As we celebrate the one year anniversary of THE ICONIC’s Considered edit – our curated selection of more sustainable products – we’re reminded that although we’ve come a long way, our journey doesn’t stop here. To understand what we can do better, we reached out to an ambitious pioneer in sustainable fashion, Eva Kruse, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), for some insight into how we, as a company and as individuals, have the power to be a force for positive change. An unstoppable voice – watch Eva’s TEDx Talk on “Changing the world through fashion” – she was awarded the Human Rights Prize of the French embassy in 2017, and strives to drive awareness and action on sustainability with the aim to safeguard the future of our planet.
Eva Kruse, President and CEO, Global Fashion Agenda
What would you list as the top 3 to-do’s for consumers when it comes to making a difference?
“I believe in the power of people, of us as individuals, we all have the capacity to make an impact, even by making small changes we can make a difference.
There are three simple ways for consumers to make a difference: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
We all have to buy less, maybe not in trying times like this, where we all need to contribute to the recovery of the world economy, but the general picture is that we’re buying 60% more than 15 years ago – and we use it less than half the time.
We need to use what we buy more frequently or find a way to extend the shelf life of our purchases by lending it to someone else or selling or giving away what we no longer use or need. Buying used clothes is also a great solution for many people—as it offers them a chance to find something special without the hefty price tag.
Lastly, garments and textiles that cannot be worn or resold should be recycled and thereby go into an up-or-down cycling loop. By doing this, I think this will train consumers to consider how certain products are produced, where they originate and whether they are sustainable.”
What role does the fashion industry play in a more sustainable society?
“The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest industries and a powerful engine for growth and development. It is also one of the most powerful industries in the world due to its communication abilities. It has incredible reach and influence that spans generations and geography. It has the ability to mobilise us just as much as it excites us. This kind of marketing power cannot be underestimated. Fashion has the ability to push the sustainability agenda, as well as bring people together across sectors and companies around the goal of creating a sustainable society.
Furthermore, innovation and creativity are the backbone of the fashion industry — an industry that is composed of highly ambitious talented individuals. This puts the industry at a unique advantage — one where it has the capacity to invent and spearhead sustainable solutions and by doing so, be a role model for others. As I have said before, if we can change fashion, we can change everything. I still believe this.”
What are the 3 biggest changes you predict for the fashion industry?
“The biggest change for fashion right now is for us to create resilient business models that are agile and adaptable to an ever-changing environment. The coronavirus is just the first of many global crises that we’re going to experience in the coming years. Therefore, businesses that are innovative and adaptable as well as understand how to work within planetary boundaries will lead the way for others.
The last two changes will involve a complete overhaul of how we consume fashion. This will force us to take a sharp look at what comprises our profits while testing new solutions towards changing the system under which the fashion industry operates – from the collection structures to deliveries to marketing.”
What gives you hope?
“If you look at the fashion industry’s journey over the past ten years it has not moved fast enough – it has taken us (the fashion industry) so long to begin working on what’s needed to sustain the industry’s business model and rectify its dependence on scarce resources, address social injustices, while also taking into account that there is a climate crisis facing our planet – but the flip side is that in the last couple of years it has gained momentum with more businesses beginning to make significant changes towards operating more sustainably. My only concern is whether this pace will lessen due to the global health and economic crisis facing us at the moment.”
What’s the number one change you want to see fashion brands and retailers make?
“I think one of the most challenging topics of our time is how we are going to continue to grow profitability without growing production volumes. We need to look at what the value proposition for the customers is going to be. Are brands going to sell experiences more than just pushing products or are they selling the same products more than once?”
What would be the impact of this?
“We need bigger systemic changes to happen both for brands and retailers, which will require several different players, such as policymakers and political leaders, to become more involved. We need to create a system that rewards sustainable behaviour and we can’t do that without those who work in policy and upper echelons of government. 40% of the fashion market has not even begun the journey to become sustainable and well, that is scary.
I think this kind of rewards system could encourage other 40% to re-evaluate their current business models and work towards implementing sustainable practices and solutions. Furthermore, if the broader public begins to see how an industry that is often viewed as excessive and wasteful can change to become a source for good when it comes to our planet, then I think we can serve as an inspiration for other industries to make necessary changes.”
Find out more about THE ICONIC’s sustainability initiatives and targets in our Annual Report.
Yes, We’re Still Asking, ‘Who Made My Clothes?’
We check in with our Senior Sustainability Manager.