SUSTAINABLE FASHION TECH
The Sustainable Fashion Forum Provides a Tech Focus for a Green Apparel Manufacturing
Working toward a cleaner and greener apparel industry was the mission of the Sustainable Fashion Forum, held at the California Market Center on March 7during the March 6–8 run of the LA Textile show.
The theme for the collaboration between LA Textile and New York’s Fashiondex was “Digital & Tech-Based Solutions.”
As the fashion industry’s reliance on new innovations grows and disruption by new technology increases, these tools are helping the apparel business move toward a more sustainable future.
“We are currently 7.6 billion people on the planet and we will be 8.5 billion soon. We are one of the most pollutive industries. Ranked third right below oil and food is fashion,” said Fashiondex founder Andrea Kennedy. “Our vision is a fully sustainable future in fashion where we make no negative impact environmentally or socially.”
For Solána Rowe, the recording artist known by her stage name SZA, the forum provided an opportunity to meet apparel-industry experts as she plans to build an initiative promoting sustainable-apparel manufacturing and wellness. The singer has hinted at launching a clothing line named Ctrl Fishing Co. She said she would like to channel her concerns regarding environmental conservation into a larger mission such as teaching children to meditate and de-escalate their own anxieties.
Rowe was interested in finding sourcing partners to help manufacture clothing by adopting practices promoting a circular economy, such as reusing unwanted, donated clothing to recycle into new fibers. It is Rowe’s hope that through her donation centers she can also cultivate an interest in the artistry of clothing design by building upon the younger generation’s interest in do-it-yourself design.
“The insurmountable responsibility of saving the planet is really crazy for an individual person to carry on his or her shoulders,” she said. “Starting in any small way—even changing your packaging—you’re doing something and it’s much better than doing nothing.”
For fashion merchandiser Katherine Montoya, a vacation to Los Angeles turned into a learning opportunity for building an affordable, sustainable line. Currently working for a footwear brand in New York City, Montoya is in the process of building her Green Label Collection, a fashion-forward—yet affordable—sustainable womenswear brand.
“To impact the people, you need to make it accessible,” she said. “The more accessible it is, the more people will be drawn to it regardless of whether they care about sustainability or not. That is why I like coming to these things, to see if there is new information, new technology that could possibly bring price points down in manufacturing.”
With an interest in textiles created from natural sources, such as mycelium from mushrooms, pineapple-leaf and orange fibers, Montoya hopes to use biodegradable or reusable materials in her collection. While listening to the “Textiles, Technology and Sustainability” panel, Montoya found the solutions discussed by Shay Sethi of the Los Angeles company Moral Fiber to be themost groundbreaking.
“He claims that his polyester is infinitely renewable—not just once—and that is the problem with PET [polyethylene terephthalate] textiles at the moment,” Montoya explained. “If he is saying it can be infinitely renewed and you just have to bring it back so they can regenerate, then it is the perfect solution.”
While much of the focus on a more ecologically sound apparel industry has fallen on environmentally friendly materials sourcing, there also exists a need for gathering and sharing information more efficiently.
During “How AI Can Help With Sustainability and Predicting Customer Preferences,” Google Cloud’s SoCal leader Trish Scull emphasized the importance of organizing data when working toward a more sustainable industry.
“Everything from data-centric services to artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to help drive sustainability,” she said. “Ultimately, artificial intelligence is only as good as the underlying infrastructure, applications and—most importantly—that data, which you present to the science.”
As she discussed at “Technology for Collaboration and Connection,” Addlane founder Roxy Starr explained that the efficiency the fashion industry promotes in the name of sustainability also applies to human workers who utilize technological tools.
“That is why we develop technology, so we can all be more efficient, more productive, transparent and sustainable,” she said. “They are buzzwords that we hear, but ‘sustainable’ also applies to ourselves and making sure we can efficiently get things done and communicate with our partners wherever we may be.”
After illustrating how concepts in machine learning can be applied to the apparel industry, Kevin Nelson, an architect advocate for Google Cloud, encouraged attendees to use innovative technological tools and become immersed in the process to understand how they can build a better industry.
“Just using technology tools isn’t enough,” he explained. “You really have to embrace a new way of doing business. It’s about transparency. It’s about embracing the change and being excited about it—finding ways to do things more efficiently and better.”