On the 20th of October, in partnership with the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, Circle Economy held the 2017 edition of their signature circular textiles event, Beyond Green, at HEMA’s beautiful headquarters in Amsterdam North.
Beyond Blah Blah: 5 Steps to Circularity took the 400 students and industry guests in the room on an inspirational – and educational – journey towards a circular fashion industry, with speakers as bold, creative, and international as Walt Disney’s Vanessa Belleau, Reformation’s Kathleen Talbot and Futerra’s Laura Hunter – among others. In the afternoon, CSR Managers and other senior executives met their match in a select few students, as they hacked together to solve company challenges in three-hour long workshops, guided by the 5 steps to circularity we have been sharing with our audience over the last few months.
Travis Rice, Project Leader at the Alliance for Responsible Denim, shared his key takeaways from the day:
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By Travis Rice
Inspirational, confrontational, emotional, and as keynote Vanessa Belleau from Walt Disney stated, magical, the road to circularity is not a simple one. We know this well. Yet, it is time for action and collaboration: there is power in numbers and power in knowledge to take on the challenge of circularity as a united front.
Savor below my key takeaways from BeyondBlahBlah’s eight keynote speakers:
HEMA | Eva Ronhaar, Head of Sustainability
An influential brand and a staple in The Netherlands, HEMA sees “sustainability [as] a priority, not an afterthought – as everything we do has influence.” With over 30,000 product assortments, this couldn’t be more true. To ensure a circular mindset, HEMA has established some ambitious goals in regards to sustainability and eagerly communicates their actions to consumers.
Walt Disney | Vanessa Belleau, Head of Fashion & Home Shopper Marketing
In stark contrast to the usual doom & gloom tales regarding the state of the world, Vanessa instead exuded of joie de vivre (joy of living). A true gem, Vanessa painted a whole new world of magic and disruption that had the audience rolling.
For Vanessa, it is “not about buying something, it’s about being something.” Thinking along the path of Now-New-Next, she outlined the need to deconstruct the current, be brave, and disrupt to ultimately make our dreams a reality. Although the path will leave you vulnerable to discouraging failures and defeats, take some advice from the Disney classic Mary Poppins, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—snap!—the job’s a game!” A game we’re here to win.
DICK MOBY | Robbert Wefers-Bettink, Co-Founder
Showing that there is a sunny side to plastic, Dick Moby co-founder Robbert led us on his company’s journey from initial idea to present day and beyond. As a constantly evolving entity, a brand morphs and adapts just like the people running it. For him, sustainability is not an additive, or an afterthought, but a key aspect of every stage, from concept, to design, all the way through to getting it to the customer. If you haven’t caught on yet, that is why it’s called circular, you have to think in 360 degrees.
REFORMATION | Kathleen Talbot, VP Operations & Sustainability
Reformation has come a long way in its short lifetime. From selling 1-of-a-kind tailored and customized vintage clothing in an L.A. storefront to a cultural eco-chic influencer of our times. Un-phased by the fame, their growth spurt only aided them in their circular mission. “Fighting for the product is key,” Kathleen emphasized, for “every piece counts.” Echoed in their buy lean mentality, “we see every style as a test.” Simply put, less production = less waste.
Continually seeking to improve their already top-quality standards, Reformation is launching their own 100 percent recycled denim line. “The first 46-piece collection will offer sustainable denim, made either with 100 percent recycled materials, deadstock fabrics or sustainably sourced fibers. Ref’s production techniques eliminate the usual toxic dyes and water waste that denim is known for — saving 1,460 gallons of water for each pair.”
LENA| Suzanne Smulders, Co-Founder
As one enthusiastic audience member stated in reference to LENA the fashion library, “We buy too much AND why buy, when you can borrow?” We couldn’t agree more. We need to focus on access over ownership. When one-third of a Dutch person’s wardrobe consists of 50 unworn items, it raises the question, what are we buying for anyways?
FUTERRA | Laura Hunter, Head of Copy
“To change the world, first imagine a better one.” – Futerra
Taken from Futerra’s homepage, the above quote captures their refreshingly optimistic approach to consulting brands. “People are who they are, not who you want them to be,” Laura commented in reference to the usual narratives spun to convince & guilt-trip consumers to become more sustainable. “Be brave, creative and remember to have fun, because hope beats fear.” In need of a little hope? Watch 140 Seconds of Optimism video by Climate Optimist.
A TRANSPARENT COMPANY | Neliana Fuenmayor, Founder
“What do YOU care about?” Neliana’s question hit home in a room of brand representatives. Who is deciding the limits of your sustainability as a person or as a brand? If we care about something, why are we not acting? Winner of the Kering Award, Neliana is a huge endorser of blockchain. In an industry plagued with hazy supply chains, the path forward requires an industry wide adoption to ensure quality assurance at every level-from farm to factories to final purchases and beyond.
Time to shape up and act like the world is watching, because soon they will be.
CIRCLE ECONOMY | Gwen Cunningham, Circle Textiles Programme Lead
“All is well, yet all is hell.” – Gwen Cunningham
#youdoyou is perhaps an innocent hashtag to most, but for Gwen, this hashtag epitomises the complacency and narcissism plaguing the industry. For far too long, we as people allow, excuse and therefore condone the actions of others simply because “it’s in their nature”. No more! We no longer have the time nor the luxury to sit back and give others a pass because, you know, “to each their own”. Time to go back to the drawing board as a collective and reconfigure. As creatures of contact, let us insure that our impact is for the betterment of us all, and completely eliminate the #youdoyou mentality.
In closing, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live…” wrote author Joan Didion. These imagined realities manifest themselves into cultural norms and practices that are dead set on sticking around for the long run. The circular textiles arena is, as we speak, writing its very own story, creating our very own reality. A reality full of hidden surprises, hurdles and roadblocks, BUT is just as equally a reality of discovery, magic and endless possibilities. It’s time to go #beyondblahblah.
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We will be publishing the keynote speeches, as well as more in-depth insights from the afternoon workshops in the next few weeks. Sign up for updates on Beyond Green to get them straight in your inbox.
You can find out more about the Alliance for Responsible Denim at www.denimalliance.org