There was much ado about sustainability at Fashion 4 Development’s 10th Annual First Ladies Luncheon Tuesday.
Beyond the pomp of hosting highnesses and excellencies was a lineup of speakers and awardees working on the future for greener fashion. Fashion 4 Development, or F4D, is a global platform founded by Evie Evangelou that’s committed to supporting the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
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The idea is that, if fashion works its best angles, it could have an outsized impact on sustainability and development around the world.
Setting the tone at the 583 Park-hosted luncheon with local leadership, New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who drafted and introduced the “Fashion Act,” spoke to the realities of fashion’s current position and where it can go from here.
“The fashion industry is one of the most significant contributors to climate change on the planet,” she said. “It is responsible for between 4 to 8 percent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions and gas footprints and, left unchecked, the industry will be responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s global carbon budget by 2050, and yet, the industry remains largely unregulated.”
With the “Fashion Act,” the aim, Biaggi said, is to get companies to do “mandatory due diligence to improve their labor practices and to reduce their impact on our planet.”
“This piece of legislation is an invitation,” she added. “It’s an invitation for governments, for companies, for manufacturers and for activists to come together to better the fashion industry by setting and meeting science-based environmental standards and improving labor practices. And it truly is my hope that this bill is the first of many, not just in this country, but across the planet and the globe as an example for setting the bar incredibly high and for making sure that we all understand the role that we play.”
Katla is one company that didn’t need an invitation to operate by a different standard. And that’s why the conscious loungewear brand received this year’s Fashion 4 Development Award and Katla founder and chief executive officer, also the cofounder of Moda Operandi, Aslaug Magnusdottir, was named one of the organization’s goodwill ambassadors.
In accepting the award and new role, Magnusdottir took her own opportunity to drop some facts about fashion’s realities.
“Of the 100 billion garments that are produced every year in the world, more than 50 billion end up in landfill within one year. I have a three-month old son, Ocean, and by the time that Ocean turns 20, that will be 1 trillion new garments in landfill,” she said. “This doesn’t have to be the reality.”
Totes with the customary conference swag were provided by Katla, made with a zero waste design and complete with a QR-code patch that provides full transparency into where the product came from and how it was made. Katla’s goal, she said, “is to reinvent the way the fashion business is done.”
And that’s among Magnusdottir’s first orders of business as F4D Global Ambassador.
“Katla and Fashion 4 Development are joining forces to be part of a big research project by the International Trade Center in Geneva, which is the U.N.’s agency for trade. And the goal of that project is to invent a new model for fashion that is in line with the U.N.’s SDGs for 2030,” she said. “What we aim to accomplish there is actually more profitable businesses, but at the same time, businesses that are significantly reducing wasteful overproduction and that lead to the advancement of women in the industry. I invite you all to join this movement to make the fashion industry more sustainable.”
One goal of the project, Magnusdottir told WWD, is “to accelerate access to data science where none exists in the ‘upstream’ supplier community. The fashion sector has the highest potential to better women’s lives worldwide. From buyer to maker, women are multipliers of good in their communities.”
Themes of the day included women’s empowerment, philanthropy and sustainable fashion — complete with a runway show on “Ten Decades of Fashion 1920-2020,” curated by New York Vintage founder Shannon Hoey and designer Bonnie Young of BY. Bonnie Young. With a mix of pieces from Young’s collection and designer vintage, the show exhibited the idea of freshening the past for modern fashion with zero waste, locally made and upcycled materials.
But the overarching message of the day and the point founder Evangelou set out to drive home was this: “It’s very important that we educate the consumer about how to live a more sustainable daily lifestyle,” she said. “It’s not going to change by just having conferences and meeting with corporations and that kind of thing. We need to change the demand in order to have the supply change.”