I have been working on sustainability for over 10 years. I started in communications for a boutique, sustainable PR and communications consultancy, and worked across a whole range of industries. I then headed to sustainable communications consultancy, OgilvyEarth in Shanghai before joining Redress four-and-a-half years ago. Here, my focus has been on fashion and the environment. I always had a passion for animal conservation and protection of biodiversity. One of my heroes is Sylvia Earle and the work she has done to highlight the devastation that human activity has on oceans. I am a strong believer that with knowledge, humans have complete power to turn things around and create positive impact through choices and actions. I work towards this every day.
At Redress, our biggest challenge is lack of time and money to address all the issues related to environment. The issues are so vast and there is so much to do. Other challenges we encounter as we work to combat reduction of waste in the fashion industry are lack of awareness among the industry, consumers and fashion students.
For industry, there are many people working at different stages within the supply chain. The fashion and textile industry is still unaware of the impact it has on our planet. If at all they are aware, it is difficult to apply positive change within their own roles without knowledge, training or the encouragement to do so from the top of the business. There is the issue of lack of money to address issues, but being sustainable is now not just a moral decision - there are some great business opportunities, and brands not adapting or investing in change are going to be in trouble.
For students aspiring to enter the fashion industry, there is a lack of information being passed on in schools. Although things are changing, sustainability is often (if at all) not fully integrated through the curriculum. This is often because of lack of resources or knowledge in educators.
For the consumer, information can be hard to find and a little overwhelming. The complexity of issues, and often conflicting advice on 'better' clothing options leave consumers running for cover. The challenge is providing the information that consumers need in a positive way to encourage change rather than fatigue people into inaction with all the bad news so that they just keep shopping the same way!
Much of our work focuses around bringing critical information to these three groups, showcasing examples of positive change and driving discussions around innovation. We do this in many ways like industry roundtable and panel discussions, creation of educational material and video content including our recent documentary Frontline Fashion. We showcase the work of emerging sustainable designers through our EcoChic Design Award and through consumer campaigns, exhibitions, workshops and content such as the new consumer guide, Dress with Sense.
There are so many people we need to reach with information and we are a small team, so we aim to create engaging content and useful tools that can be easily shared with large audiences across the world. We were delivering fashion talks with university students and knew we could not stretch as far as we wanted, so we developed the EcoChic Design Award Educators pack. It has four topics of one hour each with extra exercises and project briefs that can be delivered by lecturers. This pack has been downloaded over 350 times across 55 countries since its launch at the end of last year. It is great to track our impact and have a growing network of educators who we can tap into for feedback and improvement.
We believe, education is the biggest driver of change. One fantastic thing that we witness is that once people start to understand the issues, there is no return. I think it is less about a particular segment and more about general mindset and a commitment from the top of the organisation. For example, we often find that there are motivated people within fashion brands who are not able to enact change as it is not part of the core mission of that brand. However, it is brands that have the biggest influence. If more brands encourage their supply chains to become more sustainable, the rest of the industry will follow.
Recycling and up-cycling is definitely not a new thing. As fashion has sped up, we have lost many traditions that made the fashion industry creative and wonderful. We encourage any tradition that helps people fall in love with their clothes again, that respects the environment and the people who are involved in making clothes and helps drive our overall mission to reduce waste. Every day, we come across fantastic initiatives that make us believe in fashion again.
This is our biggest cycle in the six-year history of this programme. We have been expanding regularly and are open to emerging designers in Asia, Europe or the United States of America. We are looking for new talent in sustainable design. Applications can come in till 3 April 2017. There are exciting prizes. For example, the chance to design an up-cycled capsule collection for new luxury up-cycled brand BYT. In their applications, designers must design a collection using textile waste and one or more of the three design techniques of zero-waste, up-cycling or reconstruction.
Ten finalists will join the Redress team in Hong Kong this September for a whirlwind trip of challenges and workshops, ending in the grand finale at Hong Kong Fashion Week where they will present their six piece collections. We have an amazing line up of expert judges and some great ambassadors including model Bonnie Chen and model, actress, entrepreneur and activist Amber Valletta.
It is difficult to measure the impact of our programmes in terms of tangible change that we have influenced, but consumers are demanding more information on the industry and on individual brands. Our followers grow every day and we try to keep our content fresh and interesting to keep inspiring this passionate group.
Redress is now in its 10th year but in the last few years we have seen big shifts in terms of improvements in the industry in sustainability initiatives and responsible production. There is still a long way to go but we are encouraged and like to think that through our activities we have played, and continue to play a part in this shift. What we can tangibly measure is a huge rise in the numbers of visitors to our online educational content!