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2017 TExtile Sustainability Conference, Washington, D.C.

I had the pleasure of attending one of the most rewarding, inspiring and thought-provoking conferences last month in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Textile Exchange, a non-profit that promotes responsible practices throughout the industry, the TExtile Sustainability conference gathered over 500 change-makers from 37 countries and 328 companies around the globe to discuss the sustainability movement in fashion. Everyone is welcome, regardless of where there are in their journey toward sustainability. I particularly enjoyed meeting fiber farmers from all over the world, including the recently hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico. A spur-of-the-moment fundraiser was initiated to help with recovery, lifting farmer morale and reminding us of the vulnerability of our supply chains due to climate change.

I last attended this event a few years ago in Portland, Oregon. The big takeaway at that time was that we needed more collaboration and innovation. How fulfilling, then, to return a few years later to see those goals come to fruition. How motivating to see the “do-ers” in action! Corporations, brands, startups, NGOs, non-profits, regulating bodies, mills, factories, farmers, investors, banks—the variety of people coming together with a common mission was awe-inspiring, to say the least.

This year’s focus was catalyzing the Sustainable Development Goals I spoke of in my recap of the 2017 UN General Assembly. In discussing ways to reach these hefty goals, a recurring concern was that while it’s amazing to see so many people from so many backgrounds effecting major change, without awareness on the consumer’s end, our hard work is in vain. We need to bring everyday people along with us on our journey. The ability of our Earth to continue to sustain life is in jeopardy. Earth will continue to spin with or without humans on it, but we will cause our own extinction in a very short time if we do not act now. How can we ignite everyone to immediate action without paralyzing them with fear?

By the end of the week, this year’s takeaway became clear: we need to commit to consumer awareness and engagement. How can we inspire people to think before they buy? Do they want to learn the impacts of the $5 tee shirt they are wearing if it means feeling tremendous guilt about it? The first step, of course, is admitting to the problem. But so many individuals, Americans in particular, are unaware of the problem. We (brands and organizations) must overwhelm the general public with the sobering facts behind the fashion industry, which employs 1 in 6 humans on our planet. Consumers cannot choose whether or not to change if they don’t even realize there’s an issue.

Next year’s TExtile Sustainability Conference is in Milan! I cannot recommend this event enough. Check out the Textile Exchange site for more details, not to mention a host of resources, including membership benefits, preferred fiber reports and materials snapshots, certifications, facts, and statistics etc. I hope to see you there!

 

Title page Photo by OSCAR AGUILAR and patterned swatches Photo by Karly Santiago both on Unsplash
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