May 3, 2016

Beyond Green 2016: The Pace of the Industry

Beyond Green is an annual symposium on the future of fashion, organised by Circle Economy and the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. It uses the collective power of students and industry players to tackle critical issues throughout the fashion system; allowing for new and established minds to come together and push the boundaries of what we know, and realize what we dare to imagine.

'Many companies want to take the next step in sustainability, but are not sure how to go about it. Beyond Green is a very necessary model that not only inspires industry to take action, but demonstrates what that action could look like through real business examples, and interactive workshops with students. The event got my adrenaline pumping and opened my eyes to new possibilities for my company'.

- Kirsten Zwart, Queen of Sourcing, Kings of Indigo

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Photo credit throughout: Nina Albada Jelgersma

Inspiration

This first edition, held on the 13th of April, explored ‘The pace of the industry’, and challenged our polarized conceptions of 'fast' and 'slow' fashion. Do these terms refer to speed or quality? Does 'fast' necessarily mean unsustainable? How can 'slow' turn a healthy profit? Must we choose between them?

The first to arrive, toting backpacks packed with laptops and notebooks, eagar fashion students entered the room padded in comfortable layers, clutching coffee cups from the nearby Boterham cafe. Industry leaders promptly followed, appearing a bit lighter and less caffeinated - a mix of local entrepreneurs, notable brands and seasoned sustainability experts. As the curtains closed, seats were taken, and silence fell on the now, anticipatory audience.

What followed was an inspirational start to the day; Helene Smits (Founder, Stating the Obvious) took to the stage to introduce the day’s three keynote speakers, each seeking to explore ‘The Pace of the Industry’, the theme of this edition of Beyond Green.

‘The rhythm is self-inflicted. We can step out of the current system. There are other options to explore’

- Gwen Cunningham, Project Manager Circle Textiles, Circle Economy

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Setting the context for what’s to come, Circle Economy’s Gwen Cunningham, began by showing a series of abstract images from photographer Aaron Tilley. These adrenaline-inducing scenes perfectly captured the critical moment of history that we find ourselves in. She explained, ‘we are moving away from a past that doesn’t work for us anymore, and freefalling into a future that is not yet defined’. We are challenged to use the adrenaline of such a moment- to feel the urgency to act and get ahead of the change. Gwen went on to outline five moments in the past year that have brought the topic of pace to the surface; Li Edelkoort’s Anti-fashion Manifesto’; the departure of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz; the impact of climate change on retail sales; the hijacking of fashion week by social media and the alignment of the runway and retail in the United States. In doing so, she posited that the time for change is ripe in the fashion Industry, that new rules apply, and that we can be a part of their making.

“In order to speed up the changes necessary in our industry and make those changes as relevant as possible, we need to collaborate with all stakeholders, both existing and future. Beyond Green brings all relevant parties together, and puts the right questions on the table. Discussing future solutions with students gives both insight and inspiration. Their views and perspective can help us to steer changes in the right direction, and make them more strategic and pertinent. Together we can transform and shape tomorrow’s fashion industry.”

- Elin Larsson, Director of Sustainability, Filippa K

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Next up Elin Larsson, Director of Sustainability at Filippa K took to the stage to outline the company’s circular approach, which can be viewed as a new definition of ‘slow’:

  1. Reduce: Ensuring that what they do, they do well. Frontrunner’, signature pieces allow Filippa K to delve into the research and collaborations that are needed to devise truly sustainable clothing.
  2. Repair: Facilitating a long life with the first user. Filippa K sells special care products in stores, and offer repair services to keep their clothing wearable. The next ‘Frontrunner’ collection will come with a ‘10 years of care’ guarantee!
  3. Reuse: Ensuring that Filippa K garments have a third, fourth and fifth life. The unwavering success of their secondhand store, established in 2008, ushered in the 2015 global Collect concept. Additionally, the lease concept invites consumers to become borrowers, providing access over ownership.
  4. Recycle: Ensuring that garments that have reached the end of their useful product lives, are captured and reinjected into the system. Frontrunners’ are designed for cyclability.

The most striking and inspiring about Filippa K, is their bold trial and error approach. Their holistic plan of action has been achieved through multiple well-calculated baby steps, that add up to an impressive whole. Larsson so rightly stated, inertia is the biggest danger of all, and ‘once you are aware, either you do something about it or not, but you are still responsible.’

“Fast might not be the worst thing about fast fashion- it’s just the way that we organise it”

- Martijn van Strien, Founder, Post-Couture Collective

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Lastly, Martijn van Strien, Founder of Post-Couture Collective, shared his vision for a ‘faster than fast’ approach, stating boldly that ‘sometimes fast is just better’. Post-Couture Collective offers an alternative to today’s fashion system, fuelled by an open-source mentality and 21st century technology, the company creates minimalist pieces that are specifically developed as downloadable patterns, to be produced on a lasercutter and assembled by the end user. While such a system could presumably encourage high speed, impulsive production and consumption, it also involves consumers in the production process of a garment and this experience has the potential to incite ‘emotional’ durability.

Van Strien’s media fuelled presentation, carried attendees through three variations of the topic; fast (the current state), faster (made to order, shared ownership, and maker movements) and fastest (body scanning, 3D printing, laser cutting, and virtual reality). He believes that “these methods will eventually allow us to create something new everyday, without having any damaging effects.

Action

In the afternoon workshops, industry and students worked alongside each other to design future models for specific segments of the market, while considering the aforementioned challenges and opportunities that come with fast and slow models of production and consumption.

“Beyond Green was exciting because of the very inspirational speakers and the mix of people from the industry and fashion students. I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with people with the same interest in sustainability and exchanging ideas and thoughts.”

- Jasmin Hammermayer, Fashion & Management student, AMFI

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Expert external moderators and dedicated AMFI staff led vivid discussions and guided the participants using custom workshop materials. The result was a series of innovative business concepts ranging from the teen-oriented Vodaclothes, a fast fashion, lease-to-recycle brand included in your monthly phone bill to Wedenim, a members-only club, where basic, unisex denim is amended, treated and customized by local denim specialists, to tech-savvy Changeables, high-quality, durable clothing, equipped with downloadable nano printing technology.

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To view the full length keynote presentations please use the video player below.

Special thanks to Nina Albada Jelgersma for capturing photos from this great event! Click on any of the photos below to check out the event photo gallery.

[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="10450,10449,10448,10447,10446"]

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