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Jun 14, 2021
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Consumers are demanding ethics and sustainability say industry's big names

Jun 14, 2021

The British Fashion Council’s inaugural (and virtual) Institute of Positive fashion Forum late last week made a big plea for more sustainable and inclusive behaviour from the industry at large and came up with both ideas to put that into action and warnings.

Virgil Abloh wes interviewed by June Sarpong

One point that emerged clearly from speakers coming from widely different vantage points in the fashion sector was that the consumer really wants to see change happening. 

“Sustainability is at the top of mind of young people,” said Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti. And they want to see authentic commitment. “There’s more than business, there’s more than clear goals. It’s about a designer brand’s role in the community. We need to rethink the ‘profit first’ mentality so that workers in the supply chain don’t have to choose between lives and livelihoods”.

And Off-White visionary Virgil Abloh gave a warning to those who think being ethical, sustainable, and diverse may seem like it’s going dent the bottom line. He stressed that ignoring the issues could cost more. “The risk is less engagement” that will hurt profits if brands aren’t “attuned to the people at large” and don’t reflect their interests, he said.

Meanwhile, Nick Molnar, the Australian billionaire who founded Afterpay (known for its Clearpay brand in the UK) said the firm’s shopping app is proving popular not only because it allows consumers to pay in instalments, but because it’s involved in promoting sustainable brands.

“We’ve got a powerful shopping app, where customers start their shopping journey with us,” he explained. “We have sustainability-led categories which is one of our most visited categories on our application. We play a role in promoting those responsible fashion brands that consumers love”.

But beyond doing things that are consumer-friendly, a number of speakers also highlighted how fashion firms have to change the way they work to allow truly diverse views to get an airing within their organisations.

Abloh best summed it up when he said that fashion needs to embrace the “new nepotism” to be truly inclusive and “hire diversely young people”.

“It’s not rocket science,” he insisted. Stressing how some companies can over-think things and make it all very complicated, he said: “A lot of people think of its as a Rubik’s cube, you know, we’ll do this and we’ll do that. My thing is -- in the next 24 hours, hire 10 young people that are from diverse backgrounds and put them in wherever. Let them be in meetings that have decisions on the next model that you’re gonna cast for the next campaign. Have them be in decisions about the moodboard for the next collection, about what marketing events should we do for the 2022 calendar. 

“All of a sudden you’ve killed two major birds with one stone. You have ‘other eyes’ looking at what you’re doing, but you’re also creating the new nepotism, a system where someone from a diverse background is a touchpoint for other people from those backgrounds”.

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