On Thursday 10th June, the British Fashion Council (BFC) hosted its inaugural Institute of Positive Fashion Forum (IPF Forum) to bring together leading voices from the fashion industry and beyond to unpack key issues facing the fashion industry ahead of COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted in Glasgow in November.
The day-long event featured 51 speakers coming together from all around the world to focus on catalysts for Positive Change through inspirational talks and practical action-led discussions. Speaker highlights included HRH the Prince of Wales, Alok Sharma (COP26), Virgil Abloh (Off-White & Louis Vuitton Mens), June Sarpong (BBC), Ovais Sarmad (UNFCCC), Marco Gobbetti (Burberry), Stella McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas (BFC Ambassador), Emmanuel Gintzburger (Alexander McQueen), Marie-Claire Daveu (Kering), Cyrill Gutsch (Parley for the Oceans), Nicolaj Reffstrup (GANNI), Bandana Tewari, Ayesha Barenblat (REMAKE), Baroness Lola Young, Kalpona Aktar (Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity) and many more. The IPF Forum encouraged participants to take action by signing up and adopting the recommendation of its Action Partners including Race to Zero, Terra Carta, Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, Fashion Pact, Sustainable Development Goals. Over 80 commitments have already been made.
The BFC recently joined the Race to Zero campaign, pledging to take immediate action to halve its greenhouse gas emissions before 2030; achieve net zero emissions before 2050 and disclose progress on a yearly basis. The organisation is now calling on all brands to set targets and milestones that will drive serious change and to commit to the Race to Zero.
Tickets for the IPF Forum are still available to purchase here to watch the content on demand at a reduced price of £50.
KEY THEMES OF THE DAY
- The Business Case for Change
HRH The Prince of Wales outlined in the first keynote talk, ‘A Decade of Change and Climate Action’, that the fashion industry has a huge opportunity to influence and inspire. The industry cannot underestimate its capacity to seriously move the dial on how business is done. This was reiterated by Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Ovais Sarmad, UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary.
Throughout the day speakers addressed the importance of taking responsibility and ensuring transparency throughout the supply chain. From humanitarian to environmental reasons, this was presented as an essential move for businesses. Marco Gobbetti, CEO, Burberry stated “There is more than business, there is more than clear goals, it is about a designer brand’s role in the community – sustainability is at the top of the minds of young people.”
In a discussion on ‘Social Justice: Eliminating Exploitation in The Supply Chain’, brands were encouraged to rethink the profit-first mentality and seriously examine their own supply chains so that workers in the supply chain do not have to choose between lives and livelihoods. In the same talk, Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey declared “The business model is constructed around the aim of profit, not constructed around the aim of equity and equality. If you accept that that is the case, then you’re not going to make that much progress.”
Speakers discussed the industry’s role as custodians of the Earth and highlighted how responsibility lies on businesses to test and update standard practice to ensure focus remains on the triple bottom line, considering people, planet and profit. This was presented as an essential move to futureproof any business, as Virgil Abloh, Founder & Creative Director, Off-White & Artistic Director, Louis Vuitton Men’s highlighted: “I would say you will find more loyalty and better success if the brands are in tune with the people at large.”
- Responsible Consumerism is the future
Speakers throughout the day continued to highlight the importance of consumers consciously considering their purchases. Evidence of an optimism from consumers was presented in ‘Evolving Retail: Shifting to Responsible Consumer Behaviours’, a discussion panel led by Clearpay. There is a predicted bounce-back of retail, hospitality and entertainment as consumers are beginning to adopt new payment models and have more disposable income post-pandemic.
In eBay UK‘s discussion ‘The Secondary Market Opportunity’, the panel highlighted how conscious shopping is on the rise amongst consumers. Buying second-hand, renting fashion and tailoring items you already have are all quickly becoming more common ways to shop, particularly amongst younger generations who are mindful about how their purchases may affect the planet. The panel also discussed how recent celebrities appearing in second-hand or rented fashion caused an increase in pre-loved and rented purchases.
The conversation between BFC Ambassador for Positive Change, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Image Architect, Law Roach similarly celebrated the joy of vintage, from the items’ heritage to the extended life of products.
- Innovation is key
This was a pivotal theme throughout the day as innovation, creativity, disruptors and digital advances were all presented. These included incredible technological innovation to assist with streamlining processes, the science in material innovation and ground-breaking work done with suppliers to challenge the norm and push boundaries.
Emmanuel Gintzburger, CEO, Alexander McQueen spoke with Imran Amed, CEO, Business of Fashion about the brand’s transformation strategy, highlighting how creatives by their nature are innovators.
Stella McCartney closed the day by expressing how innovation has been her life’s work and clearly demonstrating how she continues to raise the bar. She evidenced how designers can embrace the restraints of working consciously by using new fabrics, exploring new innovations and working closely with suppliers.
With innovation came digitisation, presented as an unstoppable force. The next generation’s buying power will require a seamless industry with technology at its core. In ‘Future of Fashion: Innovation for Climate Action’, a discussion led by Nuvei, incredible new technological opportunities were presented that can quickly become commonplace, from non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to biological materials. The fashion industry has the capacity to employ these innovations to reach the standards that its consumer-base has begun to expect of and demand from it.
The topic of biodiversity was interrogated in ‘Fashion and Nature: How Biodiversity Is Moving Up The Corporate Agenda’. While it is a complex topic, there are already several scientific frameworks in place that can be adopted to help businesses; starting with addressing upstream, design and materials and ensuring this is perfected from the start.
The Future of Fashion Innovation Showcase in partnership with Accenture presented 19 disruptive and transdisciplinary innovators who are changing the business paradigm to support climate action and the goals of COP26. Focused on UK innovation across each step of the fashion value chain, the innovators span across sourcing, transparency & traceability, retail, production, design, consumption and packaging & distribution. Innovators featured were Alchemie, Away to Mars, Biophilica, Bundle Packaging, Colorifix, Compare Ethics, Fibershed Southwest England, Materra, MonoChain, NotPLA, Post Carbon Lab, Reflaunt, ReGAIN, Reskinned, Sheep Inc, Sozie, The Dematerialised, Unmade. The project was curated by the British Fashion Council, Accenture and Fashion For Good.
- The Importance of Collaboration
Each talk mentioned the importance of collective action and collaboration. The most predominant message that came through on the day is the everyone is in this together. It is imperative that fashion businesses recognise their position of leadership and take their staff, consumers, and partners throughout the supply chain on the journey with them and begin to share information, challenges and successes to create equity across the industry. Speakers discussed the importance of a stream of continual education and positive messaging to ensure all members of the industry are on board, feel inspired and are willing to continue to strive to do better.
- Act Now
The final key take-away from the day was the urgency of the issues at hand and the immediacy with which the industry and governments must act. Virgil Abloh in his discussion with June Sarpong, Chief Diversity Officer, BBC, called for businesses to hire diversely and young, and to do so imminently. He advised that organisations hire 10 young people from diverse backgrounds within the next 24 hours. This proactive approach would, he believed, kill two major birds with one stone. It would both provide a new perspective and analysis and also create a new nepotism, a system where someone from a diverse background is the figurehead for others from diverse backgrounds.
Marco Gobbetti laid out Burberry’s commitments to acting now with the goal of being Carbon Negative by 2040.
The BFC continues its collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) to further engage the fashion industry in the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The IPF Forum aligned with SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
The generosity and commitment of our partners is more vital than ever. Please help us by acknowledging their support for the IPF Forum. Official Partners: Accenture, Clearpay, eBay UK, Nuvei and Squarespace. With thanks to the IPF Founding Partners: DHL and Vanish.