I recently had the opportunity to attend the Sourcing Journal Sustainability Summit in NYC, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I had the privilege to hear from some of the most prominent voices in the apparel industry and learn about their brands and companies' efforts to address sustainability and its impact on consumerism and the environment.
One conversation during my week of meetings that truly stood out to me was with a well-known executive in the apparel industry leading 15+ apparel brands. He proudly stated that he was a capitalist through and through, and the rest was just white noise to him. His argument was that he was making billions with what he was doing, so why should he mess with his profits and success? I truly respected his directness and his comfortableness with his beliefs. While I understand his perspective, I strongly believe that sustainability and profitability can coexist.
The auto industry's success in making less carbon emissions affordable to the masses is an excellent example of this. When the first battery-operated and electric vehicles were released, they were only affordable to a few. However, with innovation and policy changes, the industry has found ways to make less carbon emissions affordable to the masses. I believe that Henry Ford would be proud of their progress. Similarly, as the founder of a new sustainable apparel brand called eavolu®, we are committed to finding innovative ways to create sustainable options for the industry while educating consumers about the importance of sustainability. We use reclaimed/deadstock fabrics, upcycled manufacturer overages, and eco-friendly signature fabric designs to be inclusive to consumers.
Over the last five years, I have seen significant progress in the sustainability arena, but greenwashing, conflicting policies, and scientific articles have led to setbacks. Before the pandemic hit the US in early 2020, we were making significant strides in developing compostable options for synthetic fibers, promoting the use of recycled plastic bottles, and industry waste from factory floors.
While recycling is an essential component of sustainability, recycling plastic bottles (made strictly for apparel due to shortages in plastic bottles) can lead to irreparable damage to the progress made in apparel recycling to that point. Therefore, we must ensure that recycling is done in a way that does not create more harm than good.
Today, I have noticed that the conversation with consumers has shifted more towards upcycling, second-hand garments, and concerns over conflicting policies and the authenticity of the information being presented to them. Somewhere along the way, consumers have started to tune out, and even during the summit, I found myself struggling to stay focused as some of the topics had been discussed before. However, we cannot give up or tune-out. We must remain vigilant, continue the dialogue, and strive to create tangible change.
Despite the challenges, I remain optimistic about the future, and I believe that the apparel industry can pivot and make sustainable options available to everyone while still being profitable. We need to find ways to reconcile the opposing forces of capitalism and sustainability. It is a complex issue, and there are still controversies surrounding it. However, we can learn from the success of the auto industry and find ways to make sustainability and profitability coexist.
As consumers and leaders in the apparel industry, we also have a vital role to play in promoting sustainability. We must demand transparency and information from companies about their sustainability efforts and support those that prioritize sustainability. By doing so, we can create a culture of sustainability that is beneficial for everyone. Together, with continued innovation and collaboration, we can make sustainable options available to everyone and create a better future for ourselves and the planet.