fashiondex’ article on running a fashion business with the right side of your brain!

And a big thanks and shout out to Dr. Sherie McClam from Manhattanville College’s Education for Sustainability program…. thank you for making us think so critically!

On Creating Right-Brained Fashion

Many fashion brands and retailers are losing money these days. Department stores are closing and many clothing lines—from fast fashion, to bridge, to high-end designs—have experienced a year of losses. These brands were offered hope about a month ago at a costing seminar that was convened in Manhattan. I attended this future-thinking-type of seminar where costing factors were explained as a solution for the current fashion-retail woes. The message was: if you’re not sharply costing, you’re leaving money on the table. Of course, I don’t disagree with that—not at all; however, the seminar encouraged apparel executives from dozens of major brands and fashion retailers to look more critically at the standard allowed minutes (also known as SAMs or SVMs, short for standard value minutes) on their cost sheets. I have heard these terms countless times in my career, but lately, and perhaps disconcertingly, these quantitative terms have become principle drivers of style change itself.

Less stitching detail means less SAMs. Less SAMs equals less cost. 3.5 SAMs for a shirt translates to three and one-half minutes to complete the sewing of one shirt. Each serged side seam, attached neck band, and double-needle hem stitched is 0.5 SAMs (or 30 seconds each). A factory measures and calculates SAMs to determine their production capacity per day, per week, and per month. And brands analyze SAMs to cost and price their styles.

Sitting in this seminar, my mind wondered away from SAMs to cost sheets in general, then to income statements, then to top line, bottom line, mark-up formulas, assortment plans, time and action charts, analytics, tech packs, PLM, efficiency, and lead times. Over and over in my mind I saw today’s fashion practices, terminology, charts, graphs, sheets, and line plans. Wow, I thought to myself, “What kind of fashion people have we become?” We are an industry concentrating on SAMs, line efficiency, duty rates, data, and procedures. Yet, we are the fashionindustry. Shouldn’t we be focusing on creativity, mood, inspiration and flair? Shouldn’t we be pondering over beautiful details and gorgeous shapes as opposed to how can we simplify a style just to sew it in as little time as possible? I think to the practice of haute couture, where it takes hours, days…even weeks of hand-stitching to complete one dress… those rarified places in Paris, Italy, and London where art is created. Of course, mass market is stitch of a different thread, so to speak, but I wondered, could the mass-market manufacturers in this seminar learn something by looking more closely at couture design and its celebration of fashion, instead of more precisely calculating SAMs?

And eventually it came to me—the realization that truly nothing of value and longevity can be produced in 3.5 minutes. Nothing of beauty and resiliency can be produced by concentrating on data.  I realized the reason many retailers, malls, and manufacturers are floundering is not because they aren’t producing and shipping clothing styles fast enough, but because as an industry, we are running our businesses with numbers—with the left sides of our brains. We are the fashion industry. Shouldn’t we be running our companies with the right sides of our brains?

If you Google “Right Side Left Side Brain” a slew of results will come up. In a 2016 article on, Kendra Sherry writes, “a person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. Thus, if a “right-brained” individual is more intuitive and inherently more creative, doesn’t it follow that a “right-brained” company would be more intuitive, thoughtful, and perceptive, too? And wouldn’t a “right-brained” company, in being more subjective, be more in tune with their audience’s wants, need and moods? And therefore more successful?

Charts that compare the functions of the left and right sides of the brain further explain each side’s dominance. While the left side of the brain is preoccupied with reasoning, data-aggregation and analysis, planning, analytics and linear thinking, the right side of the brain, by contrast, is better equipped to process art, imagination, feelings, intuition, perception, creativity, and holistic thoughts.

In the quest to become more competitive and obtain more supply-chain control, we’ve left fashion design in the hands of left-minded thinkers.

Taking all of this into account, I wonder, are we doing ourselves and our customers a disservice by running our companies so strategically? Indeed, with all of our talk about improving current business models, sharpening costs, and focusing on sewing minutes, we’ve allowed the left side of our companies too much control. In the quest to become more competitive and obtain more supply-chain control, we’ve left fashion design in the hands of left-minded thinkers. Today, numbers, costs, and data are driving garment design, rather than creativity and imagination. Didn’t we enter the fashion industry to be creative? We should be spreading dreams and creating beautiful garments, not number-crunching. Perhaps this is why so many fashion businesses have been experiencing bottom-line losses these last few years.

Maybe this numerical, analytical, planned, and digitized thinking is why many fashion companies are failing. I also believe that exact type of thinking is why our businesses have had such a large negative impact environmentally and socially. If we were thinking holistically—with intuitiveness, feeling, and imagery—would we still have created a global fashion industry built on economies of scale and speed? Would the right sides of our brains allow us to pollute soil and water, exploit workers, and create products that more-often-than-not sell only when discounted?

The answer for me is a resounding no. The right sides of our brains have empathy. And the right sides of our brain consider values—not in terms of the bottom line, costing and price, but of human worth, community value and concern for all.

If we shift our businesses and allow the right sides of our brains to stand up and take charge, we might see that there are methods to produce clothing less focused on calculation, measuring SAMs, and data analysis and more centered on creativity, visualization, and integrated with compassion, not facts.

Sustainably-run companies recognize the interconnectedness of their business practices and processes with the people and the planet. They are systems thinkers, world viewers and right-brained. It takes visualization, emotion, and non-linear thinking to change a company’s ways and develop a business model with Earth, people, creativity, and art at its core. It might not look right on paper as we can’t measure human worth like we can a cost sheet, but as an industry we must consider our customers’ feelings. They care about our planet and are concerned with the future. They have no interest in our SAMs. Perhaps we should forego planning how fast a factory can produce for us—for that’s a left-brained way of thinking—and instead visualize how we can creatively design and bring a fashionable product to market. Using the right sides of our brains and reinventing the art of fashion is the right thing to do… for the planet, for our companies, for our customers, and, in the end, for our bottom lines.

Just Love the C&A Foundation!

by Circular Fibres on May 11, 2017

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launches today a new initiative that brings together key industry stakeholders to build a circular economy for textiles, starting with clothing. The initiative is supported by a core philanthropic funder, C&A Foundation, core corporate partners H&M and NIKE, and a consortium of organisations including the Danish Fashion Institute, Fashion for Good, Cradle to Cradle and MISTRA Future Fashion. The announcement was made by Dame Ellen MacArthur at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

Participants in the Circular Fibres Initiative will work together to define a vision for a new global fibres system, which will address the significant drawbacks of the ‘take-make-dispose’ model currently dominating the industry. The new system for textiles will be based on the principles of a circular economy, generating growth that benefits citizens and businesses, while phasing out negative impacts such as waste and pollution – an economy fit for the 21st Century.

Textiles is the second global materials flow that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focussed on. In 2016, the Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy initiative, bringing together key stakeholders including leading businesses across the value chain, city authorities, intergovernmental organisations, scientists, designers and other innovators, to build a plastics system that works. The success of this first initiative, which includes two major reports presented at the Word Economic Forum in Davos, stakeholder workshops and significant media attention, has highlighted the importance of a pre-competitive, collaborative mindset amongst participants.

“At c, we support the production, uptake, and reuse of sustainable fibres. The Circular Fibres Initiative is important because it will establish the shared agenda and deep collaboration needed to shift the apparel industry to regenerative and sustaining business models.”

Executive Director, C&A Foundation Leslie Johnston

Fibres are an important part of today’s global economy: clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, with sales of footwear and apparel reaching $1.67 trillion in 2016[1]. Meanwhile consumers keep their clothing for half the time that they did 15 years ago[2]. After use, only around 15% of apparel waste is collected in the US, while the remaining 85% ends up in landfill[3]. This characteristically linear economy, based on extractive and consumptive patterns, puts high demand on land, energy and other resources. The production and use of clothing accounts for around 3% of global CO2 emissions[4], and cotton production is now responsible for a quarter of worldwide insecticide use[5].

As a first step, the Circular Fibres Initiative will produce, with McKinsey & Co. as Knowledge Partner, an analysis of the textiles industry, mapping how textiles flow around the global economy, and the externalities that arise from the current system. It will explore what a new, circular economy for textiles – one that is restorative and regenerative – could look like, and lay out the steps needed to build it. The Initiative’s first report is due for publication in autumn 2017.

“The way we produce, use, and reprocess clothing today is inherently wasteful, and current rising demand increases the negative impacts. The Circular Fibres Initiative aims to catalyse change across the industry by creating an ambitious, fact-based vision for a new global textiles system, underpinned by circular economy principles, that has economic, environmental, and social benefits, and can operate successfully in the long term.”

– Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“At C&A Foundation, we support the production, uptake, and reuse of sustainable fibres. The Circular Fibres Initiative is important because it will establish the shared agenda and deep collaboration needed to shift the apparel industry to regenerative and sustaining business models.”

– Leslie Johnston, Executive Director, C&A Foundation

“Our 100% circular vision and our goal to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 plays a key role in our sustainability agenda. We are aware that our vision means a big change on how fashion is made and enjoyed today and if we want to take the lead in this challenge, collaboration and accelerating innovation and circular systems together with the industry is crucial. The Circular Fibers Initiative will define a shared vision for a new global textile system and it will be an important foundation for collaboration to accelerate the journey towards a circular textile industry.”

– Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group





[4] Energy-related CO2 emissions, The Carbon Trust, International Carbon Flows – Clothing (2011)

[5] Yale Environment 360 (2016)

Notes to Editors

For enquiries please contact: 

Clare Mucklow,

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five areas: insight and analysis, business and government, education and training, systemic initiatives, and communication. With its Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Co., and SYSTEMIQ), and supported by Core Philanthropic Funder (SUN), the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. The Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners (Danone, Google, H&M, Intesa Sanpaolo, NIKE, Inc., Philips, Renault, Unilever), and its CE100 network (businesses, universities, emerging innovators, governments, cities and affiliate organisations), to build capacity, explore collaboration opportunities and to develop circular business initiatives. By establishing platforms such as the New Plastics Economy initiative, the Foundation works to transform key material flows, applying a global, cross-sectoral, cross value chain approach that aims to effect systems change. Learn more at

Bravo CFDA on today’s article on the impact of a possible immigration policy on fashion…

04 10 17  by: MARC KARIMZADEH 

The innovation economy, industry growth, opportunities for international designers and investors in the U.S., and American jobs – just some key issues that will determine the future of American fashion.

On Monday morning, CFDA’s Chairwoman Diane von Furstenberg and President and CEO Steven Kolb, President Todd Schulte, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito gathered at the CFDA {Fashion Incubator} to proudly unveil a joint CFDA and report.

The report addresses the impact of immigration policy on the United States’ fashion industry, its role in creating American jobs, and changes needed to bolster the future health of the industry. Read the full report here.

Von Furstenberg recalled leaving Europe and arriving in New York with a suitcase full of little dresses. “Young people from all over the world come to America in search of those same opportunities, and young people with limitless talent and potential will continue building and innovating in our industry as long as we put in place immigration policies that allow the U.S. to remain a magnet for them,” she said.

The press conference was attended by several designers, among them Phillip Lim, Robert Geller, Maria Cornejo, Waris Ahluwalia, Sachin Ahluwalia, Maxwell Osborne, Dao-Yi Chow, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim.

Kolb added: “In order to continue the U.S.’ success and influence in the fashion industry, we must recruit the best talent from all over the world. If the United States wants to lead the world in fashion innovation, we need immigration policies that embrace the talented foreigners who come here to build and grow.”

The report outlines two hurdles impacting the fashion industry: access and retention of top talent, and the difficulty and high cost of navigating our badly broken immigration system. Among the recommendations, the report cites reforming and expanding the H-1B and O-1 high-skilled visas, creating a startup visa so that foreign-born entrepreneurs can build companies and create American jobs here, and establishing a process for hardworking undocumented immigrants to earn legal status after successfully passing a background check.

“We need to reform our immigration laws to protect American workers while boosting our ability to bring in the best and brightest from around the world so we can continue driving the U.S.’ global leadership in fashion and multiple other industries,” said President Todd Schulte.

“Making it more difficult for skilled foreign workers in the fashion industry to enter the United States will make it harder for the industry to survive and will do irreparable harm our city’s economy,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito underscored the report’s message that barriers for immigrants hurt the U.S. economy and weakens fashion businesses. As she put it, “It is essential to keep finding new ways to empower our immigrant communities.”


Original article here: