DISRUPTORS WELCOME: The sustainability-minded Fashion for Good is expanding to South Asia with the launch of a regional innovation program.
In line with that, the Amsterdam-based group is in search of South Asia-based innovative start-ups “with disruptive sustainability solutions” for the fashion supply chain. Select innovators will have the chance to showcase their solutions, as part of Fashion for Good’s Innovation Day on Nov. 24, during Mercedes Benz Sri Lanka Fashion Week. They will also have access to the group’s global partners such as its founding partner the C&A Foundation, as well as corporate ones like C&A, Adidas, Kering and PVH Corp.
Fashion for Good’s managing director Katrin Ley said, “If you look at the problem that the fashion industry is facing, the main production of garments is happening in Asia. To improve the [carbon] footprint of the fashion industry, you need to be present in the [dominant] manufacturing countries. If you want to make a difference, you need to be able to implement those solutions locally. Given that those markets are also growing from a consumer perspective — all of the end-of-use, recycling, landfill problems that we’re seeing so much of now in North America and Europe — will at one point also increase locally [in Asia.]“
She noted how Asia is an important geographical location to be active in order to really improve the environmental footprint. While Europe is leading in terms of thinking about and experimenting with circularity in fashion, North America is taking hold of the concept, Ley said. “But in India and Sri Lanka, we are seeing some intensified interest. It is really important for us to be present there and to further shape the conversation, to educate, bring awareness and solutions also.”
Fashion for Good is already active in Asia through its partnership with the Hong Kong-based tech incubator The Mills Fabrica. The group is also expanding efforts with local manufacturers such as its recently announced affiliate innovation partner, India-based textile manufacturer Arvind. This week Fashion for Good set up a partnership with the Circular Apparel Innovation Factory, an initiative of the innovation platform Intellecap to offer support their local activities and expand their partner and innovator network.
Similar to the program that is run from Amsterdam, the new one in South Asia will feature a pitch day for “the most promising applications” and a jury of partners will select the winners, Ley said. Winners will then take part in what will be at least a three-month program and will be introduced to the various partners, manufacturers, brands and investors, as well as mentoring and coaching from Fashion for Good about the impact assessment, business plans, pitching and wherever else they may need help. The Dutch group will also be bolstering its base of partners and investors, she said.
Reached in Minneapolis Wednesday at the Circularity 19 conference, Ley said that event, which wraps up Thursday, is the largest one to date in North America and extends beyond the fashion industry. Amazon, REI, The Renewal Workshop, Nordstrom and other brands are represented. “Of course, it’s the hometown of Target, a partner of ours, is also here. There are many chemical and petrochemical players like Avery Dennison and Dow so it’s a good ecosystem to talk about topics that require the involvement of various parties. Waste management companies are here, too,” Ley said.