Industry trade organizations want to send a signal to Washington.
On Monday, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Accessories Council, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Responsible Business Coalition revealed the Threads Sustainability and Social Responsibility Protocol. Together, thousands of fashion brands and organizations are represented by the groups.
Threads is designed to assist policymakers developing “practical, workable and effective regulatory proposals,” per its mission statement. The principles include “T” for transparently developed and enforced, “H” for harmonization across jurisdictions and industries, “R” for realistic timelines, “E” for enforceable, “A” for adjustable, “D” for designed for success and “S” for science-based.
News of Threads follows a growing number of regulatory attempts from “fashion czar” to “Fashion Act” to the “Fabric Act,” many of which rose to the fore without consultation or advice from the AAFA or CFDA, as the organizations claimed.
Chelsea Murtha, director of sustainability at the AAFA, told WWD that Threads is meant as a “rubric” for policymaking and that work on it began, in earnest, in March 2022.
“Threads is a framework for discussion about legislation. It’s meant to facilitate collaboration and it’s us putting our stakes out there and saying, ‘These are the things that we care about or this is how we are going to evaluate policy.’ The [Threads] principles are derived from our conversations around policy where we’ve had concerns — and fundamentally, these are the concerns that we’ve identified,” she said. “This is supposed to both make it clear to our membership and set the framework for discussions within our membership about how we are responding to certain pieces of legislation, but hopefully it also makes it clear to stakeholders why specific pieces of legislation we don’t think work.”
There are a number of pieces of legislation that the organization has put money behind. In 2022, the AAFA put up more than $725,000 into lobbying efforts. This include lobbying against legislation like the Fabric Act, and for legislation such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act, Shop Safe Act of 2021 and Inform Consumers Act, among others, per D.C.-based nonprofit OpenSecrets.
A broader timeline for Threads engagement with regulators was not stated, but key issues like PFAs are on watch by the AAFA.
Many academics, too, are watchful and concerned over the state of sustainability in fashion. While Michelle Gabriel, director of career services and strategic partnerships graduate program director for Sustainable Fashion at Glasgow Caledonian New York College, agreed with the “enforceable” and “science-based” components of Threads, she was critical of the rest.
Gabriel claimed Threads is a “performative” gesture meant to “muddy the already chaotic waters of the fashion legislative conversation.” “It is meant to signal to the industry and the greater public that they are supportive of arguably urgently necessary environmental and social legislation but only if it fits these seemingly reasonable guidelines, while behind the scenes actively [do] the destructive work of using their considerable funds for lobbying efforts against legislation.”
Though she regards policy hurdles as not unique to fashion, she does question the “credibility,” in her words, of trade groups amid deepening regulatory discussions.
“The bills out there today across the European Union and U.S. are aiming to shift systems behaviors. The fashion system hurts people and is destroying the planet,” Gabriel contended. “Do I think every bill will achieve that lofty aim? No, but do I think many are necessary and integral first steps to a more dynamic, and multifaceted regulatory ecosystem — yes.”