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FEL and Make UK Discussed at the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion Forum

30-05-2024   


Yesterday, 18th April, at the fourth annual Institute of Positive Fashion Forum hosted by the British Fashion Council, the event began with a welcome from British Fashion Council CEO, Caroline Rush, followed by the Circular Fashion Innovation Network Update with UKFT CEO, Adam Mansell. The update outlined new reports and findings and encouraged attendees to participate in the newest survey which could be completed by scanning QR codes around the room.

The first keynote speaker was Paul Dillinger, Levi’s Head of Global Design and Innovation. Paul explained he was a designer initially but couldn’t stay in the industry due to its waste and environmental impact. He then career changed to teach sustainability in US universities, but when offered a job with Levi’s he was keen to push for positive, sustainable change with a large, global brand.

Paul talked about how Levi’s has been keen to make sustainable change and that the brands motto behind the scenes is “Designing for value, rather than attention”. 

Levi’s recently faced bankruptcy whilst testing more sustainable denim approaches. Paul fears this will scare retailers from investing in new sustainable materials and practices where he feels Levi’s approach should; “Be an example, not the nail in the coffin.”

The key takeaway from Paul’s keynote was that he feels consumers do not want their experience to change, hence Levi’s behind-the-scenes approach. To encourage consumers to buy more sustainably, brands should create marketing messages around buying more conservatively and cautiously. 

Brunello Cucinelli’s late-morning keynote put the passion into sustainable fashion. Mr Cucinelli told attendees through a translator that, “to speak from the soul, he must stand up, and speak from the soul.” So he did.

Brunello explained his early childhood working on his father’s farm in Solomeo. There he found his life objective, giving back to the beauty of the earth, whilst sowing uniform lines of seed under the beating sun. This also fuelled his ambition to create the most luxurious luxury brand using the world’s finest materials.

He also talked about the importance of work-life balance, that outside of 8 am – 5 pm, people should enjoy nature, not technology, all while conveying his preach-worthy talk through philosophic quotes from Emmanuel Kant and others much to the moderator, New York Times’ Elizabeth Paton, humorous dismay.

He rounded off his talk by thanking the audience and proudly proclaiming his imminent return to his Hamlet in Solomeo.

At lunch, I was able to head over to Patagonia’s Worn Wear truck, where attendees were encouraged to bring in their damaged items to be repaired by the team throughout the day. The truck was in full swing with repairers stitching new zips and patching garments as Patagonia representatives described their latest repair services. 

As a partner of Patagonia and the United Repair Centre, Fashion-Enter were tasked to create the colourful curtains inside worn wear truck which were made in the United Repair Centre London.

In the afternoon, Fashion-Enter’s partner, Recomme, graced the stage with their CEO Simon Platts, among other textile industry speakers to discuss ‘Opportunities of UK Reshoring Alongside Global Markets’.

While the title is a mouthful, the panel largely talked about the current state of the UK manufacturing industry and the importance of using UK manufacturers for higher ethical and sustainable standards.

Speakers talked about the lack of technical skills in the UK and how governments should be encouraging young people to learn more skills in this sector of the fashion industry. Hannah Phang of The Now Work explained that she thinks the manufacturing industry needs a major rebrand to entice new generations of skilled workers.

With all this being said, it is hard to agree with this panel’s thoughts as Fashion-Enter’s technical skills school, the Fashion Technology Academy, has consistently recruited from their ever-growing waitlist, showing younger generations are interested in technical skills and will wait for long periods to learn.

Still, Taj Phull of H. Huntsman & Sons described the skills in the UK as depleting. Also adding Huntsman & Sons’ last ready-to-wear suit manufacturer went out of business in 2020, forcing the company to buy out of the UK.

In response, Simon Platts described the unique possibilities within UK manufacturing, highlighting Fashion-Enter as an industry leader saying; “Jenny at Fashion-Enter (for example), she’s invested in Galaxius which pays a rate beyond minimum wage and she also uses Style3D and Kornit Digital printing. She’s got a whole new model. And intake wise it is different. You can do on demand, but you can also do, to demand.”

As a Fashion-Enter employee, this panel was of most interest to me. However, hearing from all aspects of the fashion industry throughout the day, after this talk in particular, it was glaringly obvious that the easiest and immediate change brands can make to become more sustainable, is to manufacture in the UK.

In conclusion, the Positive Fashion Forum was an amazing opportunity for those in the industry to stay informed of the current sustainable developments and learn how those objectives can be met by networking with those already on their sustainable journey.

By Leah Martin




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