Sustainability is a much tossed around buzzword in fashion at the moment. But a majority of the industry has failed to go beyond superficial marketing initiatives and make real progress.
Kathleen Wright is out to make that change. Wright, the founder of four-year-old Piece & Co., connects global artisans with brands — from Tory Burch to Diane von Furstenberg — to help them find sustainably sourced textiles that won’t break the bank or the ozone layer.
“The industry is made of people who love what they do and they don’t want to do any harm,” she said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Podcast.
Edited highlights below.
Sustainability is cool
Wright said she has had what she calls a “front row seat” to industry change. While most sustainability initiatives in the past had been relegated to obvious, easy things — like non-toxic dyes or recycling bins placed inside stores — she said people were also just bored when she would pitch them on the idea of sourcing from local textile-makers across the world. “There’s finally enough power on that side of the table,” she said. “And brands are less scared to do a little something good. Four years ago they didn’t want to do anything positive because they felt it would call into question everything they did.”
Supply chain change is getting sexier
A few years ago, there was a huge growth in so-called social brands, like Everlane or Toms, whose entire mission was “to do good” and whose entire brands were rooted in either sustainable, charitable or transparent practices. “People used to think about sustainability in terms of brands,” said Wright. “But what do we do if we can’t redo our entire brand? If you’re J. Crew or Tory Burch you can’t rebrand as a sustainable brand. You don’t want to. So you can show you’re making positive change in your supply chain.”
Fast fashion, sustainability or profit: Pick two
Wright doesn’t “personally support” fast fashion but says the bigger issue is that “you can never un-know.” The damaging footprints of brands like Zara and H&M are well documented. But even though these companies have made an effort to try to be more sustainable, there is really only one way: “Wouldn’t it be a dream if they stood up and said, ‘we are going to do one less delivery this year, we’re putting too many clothes out there, and we’re going to take a profit cut?’,” she said. “The race to the bottom in my opinion is very real.”