Female Power

Leading Ladies of Fair Fashion

Female power and sustainability – two megatrends stimulating each other. Who are the women in jobs where their decisions impact on sustainability and the interfaces which have a decisive influence on the sector? And what is their statement in the face of a change towards more sustainability in the textile and fashion industry? Jana Kern asked the questions.

“Fair Trade allows us to pay a premium directly to workers, for them to spend on whatever they need: this could be a cash bonus or help towards things like free childcare, healthy food, water filters or rain jackets. Vote with your dollars. Whenever you take time to research your purchases and buy products that carry the Fair Trade label, you are sending out a positive message to brands and that is how we will create real change.”
Cara Chacon, Vice President, Social & Environmental Responsibility, Patagonia USA

“My aim is fair and ecological textile production. This needs an EU regulation to ensure duties of care and transparency in the conditions of production and in the whole supply chain. And the GOTS should become a European seal of ecological standards. Consumers have a right to textiles which meet standards of human rights. Moreover, they should be able to identify organic products when they are making their purchases.”  
Renate Künast, Member of the German Parliament, Bündnis 90/Greens

“Fashion has been a source of joy, creativity and inspiration for centuries, but in order to continue that way we need to think differently about how fashion is made and used in the future. I believe that we will see a shift from a linear to a circular system, which will not only massively lower the use of natural resources but also pave the way for new and innovative ways of how we make and consume fashion. I also hope that transparency will further increase so that consumers can become even more engaged and find it easy to make more sustainable choices.”
Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M

“We are facing major and urgent ecological and social challenges globally. In this situation business and industry – and this applies particularly to the international textile industry – have a vital role to play. I think it is urgently necessary for the industry to take responsibility for the human and natural world along the entire supply chain. At VAUDE we take this responsibility very seriously. We have resolved to manage our operations sustainably through and through – because we want to contribute to a world which is fit to live in, and because we are sure that this is also the viable way of the future in economic terms.”   
Antje von Dewitz, Executive Board, Vaude

“For far too long, choosing a more sustainable wardrobe involved endless compromises in style and performance. So it’s a huge relief to see sustainable fashion becoming more mainstream, with choices to suit a broader range of tastes and wallets. There’s still a long way to go before we can all take sustainability concerns off our shopping list. But I’m confident this agenda is going to become an all-seasons staple rather than just a passing trend.”
Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainable & Healthy Living, Ikea

“I am inclined to start by saying: It's about time! But my immediate next thought is: We must do more! We have made strides, for sure. But too often, sustainable choices continue to reside in the realm of a single product or category. True sustainability must be embedded in the heart of corporate strategy and grounded in sound business principles. The pace of sustainability within the industry must accelerate if the industry is to survive. Until the industry as a whole addresses these issues—our work isn’t done.”
La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director, Textile Exchange

“The time for small steps is past. Let us have no illusions. To achieve more sustainability in the fashion industry, we must think big and not allow ourselves to be deflected by the cock and bull story that small steps help. If each one of us does no more than a little, then we shall achieve only a little. It is no use undertaking modifications here and there; it requires a genuine cultural change. In production, in design, and in consumer attitudes.”  
Dr. Kirsten Brodde, textile expert for the Detox Campaign, Greenpeace

“Over the next few years, I see transparency to become THE key driver towards sustainability in textiles and fashion, be it B2B or B2C. Brands and producers will up to  the 'prides and sorrows' of their business practises - and so will consumers as a consequence. In my vision, we do not need people like myself anymore. Because sustainability along all dimensions will be how we do - or maybe better: will be pushed to do - business. All relevant aspect considered, it no doubt it is the approach  to business with the lowest risk, the most stable returns and largest opportunities for business to remain competitive and innovative on the long-run.”
Dr. Pamela Ravasio, Head of CSR & Sustainability, European Outdoor Group

“Businesses in Germany need accept no liability when workers’ rights and human rights are violated in low-wage countries such as Bangladesh and India. Every day people, particularly women, are sewing our clothing there at starvation wages. They suffer from overwork, chicanery and abuse. Therefore, I want statutory regulations which make companies responsible if they fail to meet their duty of care towards their suppliers. I call upon companies to ensure living wages at last and to ensure that women are no longer subject to discrimination and are free to organise, so they can fight for their rights.”
Dr. Gisela Burckhardt, CEO of Femnet e.V.

“Within the textile and apparel sustainability revolution there is the need to collectively address the environmental impact issues. This is especially apparent in the denim industry where the impacts on water, chemicals and waste is higher than other segments. One of the greatest challenges facing our industry is educating the consumer to understand the value of sustainable fashion.”
Tricia Carey, Director Global Business Development, Lenzing Fibers

“Fashion has always been a reflection of our times, mirroring in its textual and creative forms the cultural, political and social trends of times. It's therefore a positive sign that many fashion industry players are now focused more on sustainable solutions - and that we're gradually crawling out of the bottom of the filthy fashion pit - to instead collaborate to make positive change. This is a reflection of the times that I'm proud of.”
Christina Dean, Founder Redress and Co-Founder BYT

“It isn't enough just looking for quality in the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them.”
Orsola de Castro, Co-Founder and Director, Fashion Revolution

Better late than never! Really, we have a huge task ahead of us to mainstream organic cotton and fair fashion which represents less than 1 % today. It’s great to see new sustainable materials for clothes and shoes and that they are becoming more accessible to designers, brands and therefore customers. But we need a huge governmental supported funding and support initiative to level the paying field. After all, how can we Ethical brands compete on price and offer with fast fashion brands who use Slave labour and synthetics - both are completely unsustainable. We also need major ethical investment to make ethical fashion the norm! Where are they? It’s not fair to expect consumers and pioneer brands to do all the work.
Safia Minney, Founder People Tree

“What is fashion? Fashion is a means of showing our style and personality. It gives us pleasure, recognition, and sometimes respect. Fashion demonstrates beauty, and that is what it is all about. A truly beautiful item of clothing is of good quality; it cannot be treated with harmful chemicals, nor can it be made by child labour.”
Magdalena Schaffrin, creative director, Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

“Sustainable development in the fashion industry is a very feminist subject. For, viewed self-critically, women go shopping more often on average than men, own more clothes than men, and sort through them more often than men. Add to this the fact that in the textile factories young girls and women often work in precarious circumstances. By reflecting on our behaviour as consumers, i.e. by being more aware in our purchasing and, above all, by buying fairly produced clothing, we as women can support each other world-wide and thus contribute to solving these problems.”    
Marie Nasemann, model and author, Fairknallt

“This change has been going on for a long time and is far more than a mere trend. Consumers, brands, retailers, press and public have begun a re-think – that is marvellous and motivating! But there remains an incredibly large amount still to do until this beginning can lead to what we actually want for the environment and for people in the supplier countries: a sustainable textile and fashion industry.”
Heike Scheuer, head of office, International Association for the Natural Textile Industry (Internationaler Verband der Naturtextilwirtschaft (IVN))

“To make a real change to the textile market, for example, sustainably produced raw materials must become a mass phenomenon, which can be offered without any alternative and without any fuss, by all and for all. The consumer ought no longer to have a choice, and the human race and its environment would benefit from that.”
Tina Stridde, managing director, Aid by Trade Foundation

“Change begins always in your own head. Decision makers in companies must be brave and prepared to travel creative paths, e.g. through new calculation models which include environmental and social costs in their figures. Consumers must be willing to pay the actual price of a product. And everyone should ask themselves what will happen if there is no change towards increased sustainability.”
Claudia Kersten, marketing director, GOTS

“We all still have the pictures of the factory collapse in Rana Plaza before our eyes. Yet what has been done since that time? Young women in particular continue to work in the sewing factories of this world in conditions which degrade humanity. This must finally be brought to an end. Jointly with other women and men, I commit myself to creating binding tools by which companies will be compelled to meet human rights and internationally recognised social and ecological standards. We need internationally enforceable employment laws, failure to meet which can attract huge sanctions. Human rights and environmental protection must become the highest principle of entrepreneurial activity, not profit maximisation.”   
Christiane Schnura, coordinator, Campaign for Clean Clothing

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