Once a week or so, I browse the internet for interesting reads on fashion and sustainability. With so much happening within this field; research, innovation, collaborative efforts, product launches; there’s always too little time to keep updated.
The last few weeks though… I’m not feeling as inspired as I usually do during these rounds. I kind of feel, it’s all the same. Not enough effort, no radical change achieved.
I imagine that’s what the two women who prove to be the exceptions of my just-not-enough analysis felt when they went and did something about it:
Rachel Kibbe launched Helpsy as an e-commerce stocking sustainable brands eight years ago. Then, when she got the opportunity, she closed the store and merged her brand into something new: a clothing collection company. With some 1,850 collection containers and retailer collabs with actors such as Bloomingdale’s, Helpsy, collects, deals and diverts used clothing. About half of what Helpsy collects gets reeoffered for sale at second hand shops in native US and overseas (source).
“I came to the belief that sustainability and fashion are essentially oxymorons and the world doesn’t need more clothes, they need scalable solutions for clothing trash,” Kibbe said in an interview with WWD.
Maxine Bédat co-founded Zady, a brand considered to be at the forefront of the ethical fashion movement for a while. Four years after it launched, the brand disappeared. I read that Bédat felt she had to pursue her vision of making fashion more sustainable in another way than producing her own brand. ”We can’t buy ourselves out of the problem. A big part of the sustainability question is just how many garments are being produced, and having to slow that down.”
Bedát has now launched her new gig, the New Standard Institute , which is a non-profit data hub intended to ”’right misinformation wrongs” in the ethical fashion space by supporting research and publishing findings on best practices (did you know the idea of the fashion industry being the second largest polluter in the world is not true?). In other words, Bedát chooses to share what she’s learnt from the Zady journey (and then some) for it to be approachable for others.
Although I do appreciate new brands and product launches that pioneer new ways of doing things–I think they are needed for us all to wake up–I also agree with the more radical approach of Kibbe: “You can create as many small-label collections as you want; that’s not going to solve the environmental problem of most clothes going to the trash.”
Does the world need a new organic cotton dress collection? If nothing else, a question worth considering. It’s a fact that we still produce more clothes than we need. As Anand Giridharadas argues in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World from 2018:
”It’s not that starting a new label is always wrong, it’s just that it may not be the best use of one’s creative potential, money or time if addressing the climate crisis is a serious priority.”
That’s it for now. Talk soon.
Images: Unrelated and unknown.
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