Is Eco-Fashion Making a Breakthrough?

Environmentally sustainable and socially responsible fashion is steadily making its way into the mainstream market. The exposure of designers that exclusively use sustainable practices to produce their collections is increasing, as well as the number of industry leaders participating in ways to develop the best practices and opportunities surrounding the manufacturing of sustainable consumer products.

There are a number of fashion events and conferences throughout the year that offer opportunities for both consumers and industry leaders to become more educated about the future of fashion. From Vancouver to Istanbul, the revolution of revitalizing the textile industry has become the next big thing in fashion.

Redress RaleighThe most recent showcase occurred this past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. For the past 5 years, Redress Raleigh has held an Eco-Fashion and Textiles Conference that includes lectures, panel discussion, hands-on workshops, an eco-fashion show, and a marketplace where items from the show can be purchased. With workshops in eco-friendly textile production and sourcing, an introduction to eco-friendly textiles, becoming an eco-conscious consumer, domestic manufacturing, and innovative business models in a transforming industry, this year’s conference offered something for everyone. The main focus of Redress Raleigh is to work with local green designers to increase their social impact and grow their market and to redefine the meaning of sustainable fashion. The past two fashion shows have sold out with 440 attendees and 12 featured designers in 2011, and 340 attendees and 10 featured designers in 2012. (Redress Raleigh) 

Eco Fashion Week (EFW) is a non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating the growth and development of sustainable practicesEcoFashion Week Vancouver in the fashion/textile industry. The organization is holding it’s 6th season this year, April 21st-24th at Robson Square in Vancouver, British Columbia. More than 2,000 global guests, buyers, designers, stylists, photographers and media attend this event twice a year. With seminars, industry panels, and a series of fashion shows this event is definitely a favorite for both consumers and industry leaders. The seminars aim to provide information about problems and challenges that the textile industry is facing in terms of social and environmental responsibility. This year’s seminar discussion topics include: Facing the Issues, Looking for Solutions, Designer Challenges and Solutions, Trends and Moving Towards the Future, and Rethinking Second Hand. During the fashion shows, a private, exclusive pop-up shop is set up where buyers, retailers, journalists and industry influencers can preview the collections first-hand while still being a part of the action taking place on the runway. Even though eco fashion is often featured at Fashion Week in places such as New York and Paris, the absolute dedication to sustainable fashion at this event is extraordinary. (Eco Fashion Week)

Though not in the spotlight of New York Fashion Week, this past season’s shows featured incredible collections by designers who thrive by upcycling fabrics (using other designer’s unused fabric from past seasons), using sustainable materials, and participating in fair trade. One example is Samantha Pleet whose A/W 2014 collection features lamb’s wool from a heritage mill in the United Kingdom and uses fabrics from a fair trade factory in India. The designer even recently paid a visit to the factory to meet the workers and make sure that everything was running smoothly. (Eco Fashion at New York Fashion Week 2013)

Green ShowsThe Green Shows is an event management company dedicated to the ethical and sustainable luxury fashion and lifestyle movement. Since its launch in April of 2009, the company has hosted over 30 fashion shows, two pop-up shops, and an “ethical extravaganza” at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2012. This extravaganza consisted of the presentation of 8 Ready To Wear designers and 9 accessories designers. The first show of its kind at MBFW, it brought ethical fashion to the luxury fashion industry. The Green Shows events have been covered by publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Marie Claire, Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times. The Green Shows continues to organize green fashion events around New York City while increasing awareness, recognizing that ethical and sustainable practices are the next big thing to directly effect consumers, and enabling the fashion industry to make a natural transition into this new market. (The Green Shows, Eco Fashion Week) 

While events like the ones mentioned are great for exposure for designers and transparency for consumers, it is going to take a Textile Sustainability Conferencehuge shift from the inner-workings of the fashion industry to make a major change. Therefore, some of the most important events are international conferences that are more business and supply chain oriented than anything else. This is where major players in the fashion game come to exchange ideas that eventually make there way into the market. Coming up later this year is the 2013 Textile Industry Sustainability conference being held in Istanbul, Turkey, November 11th-13th. Past participants of this conference include Espirit, Desigual, Nike, H&M, Inditex SA, The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (over 80 member companies), Patagonia, Nordstrom, Adidas, Marks and Spencer, and many others.

Source BrandThe Source Summit, run by the Ethical Fashion Forum based in London, is comprised of an annual events program with each segment focused on a particular aspect of the industry. January and February are “Brand Preview” months where sustainable brands are linked to buyers and press. During the month of April is when nominations are received for The Global Awards for Sustainable Fashion held in December, which showcase inspirational sustainable design and business practices. This June is the “Source Summit” conference, which brings together businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals from every part of the production process. The “Source Expo” takes place in October and showcases suppliers of sustainable fabrics, production services and connecting them with thousands of designers and brands all over the world. The Source Networks spreads over 127 countries and is in its seventh year. (The Ethical Fashion Forum)

Those these are just a few examples,  there are dozens of events like these that occur year-round all over the world. Eco-fashion appears to be making an impressive advancement into the traditional fashion industry.