NEW YORK — H&M held its “Planet Positive Perspectives” program Thursday at Glasshouse Chelsea presenting the latest innovations and topical advice from fashion sustainability experts.
“Planet Positive” is H&M Foundation’s long-term program focused on funding and fostering collaborative innovation in the fashion industry. Its core project is The Global Change Award, which was launched in 2015 by partners H&M Foundation, Accenture, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the Mills Fabrica. Each year, the foundation grants 1 million euros to early-stage innovators.
At the event, which was the first edition held in the U.S., programming centered on ESG investment topics as fashion seeks scaled solutions to its mounting textile waste and emissions. Among the speakers were senior executives from consultancy Accenture, pre-seed and early-stage investors such as Closed Loop Partners, Alante Capital and Unreasonable Group, nonprofit Apparel Impact Institute and value chain innovators and past Global Change Awards Winners like EON (digital identity solutions) and Unspun (denim fit technology), joined by Turkish denim-maker ISKO.
In a short keynote speech, Cara Smyth, founder of the 275 brand-strong Responsible Business Coalition, chair of Fashion Makes Change and head of Accenture’s Responsible Retail data-driven ESG practice walked the audience through a metaphor that categorizes fashion’s current issues and solutions “into the box,” in her words. Circularity, dynamic planning (test-and-learn or fast fashion), social impact and philanthropy were all examples of “boxes,” or groupings.
“Let’s look at the pilots that have been done. How do we scale those things? Let’s look at the gaps and welcome the innovators that are in the room, and others, and say: ‘How are they going to help us close those gaps?’ How will we exchange, map out and move into the season of scale?” she probed. “[This] is very different from what’s happened over the last 10 years, which has been the foundation for figuring out what we have to do and where are those [emissions] impacts….We all have an ability to say where’s my opportunity to get into a box. What’s my piece in the puzzle?”
After the sessions, the six members of the latest cohort of Global Change Award winners pitched their innovations to the crowd of industry and investors.
Everything from laundry solutions to bio-based down alternatives were put on display. The full list of Global Change Awards winners this year included: Rubi (viscose and lyocell made from carbon emissions), Biorestore (laundry solution that restores old and worn garments to mint condition), BioPuff (bio-alternative to goose down), CottonAce (artificial intelligence solution that improves growing practices for farmers), RE:lastane (first recyclable elastane and polyester blend fabrics) and Zer Collection (reusable 3D-printed garments). The winners closed the day with a five-minute timed lightning round of product pitches — advantageous to securing new brand partners or funding in the room — with informal networking afterwards.
CottonAce, one promising social innovation, is already working with India’s ministry of agriculture helping thousands of Indian cotton farmers fine-tune their harvests with the free AI-powered app. Meanwhile, Rubi — a carbon-capture textile firm founded by twin-scientist sisters — is looking to hit consumer hands next year with $4.5 million in funding from pre-seed alone.
As for whether the innovation day can expect to see a repeat performance, an H&M Foundation spokesperson said the event is likely to see additional editions in New York.