FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The convergence of sustainability, design and technology provided plenty of cerebral sustenance for an array of guests from the fashion, political, environmental and entertainment industries at the Ace Hotel on Thursday night. Sitting on the theater stage at long tables that resembled school desks with bare wood tops and notes and pencils arranged next to the plate settings, Apolis’ Raan Parton, Museum of Contemporary Art’s Emma Reeves, Good Magazine’s Casey Caplowe, Skingraft’s Jonny Cota, Dosa’s Christina Kim, Designers & Agents’ Barbara Kramer, designer Clare Vivier and film producer Cash Warren imbibed the ideas that speakers from Textile Exchange, Reformation, the L.A. Mayor’s office and Xplore gave between nibbles of kale salad, steak, braised cod and a chocolate berry trifle.
Matt Petersen, chief sustainability officer for the city of Los Angeles, saw the 50-person crowd not only as business executives to change the way things are done in the city but also as thought leaders to raise awareness, especially as L.A. initiates anti-drought measures.
“The apparel industry is a huge part of our economy. It’s not what it used to be but we really want it to thrive,” he said.
For the fashion executives, sustainability is a multifaceted issue.
Yael Aflalo, founder and chief executive officer of Reformation, said she found inspiration from Calvin Klein for marketing her eco-friendly clothes but turned to Whole Foods and Tesla Motors for solving the quandary in choosing between buying what is sustainable or the best. “I’m going to do both,” she said
Susan Kellogg, president of contemporary brands at VF Corp., said all her brands are pursuing measures promoting sustainability because it’s the right thing to do. For instance, one of the laundries employed by Seven For All Mankind to wash jeans uses cold, instead of hot, water. Still, she noted, “We’re not hanging our hat on it. It’s not our brand DNA. Our brand DNA is sexy and feminine.”
Sustainability is also seen through a different perspective at Gap Inc., where a normal order can total a million units. “We’re constantly looking for ways to be sustainable on a mass scale,” said Rebekka Bay, Gap’s creative director. “We can’t change our business overnight.”
It certainly helped to be in the right company at the Ace, which joined efforts with Karen Harvey’s Fashion Tech Forum, 6Up and host Duke Stump, the former chief marketing officer for Seventh Generation. Jessica Alba said she’d been having challenges finding sustainable materials for Honest Company, the baby and home line she co-founded, as it expanded into soft goods. To her pleasant surprise, she was seated across the table from Jeff Wilson, director of business value strategy and development at Textile Exchange, who proved to be a font of information. “We’re the heartbeat of the Millennial generation,” she said. “What do Millennials want? They want to live healthy, more sustainable lives.”
At the end of the day, sustainability shouldn’t be that hard, according to David de Rothschild, founder of Xplore, who is working on an outerwear line called The Last Explorer. It also should be fun and creative, if the brainstorming session he conducted in jest with Rebekka Bay for Gap’s next ad campaign served as any indication (hint: it involves Kevin Costner in a boat on a lawn). “It’s just common sense,” he said. “There is a list of problems but the list of solutions is far greater.”