There’s something to be said about how fashion is starting to air out old truths and rewrite the narratives with more sustainable outlooks.
With a surplus of stuff and sustainability claims cluttering the market — a wedge is still placed between clothing and its origins.
But sustainability is inherent for some communities.
“One of the main things that a lot of our designers do is they upcycle fabrics — denim, in particular. They are going to actual markets to find their fabrics. They’ll buy whatever the market has, and once it runs out — it runs out,” Amira Rasool, chief executive officer and founder of The Folklore, a designer platform focused on bridging access to African design talent, said in a session last week at the Fairchild Media Group Sustainability Forum.
Rasool continued to share the leading edge: “When you have people that come from different circumstances, it’s so great to see how they work. It’s something that I think designers outside of Africa should actually be looking at because Africa is the future. They’re moving and producing in the way that the rest of the world should be.”
Finding inspiration through her travels to West Africa, Rasool looks for brands that are creative, scalable (within reason) and offer “statement styles,” that stand to outshine a bride at a wedding.
This assortment of one-of-a-kind fashion is what attracted global e-commerce platform Farfetch to The Folklore, and led to the companies partnering last November, with The Folklore introducing more than 60 styles to Farfetch in limited quantities across women’s and men’s apparel, jewelry and bags. The partnership also bolstered Farfetch’s mission to increase representation of Black-owned brands and boutiques.
The Forum discussion was framed on tough truths in fashion, including issues like overproduction and inclusivity.
Pointing overproduction back to economics, Rasool said, “Capitalism is the reason why sustainability is going to have a hard time being introduced in certain sections of the market, particularly fast fashion,” noting how individuals should be able to take pride in the business they’re building. “You can build a big company that actually cares and is ethical and sustainable, and that’s my goal with The Folklore.”
To that point, Thomas Berry, global director of sustainable business at Farfetch, reaffirmed the business case. “[Companies] shouldn’t see sustainability and business success as two opposing lenses. There is a way you can drive real growth, reduce cost, reduce risk — all of the things you focus on as leaders in a business — but also by doing good.”
By Berry’s account, doing good also means doing more to help consumers understand what Farfetch calls conscious luxury.
Criteria for conscious products means that a product boasts independent textile certifications (organic, recycled, upcycled or low-impact cellulosic), has a certified production process, is pre-owned or earned a high score on ethical rating platform Good on You.
As for diversity and inclusion, Berry shared of Farfetch’s more holistic vision. “That’s part of our commitment to bring more Black-owned brands, Black designer brands onto the Farfetch platform. The other pillar of the Positively Farfetch strategy is to be positively inclusive and that’s both working internally on our own D&I initiatives but also now looking at the impact we can have on the industry,” he said.
Efforts, so far, are paying off.
Farfetch released its conscious luxury consumer trends report last week and showed how the category skyrocketed, selling 3.4-times faster than the marketplace average over the past year, with Mexico being a key growth market. In a celebration of circular fashion, Farfetch’s Second Life program grew 527 percent last year.
What comes after collaboration? Rasool said The Folklore was prompted to lean into technology further while Berry said it reinforces Farfetch’s stance on broadening access to incredible fashion everywhere.
However, Rasool still affirmed there is work yet to be done by the industry.
“When you look at D&I, and you continue to ignore certain parts of the world, you’re then ignoring that there are clear answers to your problem,” Rasool reiterated, saying “it’s going to take you leaving the boardroom or leaving what you’re used to to go and find that.”