As sustainability within the fashion industry becomes an increasingly mainstream topic of conversation and consideration among brands, the media and consumers, it’s easy to forget that behind the scenes of the movement, advocate groups have been calling for greater awareness and action for many years.
The topic can often feel like an overwhelming issue to tackle — particularly in the fashion industry — which is known to be the biggest polluter in the world after oil. Thankfully, organisations around the world are finding solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges: water pollution, recycling, overproduction and resource scarcity, redefining sustainable fashion’s public image in the process.
Below, ORDRE highlights the five leading sustainability organisations to know, and the ways in which they’re paving the way for a more ethical fashion industry.
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
The San Francisco-based Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) came about through an unlikely partnership between chain retailer Walmart and outdoor clothing label Patagonia, in 2010. The coalition is now made up of over 220 institutions across the industry, including retailers, suppliers, trade associations, nonprofits and brands.
Key to the group’s success is the Higg Index, a “standardised supply chain measurement suite of tools” used to evaluate the whole industry on a unified set of standards. Working with the likes of Kering, LVMH, the CFDA and Nordstrom, the SAC collaborates with industry leaders to “address inefficiencies, resolving damaging practices, and working to achieve the environmental and social transparency consumers are demanding.”
Founded by Livia Firth, Eco-Age is a sustainability and communications consultancy based in London, which specialises in high fashion. Creating campaigns and programmes that encourage both industry members and consumers to engage with sustainable fashion brands, Eco-Age works with luxury brands and retailers, such as MatchesFashion, Stella McCartney, Kering and Net-a-Porter.
The Green Carpet Challenge, a key initiative of Eco-Age, has propelled ethical fashion into the global spotlight by partnering brands with celebrities for high-profile, media saturated events like the Met Gala and Cannes Film Festival. In addition, The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, launched this year, brings together 52 Commonwealth countries to celebrate the importance of artisanal design and encourage trade between nations.
Launched in response to the Rana Plaza factory tragedy in 2013, Fashion Revolution has become a global NGO made up of “designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers and fashion lovers,” who are working to ensure transparency along the supply chains of fashion brands.
Each year in April, the group hosts Fashion Revolution Week and the #whomademyclothes campaign, which uses social media to petition fashion brands into providing supply chain information to consumers. Around the world, fashion shows, discussions and rallies are held in this week to commemorate the 1138 victims and empower consumers to consider their consumption habits and demand transparency from their favourite labels.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The circular economy is the focus of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, founded by the eponymous sustainability advocate and one-time solo sailor in 2010. Advocating for regenerative and restorative design, the circular economy requires systematic innovation to reduce waste in the fashion industry.
The foundation works with businesses and governments, creates educational material and analysis, and has launched initiatives like Make Fashion Circular — which works with industry leaders like Burberry and Stella McCartney — as well as fast fashion brands like Gap and H&M. “We need a circular economy for fashion in which clothes are kept at their highest value and designed from the outset to never end up as waste,” explains MacArthur.
Based in Hong Kong, Redress works with designers, manufacturers, educators, governments and consumers in Asia to reduce textile waste in the region. Founded in 2007 by Christina Dean, to date the company has collected over 23 tonnes of unwanted clothing in Hong Kong, launched a design award, released a book (“Dress [With] Sense”), hosted pop-up shops, and collaborated with designers.
The Redress Design Award, now in its 8th year, has become a global platform for young design talent to find commercially viable models for sustainable fashion — this year it received applications from 56 countries. “By going global, we can educate and then gather the brightest design minds from around the world and harness their creativity to create a global shift in the way we design, produce, consume and ultimately dispose of our clothes,” Dean told ORDRE earlier this year.