This article was originally written for a Boyfriend Magazine.

Last Wednesday, the Scaling Sustainability event welcomed a panel of fashion industry insiders to discuss solutions to the fast fashion problem and what needs to be done to make 2020 the year action is taken. The panel included founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum and CEO of Common Objective Tamsin Leieune, Roland Mouret CEO Mark Langthorne, the founder of Global Fashion Exchange Patrick Duffy and Founder and Vice Chairman of PDS Multinational Fashion Pallak Seth.

Thanks to worldwide coverage from environmental activists like Greta Thunberg and the protest groups like Extinction Rebellion, the fact that fast fashion has contributed to greenhouse gases, water and air pollution, excessive waste and poor working conditions has come to the forefront of our minds. This has seen a spike in fashion brands jumping on the sustainability bandwagon. Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood have both started to use organic cotton. Dame Vivienne commented:

“The Future is quality, not quantity. Less is more sustainable” dame Vivienne Westwood on her new ss20 collection

Whereas H&M has been joining in on the high-street with its various in-store recycling incentives, promises to use only 100% sustainable materials by 2030, and launching their sustainable sister company Arket.

The panel discussed the need for a shift in the very foundations of the Industry to truly respond to the ever-growing sense of urgency to prevent further damage. Even just small changes are not being made and those that are implementing elements are seen as using a crisis as a new trend and labeling it as ‘conscious’.  So, what will it really take to move sustainability from niche to norm?

Roland Mouret’s CEO Mark Langthorne admitted that he had previously contributed negatively to the fast fashion market after working with high profile brands like Yeezy and Victoria Beckham. Though since joining Common Objective he has himself learned to live more responsibly and shift Roland Mouret to an eco-friendlier strategy. The audience learned of the innovative way the brand has reduced its use of single-use plastics with the Roland Mouret ‘blue’ hanger. The innovative hangers are in response to coat hangers being labeled as the ‘plastic straws of the fashion industry’. They were made in partnership with Arch and Hook, the world’s only sustainable hanger brand, and are made using 80% marine plastic. Langthorne said changing something as small as a coat hanger can have such a massively positive impact and believes it’s something other fashion retailers can implement to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Panel member Patrick Duffy pointed out a new innovative way of shopping sustainably.
Created by Lorenzo Albrighi and Kuo Shih Yun, whom he has previously partnered with at Global Fashion Exchange, Lablaco is a global platform committed to making fashion circular. The company is the first to use blockchain technology in fashion. Lablaco uses blockchain to enable traceability in preloved clothing making it a totally transparent way of shopping. Customers will be able to follow the journey the garment has previously been on before ending up in their hands. Albrighi, who was in the front row of the audience, stood up alongside the panel to give everyone a break-down of his exciting company.
“If Beyoncé owned the bag before you buy it, you would be abk eco know you actually own something from her. It can be used this way to prove it's authenticity, to know you are owning something really special" Lorenzo Albrighi on his blockchain company, lablaco
Albrighi explained that all the items they sell come with a QR code which can then be scanned to pull up all of the information automatically on your phone. 

In recent years, London Fashion Week has come under scrutiny for being a huge contributor to the climate problem. Even Lynne Franks, one of the founders of London Fashion Week, told Extinction Rebellion it was time for a reinvention “I believe now is the time for drastic change in how we do things. We are in a different world, a world of emergency and need for drastic action”. Force for Change Patrick Duffy revealed that GFX would be teaming up with designer Patrick McDowell and Swap Rebellion to host London Fashion Week’s first-ever clothes swap. The event named ‘The Swap Shop’ took place over three days of London Fashion Week within the Positive Fashion Exhibition in partnership with the British Fashion Council and Swarovski.  The event gave guests the chance to bring items of their own clothing to effectively use as ‘currency’ at The Swap Shop. Guests could then walk away with something different to add to their wardrobe without contributing to fast fashion. Swarovski partnered with designer Patrick McDowell at the event and provided the opportunity for up-cycled Swarovski crystals to be embellished onto the garments. The event truly showed that there is room for circular fashion within such a prestigious and established event.

As the event drew to a close and the guests mingled with the panel, I felt somewhat out of place wearing my new H&M dogtooth shacket. Being amongst a crowd of people that already shop consciously made me feel guilty. We all know the damaging effects of fast fashion and want to remove ourselves from the equation but still want to keep up with trends. After the Scaling Sustainability panel talk, it shone a light on the good things that these individuals were doing to help steer the industry towards a greener future. If more brands at the top of their game could make just a small conscious change, we would be one step closer to a healthier climate. A world with sustainably produced textiles, more involved and transparent ways to buy and even swapping the humble coat hanger may well be the way to tackle the fast-fashion problem head-on in 2020 and beyond.