Melissa Joy Manning's fine jewelry store to see her latest collection, and as we always do, we ended up getting into a really deep, wide-ranging conversation about sustainable fashion. We were both ignoring everyone else, and finally she suggested, "We should make this official get some people together for a conversation." I mean, yes! By the time I got back to my apartment, there was already an email in my inbox, like, let's do this! So she got in touch with the luxury ethical label Maiyet, and I got in touch with my contacts at Mara Hoffman and hit up Maxine Bédat of Zady. And then I asked Charles Beckwith if he wanted to record the conversation for the American Fashion Podcast. And that's how I found myself moderating a discussion with some of the most interesting people in the NYC sustainable fashion scene.I think I would consider this a career highlight. First of all, I love podcasts. I especially love podcasts with really intelligent, vibrant women. Some of my favorite moments these days are when I'm striding down a New York street, the voice of an inspirational woman in my ear, giving me tips for life, career, and happiness. It's like having 100 successful women as friends. So the fact that I helped bring four female powerhouses into a room to talk about my favorite topic – sustainable fashion – well, I was like a kid with a birthday cake, I was so excited. OK, so a little background. I was at
What We Talked About
- What "sustainable fashion" means.
- Why sustainable fashion = feminism.
- Large corporations are doing good things, but they're afraid to talk about it.
- Should we support large corporations with sustainable initiatives?
- Whether technology is moving sustainable fashion forward, or just putting people out of work.
- How to motivate consumers to pay more for quality fashion.
- Do people still view sustainable fashion as ugly?
- How to communicate to your customer about sustainability without overwhelming them.
- The dire need for an third party advocacy and certification organization.
- How to get into sustainable fashion.
I think a lot of people are doing a lot more than we think they are. We live in a culture where unfortunately we like to throw a lot of stones, so if someone stands up and says, "I'm doing this," nine times out of ten, they're going to get the reaction of, "Well, you're not doing this." So it's closed the dialogue a little. In my experience I talk to people who are doing remarkable things, large companies who consumers – from a responsible viewpoint – don't like. But they say, "Until we can say we are 100% responsible, we're not going to say anything. We don't want to set ourselves up for the negative press that will hurt our sales." It doesn't feel safe.Kristy Caylor: Co-founder and former Creative Director of the luxury ethical label Maiyet, she is currently working on a platform called CERCI to promote sustainable fashion in the industry through creativity and technology, is also on the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative advisory board and the Build a Nest.org advisory board.
People understand the importance of being more responsible. It often comes down to an economic issue. If you have a very big business that is dependent on a specific margin or a specific way of doing business, moving that operation and that ship can be difficult, time consuming, costly. I think we've seen that the brands who've infused a sustainable perspective, they've been very successful. I would argue that if we can impress upon the bigger brands the customer desire for these products, it would cause the shift to be a little more exciting and happen faster.Maxine Bédat: Co-founder and CEO of the ethical online fashion boutique Zady, which now also has a gorgeous in-house collection that strives to be sustainable and ethical in every way, plus provides engaging education to consumers through The New Standard.
This loss of connection that we've had has created all of these unintended consequences, from labor abuses to the the apparel industry now being the second most polluting industry – it's become this out of sight out of mind on a grand scale. That was to me, well, horrible on the one hand, but on the other hand, we're the ones in control of that, and that I think is the most exciting part. From the feminist point of view, women are the ones consuming the product, and on the other side we're the ones making the product. The power that women have as consumers to change the life and course of women halfway around the world is really exciting and empowering to me.Mara Hoffman: Mara has been quietly but aggressively transitioning her supremely successful line to more sustainable materials, a journey which is all too rare in the fashion world.
It became a very clear vision of my child standing in front of all the product I've manufactured. What would he do with this? What would his generation do with my work? After I had my son it became louder and louder the parallel of who I was as a human being and my ideas around consumption, and how that reflects in my business. It was a wakeup call, where I have to align these two things. I had to shift everything to even keep the business I had, and even show up to the business I created. Sustainability, it became the only way in my heart I could keep my business. It became change or die. Literally, change or close.