There are now not one, but two, letters penned with revisions for the “Fashion Act,” or S7428, a bill crisp on New York’s legislative circuit and fashion’s agenda.
With a vested interest from the global fashion industry, many are equally praising the effort while raising concerns about its omissions. The bill hopes to hold fashion’s multinational corporations (that do business in New York and have $100 million in global revenues) accountable by requiring partial supply chain mapping, emissions targets and due diligence reporting (for half of its supply chain) within an 18-month timeline.
What it lacks: the full supply chain including the reverse logistics, per the reuse sector, as well as a number of “disclosure” enforcements, according to the labor groups.
In a letter sent Jan. 14, a group of 20 labor and advocacy groups, including nonprofit Remake, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Fibershed, Fashion Revolution and others, addressed the need for joint-liability, penalties and remedy in enacting due diligence.
The letter pointed to France’s Duty of Vigilance Law, and Germany and Norway as “blueprints” for successful due diligence directive for binding accountability and remedy for grievances, in Remake founder Ayesha Barenblat’s words, and the California Transparency Act and the U.K.’s Modern Slavery Act as “failures” for lack of enforcement.
Many key points in the labor group letter — like the request for “30 percent upfront payment in orders” or the “final payment within 30 days of delivery” — are already in nightmarish demand for fashion as pandemic difficulties exacerbated existing lax payments — even right in the heart of New York’s Garment District, let alone for workers elsewhere.
For many New York-based manufacturers, the reality is having to chase down payments that are several months overdue which, at times, can make basic rent and bills become burdensome. One manufacturer — who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution — said they are owed more than $55,000 in overdue payments spanning months.
Meanwhile, the reuse sector has its own proposals to voice when it comes to the Fashion Act.
In a letter sent Wednesday, reuse advocates call for a waste or “circularity hierarchy” as defined by the World Resources Institute, extended producer responsibility for excess or returned inventory, product durability standards and reparations for the global textile recycling community where the majority of textile and clothing donations end up. This language is supposed to circumvent the bill’s current proposed allocation of funding to “New York’s environmental justice communities.”
The letter was drafted by Circular Services Group founder Rachel Kibbe, along with waste industry professionals Marisa Adler and Anna Sacks (who Gen Z may recognize as “The Trash Walker” on TikTok), Liz Ricketts and J. Branson Skinner, cofounders of The Or Foundation; and Caroline Priebe, founder of Center for the Advancement of Garment Making.
The group amassed support from CEOs and executives from Another Tomorrow, ThredUp, Trove, Thrilling, Treet, Recurate, Kept Sku, The Or Foundation, The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making, The National Stewardship Action Council, Wearable Collections, Returnity, Intersectional Environmentalist and The Renewal Workshop, among others.
“Before I read the bill, I saw the press and thought ‘this is fantastic.’ It’s the front end of the supply chain and touches some of the data and commitments we most lack. It’s strategically brilliant — state level with global implications,” Kibbe said. “Then I read the bill and realized there was one line about decoupling growth through textile recycling, but no mention of reuse. As someone who has worked on our global textile waste problem for many years, this raised concern. This could have big implications. Recycling is just one part of a multipronged approach to decoupling growth from virgin resource extraction. In environmental terms, decoupling growth from new production works according to a waste hierarchy, that’s outlined both by the EPA and WRI, and that hierarchy begins with reuse”
The extension of product life — where chipper alliterations remind us to “reduce, reuse, recycle” — is one tune fashion has been singing and for good reason: Excess returns are expected to amount to $760 billion, according to a report released this week by the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail.
Meanwhile, textile waste numbers represent 6 percent of U.S. landfills, per the Environmental Protection Agency, and that number is only expected to grow. According to the New York Department of Sanitation, New Yorkers throw out 200,000 tons of clothing and textiles every year, the majority of which goes to landfills or incineration.
Resale has outpaced retail amid and beyond the pandemic, according to many reports, and Kibbe believes the bill’s omission of reuse could have unintended consequences.
“The data is out that recycling is sort of back of the line in terms of [next best use],” she said. “Reuse can include, repair…resale, rental, and upcycling — anything that keeps new virgin resources from being extracted and limits carbon, chemical and water inputs. Additionally, in order to scale recycling, there are infrastructural and end-of-life considerations that need to be outlined, which we mention in the letter.” The letter addressed the need for investment in recycling infrastructure, especially in “developing economies most affected by our downstream textile waste.”
James Reinhart, CEO of ThredUp showed his support for the Fashion Act saying: “We believe it will inspire further collaboration and action across the industry. We hope this effort shines a light on the importance of responsible textile waste management and the role of resale and circularity in reducing the industry’s impact on our planet.”
Another resale player gaining ground with brand partnerships, Recurate, also offered support for the Act “to encourage the global fashion and apparel industry to operate more sustainably, create circular solutions at scale,” according to Recurate cofounder and CEO Adam Siegel.
As to criticisms on fashion’s practical ability to jointly convene on the best way forward (drawing to mind groups like the “Fashion Conveners,” and the like), Kibbe clarified the letter’s intent.
“[The] intention is to support the bill and also add to improve upon it through, at the very least, adding reuse into the bill,” she said. “We won’t stand up a perfect system tomorrow, far from it, but everything we are building toward together should be a better version of what we are doing now and the bones of the bill would be improved upon with this amendment.”