#SustainableAfter, Episode 2

The single best action for the fashion industry right now: open up to collaboration with entrepreneurs

In this episode we spoke with:
Muchaneta Kapfunde, Founder & Editor at FashNerd.com
Renana Krebs, Co-Founder & CEO at Algalife (alga-life.com)
Kresse Wesling MBE, Co-Founder at Elvis & Kresse (elvisandkresse.com)

It’s the lovely month of May: the summer at our doorsteps and mid-season sales in the stores.

Only, most of the stores across the Western world are closed. Fashion production is at a halt. Most consumers are locked down, feeling various degrees of uncertainty about the future, without many dress-up occasions or much appetite for shopping.

This is a time of reflection.

Painful, but necessary reflection – the one that has been probably long overdue for the fashion and luxury industries.

“If a luxury company has any right to exist at all, it should be to make the world better. […] Luxury goods are not necessities. The right to exist in this industry has to, therefore, be completely dependent on you being a net positive benefit to mankind and to the wider environment”, says Kresse Wesling, a co-founder of a sustainable luxury brand Elvis & Kresse.

As the industry is about to hit its post-WWII historic low, brands brace themselves for a hard year in a survival mode. Those that will come out thriving out of this crisis will use this time to redefine what they want to stand for in the new world, to address the new needs of their customers and – most hopefully – to reorganise their business in order to finally be able to fully walk that talk.

There is quite an explicit industry consensus about the long list of fashion’s core issues: its carbon footprint, its long and not fully controlled supply chain, its waste problem, water and air pollution, human and animal rights issues, its shifted fashion seasons, its insistent usage of traditional materials while the good alternatives exist, its high average number of items per collection, but also the purpose of its fashion shows and the role of its influencers.

Luckily, necessity is the mother of change.

Brands can get safe and dry on the other side of this crisis only through innovation.

“Fashion is going to change because the scientist and the engineers are going to change the industry. The fashion industry is not going to do well based on all the Anna Wintours […]. Being just a designer is not enough anymore”, says Muchaneta Kapfunde, the founder and Editor-in-Chief at fashnerd.com.

Over the last decade, the fashion innovation scene has boomed. There are thousands of smart, well-structured and innovative start-ups and scale-ups out there with solutions that could tackle these new, immediate problems the brands are facing at the moment.

The more adaptable brands are already on it.

“The companies that we dreamt of working with are now knocking on our door”, says Renana Krebs, the co-founder of Alga Life, an Israeli start-up producing dye and material out of algea in a complete closed-loop process, adding “for me, the keyword is collaboration. [Everyone in the industry] needs to work together to make these solutions scalable”.

It might well be that fashion innovation has just gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have overnight. Brands can no longer afford not opening up to what the entrepreneurs in this arena have to offer. It is only through that collaboration that a better version of the industry can be possible.

“Fashion has been notoriously bad at down-streaming investment [or] investing in R&D”, says Kresse.

If ever there was a good time to downstream that investment, the time is now.

Listen to the full conversation here: