Top Organizations & Start-Ups that are Building the Blueprints for the New Fashion Industry: Sustainable, Circular, Transparent and Ethical
It is time to acknowledge that the change we’re seeking in the industry is happening here and now.
We all have heard hundreds of times that the fashion industry needs a change and, frankly, I am tired of hearing it over and over again while I see that a lot is HAPPENING NOW that is spear-heading the change that we are seeking. We should stop talking about the need of change, and focus on the fact that there’s a whole new industry is brewing, thanks to the incredible organizations, start-ups, and consultancies I have carefully hand-picked for this article. You will see how many opportunities for you to get involved in a sustainable fashion without having to start your own brand. Now it is YOUR choice whether you decide to take part in this change or you prefer talking about the change and fulfill your ego’s desire in creating just another “sustainable” fashion brand without really understanding how much work and persistence it takes. As a consultant I work with fashion brands less and less these days, instead, focusing on 1:1 coaching for entrepreneurs as well as advice technology companies on filling the gaps in the industry that actually need to be filled for its circular and sustainable now. It is time to wake up and acknowledge that the “future” we’ve been talking about is already HERE and NOW. Check out the list of movers and shakers of the fashion industry below.
Initiatives, Coalitions, Summits, Research Programs & Campaigns
Organizations that bring different industry stakeholders together in order to achieve a common goal for improving the industry one way or another. They may involve multiple stakeholders or led by a single stakeholder. These often perform the role of a think tank or hands-on advisory to businesses and may develop best practice guidelines and typically publish very informative papers on the state of the industry for educational purposes. In some cases, they provide a specific service for a specific issue in the supply chain.
Global Fashion Agenda — High-profile assembly of industry leaders and influencers, organizers of the infamous Copenhagen Fashion Summit which has become the nexus for agenda-setting discussions on the most critical environmental, social and ethical issues facing our industry and planet.
Among the Summit and its satellite events, GFA also publishes the CEO Agenda, an annual guide to what every CEO in fashion needs to prioritize to future-proof their company, the annual Pulse of the Fashion Industry report provides an in-depth assessment of the fashion industry’s environmental and social performance as well as guidance on how brands can improve their sustainability performance.
Ellen McArthur Foundation — works with business, government and academia to build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design and publishes thought-leading insight into the opportunity of a circular economy. They provide circular economy information in the following 6 key areas.
Learning: Developing the vision, skills and mindsets needed to transition to a circular economy. Business: Catalysing circular innovation and creating the conditions for it to reach scale. Institutions, Governments and Cities: Creating the enabling conditions for a circular economy to thrive. Insight and Analysis: Providing robust evidence about the benefits and implications of the transition. Systemic Initiatives: Transforming key material flows to scale the circular economy globally. Communications: Engaging a global audience around the circular economy
Fashion For Good — Industry-funded innovation initiative and community platform. Good fashion is not fashion that simply looks good or is mostly good.
According to this organization, “good” is evaluated in five important ways:
Good Materials — safe, healthy and designed for reuse and recycling
Good Economy — growing, circular, shared and benefiting everyone
Good Energy — renewable and clean
Good Water — clean and available to all
Good Lives — living and working conditions that are just, safe and dignified
“The Five Goods represent an aspirational framework we can all use to work towards a world in which we do not simply take, make, waste, but rather take, make, renew, restore.” – William McDonough, Co-founder Fashion for Good
At the core of Fashion for Good is their Innovation Platform, where they focus on scaling technologies and business models that have the greatest potential to transform the industry. They provide support to innovators based on their business maturity through three key programmes: Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator, Scaling Programme and the (upcoming) Good Fashion Fund.
Alongside the Innovation Platform, they have a physical location in Amsterdam that houses the Fashion for Good Experience (an amazing library of resources for conscious consumption) and our Circular Apparel Community. They are also committed to openly share circular apparel best practices in our Good Fashion Guide and the Resource Library.
Sustainable Apparel Coalition — Multi-brand initiative working to establish industry-wide measurement tools. The SAC is transforming the apparel, footwear, and textile industry through standardized measurement. For the first time, factories around the world can use the Higg Facility Social & Labor Module to measure social impacts of the value chain. And with the Higg Facility Environmental Module they can assess environmental impacts.
One of the industry’s most regarded, the Higg Index is a suite of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes — at every stage in their sustainability journey — to accurately measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. The Higg Index delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the well-being of factory workers, local communities, and the environment.
STG Study Hall — the UN-backed sustainability-centric conference series started by Céline Semaan, focused on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is a cultural institution fostering conversations, debates, lectures and workshops around sustainability literacy in fashion and beyond. Powered by Slow Factory, a design lab working with companies to research and implement sustainability-focused initiatives, from waste recovery to software to manufacturing. Watch the video recording of Study Hall’s Sustainable Fashion Summit hosted in the UN.
New Standard Institute — one of the freshest organizations on the list, was founded by Maxine Bédat, a former founder of Zady, a sustainable fashion basics brand which initially had a successful financial backup from the same investors as Goop and only to close after 4 years of its operations.
Here’s an insight from Do We Really Need Any More Sustainable Fashion Brands article on Fashionista by Whitney Bauck, published on June 6th, 2019,: “It wasn’t that Bédat gave up on her dream of making the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable, and it wasn’t that the brand was struggling financially. It was just that Bédat had become convinced that if she wanted to facilitate real change, she should pursue it another way.”
“We can’t buy ourselves out of the problem,”…“A big part of the sustainability question is just how many garments are being produced, and having to slow that down. There will always be a natural tension for a fashion company between sales growth and addressing these issues.” — Maxine Bédat, founder of New Standard Institute
NSI, like many organizations listed above, is set to transform the global apparel industry into a force for good, by unifying and driving it to achieve critical, science-based environmental and social objectives. How? By providing research, fostering acceleration and creative activation of the customer demand for a more sustainable product.
The New Fashion Initiative — a US-based, non-profit 501c3 that seeks to raise awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry, through data-centered communications, educational programming and policy.
Remake —a nonprofit organization that is igniting a conscious consumer movement to turn fashion into a force for good. Their original documentary footages bring audience face to face with the women who make our clothes. They share facts and stories to help customers break up with fast fashion and provide seasonal curated collections to remake your closet with fashion that respects women and planet.
Mistra Future Fashion — a Swedish research program focusing on circular economy aiming at a future positive fashion industry, the program holds a unique system perspective operating cross-disciplinary in a consortium with over 60 partners.
Fashion Revolution — the organization that unites people from all around the world who make the fashion industry work: designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers, and fashion lovers. This organization believes in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure. They aim to unite people and organizations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way. They believe that collaborating across the whole value chain — from farmer to consumer — is the only way to transform the industry.
Fashion Revolution Week is their #whomademyclothes campaign in April each year, which falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013. That is the day Fashion Revolution was born. During this week, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.
Their sectors are: The Fashion Revolution Foundation — the charitable arm of Fashion Revolution in the UK, Fashion Revolution CIC — a non-profit social enterprise, and Fashion Revolution Country Offices + Fashion Revolution Country Coordinators.
Fashion Revolution provides robust resources to encourage the public and the industry professionals to unite and participate in the Revolution. Check out their Manifesto to get a full idea about the values they are promoting. Also, read their in-depth Fashion Transparency Index 2019.
My personal note to finalize this section: I feel the industry needs more integrated campaigns, or those organizations that are implementing political-type strategies to inspire companies or governments to address specific problems in the industry, usually implemented via targeted campaigns. For example, Fashion Revolution is the only one that is doing excellent work in creating a campaign movement that engages fashion brands across the industry as well as consumers.
Certifications and Standards
These establish transparent standards of practice within the supply chain which businesses can choose to comply and be verified by independent third-party auditors, provided by the certification agencies.
For example, Fairtrade — Standards designed to fight poverty and empower producers in the poorest countries in the world
For more info, read Fashionista’s Complete Beginner’s Guide to Ethical Fashion Certifications.
New York City Fair Trade Coalition —the most professionally laidback space for industry veterans and newbies to share knowledge within fair trade and sustainability. The community welcomes fashion brands that resonate with the real meaning behind the concept of fair trade — improving social and environmental standards in our world.
Common Objective — a community set to build a better fashion industry. At CO, the mission is to supporting fashion people to do better business. Better for people, better for profits and better for the planet. That’s the Common Objective — and they have created the platform to achieve it. CO is a match maker — with a mission that lets professionals input their details and have CO build an intelligent profile. In addition, CO matches professionals with suppliers, buyers, experts, and resources.
Sustainable Fashion Alliance — founded in 2016 to empower small and mid-sized apparel and accessories brands with resources, shared opportunities, strategy sessions and creative avenues to market. I’ve personally been on their meetings and the turnout and the special guests’ presentations and structured conversations were pretty impressive.
Selected Innovative Tools:
LUKSO — is the Blockchain for the New Creative Economies to bring innovation to the next level. LUKSO is an open blockchain ecosystem specifically created for the fashion and lifestyle industry, providing a decentralized innovation and trust infrastructure for fashion brands, start-ups, and customers. It offers the foundation for new forms of automated economic interactions and sustainable ownership management. The LUKSO architecture encourages its users to design and deploy an infinite number of innovative features for the modern fashion system: it opens up digital wardrobes and sharing economies, secures IP rights and authenticity, enables omnichannel communications and novel ways of funding collections. Application of their technology include digitalization of the fashion items (see the company The Fabricant, mentioned below), as well as provide support for the following important industry fields:
Authenticity, Digital Collectibles, Rental Services, Fashion-funder, Influencer Token Systems, Decentralized Markets, Digital Wallet — Digital Closet, The Future Of Customer Relationship, Gamification, IP Rights Management.
New Life.AI — a conscious community of creators and curators of physical and digital art, fashion, design, and architecture. The Next Big thing in social media, a more elevated version of Tic Toc, NOT an Instagram. Join us using my personal invite code nataliya to vote on what the New Life could LOOK LIKE. In building the new fashion industry it’s all about aesthetics and DIRECT MESSAGING these days.
Lablaco — a global platform committed to making fashion circular. They have revolutionized the average shopping experience to create the first social-commerce platform where customers can give away their pre-loved clothes, earn Lablacoin-discounts, shop designer fashion worldwide, and repeat…Their aim is to create a global community of consumers, brands, influencers and creatives who understand that when it comes to fashion, every decision matters from production to purchase up until disposal. The Lablaco impact — is set to empower individuals and businesses worldwide to do better for themselves and for the fashion industry. Disrupting the status quo by decentralizing the current linear fashion system and moving towards a circular economy.
Circular.Fashion — sustainable change agency creating product- and system innovation for a circular economy in fashion and textiles by developing a digital platform, consultancy and training. The Circular Design Software enables fashion brands to design circular and sustainable products in a lean and efficient process. From providing access to hundreds of circular materials, design guidelines and product briefings to the creation of a tech pack with a circularity check. Their platform featuring the following tools: Circular Materials, Circular Design Guidelines, Product Development, Circular Product Check, circularity.ID, The Customer Interface, Sorting software.
The circular.fashion team also offers workshops that encourage and enable fashion brands to incorporate circularity into the core of their business.
Continued.Fashion — a platform for circular fashion through which brands can facilitate take back and resell of products more than once. In a discontinuous world they let brands explore future business opportunities based on circular economy while executing existing business.
Arianee — a blockchain based, open source protocol building perpetual relationships between brands and owners. With the Arianee protocol, ownership is augmented and groundbreaking features are added to the most valuable items. The Arianee project is an independent, participative — organization whose mission is to build a global standard for the digital certification of valuable objects by promoting and supporting the adoption of the Arianee protocol.
TeeMill — lets you build your own online store and sell organic and recyclable t-shirts online. They print and ship worldwide and send the seller the profit. Every product produced by Teemill is designed to be sent back when it’s worn out or the customer no longer wants to wear it.
“By rewarding people for keeping the material flowing, we’re changing the way people think about their wardrobe. Rather than waste, they see assets and then some really interesting stuff starts to happen. Because our customer is also our supplier, everybody is rewarded for keeping the material flowing” — Mart Drake-Night, co-Founder of Teemill
Good On You — This mobile app provides ethical ratings for over 2,000 fashion brands based on their impact on people, the planet and animals.
“By choosing ethically you become the solution. Wear the change you want to see.” — Sandra, Gordon and the Good On You team.
The Good On You ethical brand rating system gives customers the power to make better choices as an informed shopper. They believe fashion brands have a responsibility and should be transparent about their impact.
Here are some interesting notes on how they rate brands:
“Good On You ethical brand ratings build on the great work done by certification schemes and other independent rating projects. The most reliable information about how a brand performs on an issue comes from certification schemes like Fair Trade, OEKO-TEX and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). However. only a small minority of brands offer certified products and so we need to look further at the standard systems brands may choose to follow and the other actions that they claim to take. We take into account information from more than 50 certifications schemes, standards systems and independent ratings or assessment method that are available for use by brands.
Where an issue is not fully covered by a standard system or rating, we consider the brand’s own public statements. We only put weight on those statements where they meet certain conditions that increase their reliability and usefulness. In particular, we look for statements that make relevant and specific claims which, if false, would breach misleading advertising laws.”
Sharecloth — a platform that helps fashion business to empower sustainability by using technology for on-demand fashion production. Their product BodyPass is a standalone m-commerce solution for apparel retail business, opening new doors for interactive shopping experience for end-customers. Another product they offer is the Editor, an tool to visualize flat digital patterns into the virtual 3D sample and make precise fitting on the digital body mannequin.
CALA — an all-in-one platform to build and manage a world-class fashion brand, providing: collaborative design tools, fabric libraries, technical design, pattern-making, sampling, small-batch manufacturing, packaging, warehousing, shipping, creative direction, brand strategy, financing.
CALA believes that the future is creator-driven, direct-to-consumer, quick-drop, small-batch and on-demand.
The Fabricant — the digital fashion house, where they claim to be uploading humans to the next level of existence. They are showing the world that clothing does not need to be physical to exist. Their work exists beyond the current concepts of catwalks, photographers, studios and sample sizes. I will talk about this in my future articles. This IS the future, except that it is present, thanks to the visionaries behind The Fabricant.
Consultancies (Tested and Trusted by the Author):
Balanced Fashion — Conscious fashion tech consultancy founded by myself, Nataliya Makulova. We help technology companies bridge the gap towards the industry’s real needs, advice brands on the fashion technologies that are currently available and how to integrate with them. Nataliya also coaches founders for developing conscious business practices, gives advice on building a passionate community, helps strategize and organize events, and writes in-depth articles such as this one, which act as a window into the true state of the sustainable and ethical fashion industry and currently available technology that is set to support the industry’s new wave.
A Transparent Company — founded by Neliana Fuenmayor, this consultancy specializes in transparency as the foundation of creating brand trust and customer loyalty. Their approach to sustainability is one that positions ethical and environmental impact on an equal footing with business success. They are giving voice to brand and product stories, shining a light on the supply chain and making the invisible VISIBLE.
Futuremade — Brand integrity and business innovation agency focused on optimizing value chains and reshaping business practices that positively impact and shape the future.
Luxor & Finch — founded by fit tech expert, Jessica Couch, specializes in fit technology integration. They help companies understand how fit is a competitive advantage and how to incorporate fit-based strategies and technologies into their businesses
SewEthico — specialize in robust business plans creation for ethical brands, and advice on actionable steps for sustaining the growth of a sustainable brand.
Agape Studios — a branding agency, focused on creating a holistic branding and storytelling for conscious brands, specializing in experience design, BTL advertisement, installations and concept design for photography and video, with a touch of astrology.
Get The People — a purpose-driven creative agency. They help conscious brands tell their story and scale through designing and building beautiful and effective websites.
This concludes this version of this article, however to me, this summary is by no means conclusive and full enough to grasp the scope of what can be done in our industry to create a better way of operating as ONE, strong force. In my future articles, I’m aiming to focus further on circular economy solutions, ethics & fair trade + local artisans communities preservation, the unavoidable future of mass manufacturing automation and the rise of the digital fashion. Stay tuned, sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram to keep up.