NEW YORK — Speakers at The Green Event here last week encouraged sourcing executives to view lowering the environmental impact of their businesses as an imperative for the survival of their jobs and the planet.
The two-day conference and exposition held Thursday and Friday at the Millennium Broadway Hotel featured speakers from textile and apparel manufacturers and retailers. Andrew Winston, founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and co-author of “Green to Gold,” opened the conference by outlining some of the issues fueling the environmental movement. Chief among those issues is global warming.
“What’s underlying this change is a change in the planet that’s moving much faster than even scientists predicted,” said Winston.
More evidence of this change came out recently, Winston noted, with the announcement that both the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage above Russia were free of ice for the first time.
Winston acknowledged that debate over whether global warming is being caused by man continues. Despite this, he noted that the business community has largely accepted global warming as a fact and is seeking innovations to clean up their supply chains and their products. These efforts are helping their bottom lines by reducing waste and encouraging better efficiency.
“Using the environment as a way to look at your business can generate innovation,” said Winston.
Consumer attitudes toward products have been altered by the environmental movement, as well. The segment of consumers who will only buy green or environmentally friendly goods remains small and is not likely to grow significantly, he said. But mainstream consumers have altered the criteria by which they judge the quality of a product. Winston said consumers are now considering characteristics such as where a product is made, if the workers were paid a livable wage and how much energy was used to produce it as part of their overall assessment of quality.
Studies have found that consumers are willing to pay only a small premium for an ethical or eco-friendly product. Their reaction to a good that doesn’t meet ethical standards, however, is more negative.
“[Consumers] will punish the ones they think don’t meet whatever standard they have,” said Winston. “That means the bar is rising. If you don’t meet whatever the standard is at the top, you might get punished badly.”
In 2007, U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer launched a program dubbed “Plan A — Because there is no plan B.” According to Graham Burden, the retailer’s sustainable textiles and cotton specialist, the program has forced the company to analyze its business practices and develop ways to improve its environmental footprint.
Cotton has proved to be a key area of focus. According to Burden, about 55 percent of Marks & Spencer’s goods use cotton, translating into roughly 80,000 tons of cotton a year. He noted cotton is grown in 90 countries by 30 million farmers. However, 85 of those countries are on the United Nation’s list of least-developed nations.
The retailer’s cotton strategy now seeks to “support the best, help the rest and avoid the worst,” said Burden. As part of that program, the retailer has been using more Fair Trade cotton that helps farmers in developing countries. A Fair Trade product is one produced under fair wages and certified social and environmental standards.
Burden believes apparel manufacturers and retailers must fully embrace environmental practices.
“It’s no good just sticking a few garments in the store and saying this is organic cotton and then not worrying about the rest of what you’re doing,” he said. “To be honest, I think that’s playing at it, it’s cherry-picking and I don’t think that’s actually conveying to your customers what your true intent is.”
Manufacturers and retailers are likely to continue to find more eco-friendly options at the textile level. Unifi touted its recycled nylon product, Repreve, while Lenzing Fibers talked up the natural qualities of Tencel, which is developed from plant fibers.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye