GFW – Panel discussion

To mark the occasion of the Graduate Fashion Week’s Dame Vivienne Westwood Sustainable and Ethical Award sponsored, by Lenzing Group, the Sustainable Angle who supported the award, organised a panel discussion ‘Designing for Sustainability in fashion’.

Nina Marenzi, founder and director of The Sustainable Angle, gave an introduction about the organisation and how the sustainable materials sourced by TSA inspire and show a future where we can manage resources wisely and cost effectively, and recognise sustainability as a positive game changer. Fair and responsible labour practices need to be an integral part of the operations of all businesses.

Chaired by The Sustainable Angle’s Amanda Johnston, the panel included key leaders of the fashion and textile industry:

  • Johannes Kraeter from Vivienne Westwood, product development, talking about the key challenges in his role.
  • Oya Barlas Bingul from the Lenzing Group, talking about their award-winning low-impact cellulose fibres like Tencel and Refibra™.
  • Henry Palmer from Bysshe who shared insights of the production of organic cotton and hemp fabrics.
  • Tamsin Lejeune, founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum, touched upon some of their projects promoting change.

The discussion centred around examples of more sustainable and responsible materials for fashion both man-made and natural fibres which have a lower environmental impact, highlighting the variety of choices available and the necessity to move away from conventional, unsustainable polyester and cotton currently dominating the market.

The Lenzing Group highlighted their closed loop production process and key benefits of their different fibres such as Tencel and  Refibra™.

Oya Barlas Bingul explained how Lenzing group fibres to be more sustainable at every step in every season. She insisted upon transparency, certifications and traceability being key, all met for fibres such as Refibra™ branded lyocell fibres from cotton scraps and wood is produced in an eco-friendly closed loop production process of 99.7% and its use of bioenergy. Lenzing is thereby the first manufacturer to offer cellulose fibres featuring recycled material on a commercial-scale. This process is reducing the need to extract raw materials from nature, lowering the impact on natural resources and initiating an important step towards the circular economy for textiles.

Bysshe, a mill specialising in the use of natural fibres emphasised that to ensure a fabric range that protects the environment and supports non-exploitative textile production, sustainability, informed decision-making and regional autonomy are crucial in the long run.

Henry Palmer also talked about the different dying options available and about possibly using synthetic dyes if they are produced with a lower environmental impact.

The panel also discussed some of the challenges to make the change happen, as more and more people seem to desire. Tamsin Lejeune talked about how SOURCE giving the industry an easy platform to facilitate research and industry collaboration, ensuring that best-practice enterprises are benefitting by being featured on the top of every search.

A real insight in the challenges designer brands face came from Johannes Kraeter who talked about the product development process of the multiple lines of Vivienne Westwood, highlighting besides others that sustainability goes ways beyond choosing the right fibres or production processes, but is also about the quality and longevity of garments implying the huge environmental impact that comes from today’s throw away culture of clothing.

After these insights a Q & A followed which led to an engaged discussion of not only how to make the right fibre choices, but most importantly of how to think creatively and how sustainability should be recognised as a game changer and an opportunity, not a burden, for businesses as well as society overall.

 

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