Your May 2019 Reading List

This month’s reading list is inspired in part by the recent Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s agenda; also in the news, possible applications of blockchain technology in the fashion industry, fair labour, prize winners, and yes, shoes made of salmon skin.

Credit / Copenhagen Fashion Summit press image

Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019

The 2019 update of the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report published by the Global Fashion Agenda in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition during the Copenhagen Fashion Summit reveals that the pace of sustainability progress in the fashion industry has slowed by a third in the past year and is not moving fast enough to counterbalance the harmful impact of the fashion industry’s rapid growth. Among the biggest players in the market which make billions in revenue every year, the pace of improvement has basically stalled. Projections suggest that by 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry will have grown by 81%, to 102 million tons, exerting an unprecedented strain on planetary resources. To strengthen the work for a changing system five leading apparel organisations, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (EURATEX), Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) and the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) have joined forces to call on European Union policymakers to resolve circularity issues in the fashion industry. The manifesto argues that the fashion industry must take a new approach by focusing on recycling innovations and that ground breaking policy measures from government are needed.

Fashionable expressions don’t mean change

The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF) of London commented the communications of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit with critical tone, highlighting the importance of terms used in describing sustainable activities and the need to have true insight into a company’s activities, beyond their communication which can be often misleading, talking about changes that are meaningless from the environmental point of view. For the same reason, The Guardian has announced the adjustment of their terminology used about changes in the world related to climate and environment in their style kit.

What blockchain can mean for supply chain

Since November 2008, when Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin protocol, the use and spread of crypto currency has moved at a swift pace. This paper aims to find other fields of application for blockchain outside the financial world, building a business model study using Nike as an example - they apply blockchain technology in the product return phase of the supply chain. In Germany, as this article reports, a blockchain-based platform called The IOTA DLT will allow customers to have a full insight into the supply chain process to ensure that the products remain ethical and traceable, monitoring and storing production data.

A similar concept focused to the luxury industry was announced by CryptoSlate, ConsenSys and Microsoft, platform AURA, that aims to serve the entire luxury industry with powerful product tracking and tracing services. The platform will be based on the Ethereum blockchain and utilize Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Forbes also has published an article about a tracking and verifying system for food supply chain with details about the first application of SAP’s blockchain technology. Within the TCBL network, the business service Thela is a supply chain program that allows brands in the fashion industry to monitor the social and environmental performance of all those involved in their supply chains.

Sinèad Burke photographed by Tim Walker, courtesy Body Beautiful:

Fashion for any body

A brand new exhibition opened May 8 at the National Museum of Scotland focuses on diversity in fashion by teaming up with “little person” advocate Sinèad Burke, whose photographs are also exhibited. Burke’s body was used to create dressmakers’ models in her own size.

Fair labour in the textile industry

The Fair Labor Association has announced a future resource with advanced worker and wage data from all over the world available for brands looking to employ workers in areas prone to exploitation. For example Ethiopia, where government attracted the garment industry by promoting the “lowest base wage in any garment-producing country”, the equivalent of $26 a month, according to a report by the New York University Stern Centre for Business and Human Rights, analysed in this article of The UK Times. The accessible information and campaigns on un-sustainable production has already had positive outcomes (see this BBC News story ). Change arrives step by step and big companies begin with small ethical steps, as Vogue Business reported about Kering, committed to employ only over-18 models in their campaigns by 2020. When it comes to big steps and big numbers, here is an interesting article about the possible reasons of the big difference between man and women in leader position in the apparel industry, even though “among apparel companies in the Fortune 1000 (including apparel retailers), female-led companies are almost twice as profitable as companies with male CEOs”, according to the Pwc report.

The winners of the Techtextil Innovation Awards 2019

For the first time, this year Techtextil handed out two awards in the ‘Sustainability’ category of the Techtextil Innovation Awards 2019: one for an international working group that presented polymer composites based on PLA fibres that can be used in the fields of automobile manufacturing, the sports industry and medical technology; and another one for Picasso, presented in this video, developed in Portugal and showcasing a dyeing process that uses only plant extracts and mushrooms.

“Kering” about animals

Business of Fashion published the new internal animal-welfare guidelines of Kering, the French conglomerate that operates luxury brands such as Balenciaga, Gucci and Saint Laurent. The directive will “ensure and verify the humane treatment of animals” across the company’s supply chains.

Value chain tracing fashion colossals

The public-benefit company Sustainable Apparel Coalition from San Francisco announced the introduction of Higg Co., a for-profit company that will develop technology and platforms for companies to work with the Higg Index: a suite of sustainability assessment tools to facilitate a faster and more efficient rollout across the global apparel, footwear and textile value chains. Jason Kibbey, Higg Co.’s chief executive officer said that many of the new company’s customers will be Sustainable Apparel Coalition partners, including the Adidas Group, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Walt Disney Co., Eileen Fisher, Guess? Inc., H&M, Hanes, Nike, Levi’s as well as Macy’s and Nordstrom.

Rent the runway flagship store | source: facebook page

Shopping vs clicking

Rent the Runway, founded in 2009, has reinvented customer approach to couture dressing. This month the company have opened a flagship brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco, as this article recounts. The retail space is not at all traditional: self-service stations have allowed the company to facilitate 10 times the amount of in-store transactions as were possible two years ago. Vogue Business reports also the sustainable practices of the company, like the patented reusable shipping bags and the use of green dry cleaning.

Meanwhile, Taobao, the ultra-popular online mall owned by Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, has opened its first brick-and-mortar retail store. Read more on digital-first retailers here. According to this article, recent survey by Kelton Global revealed that 85 percent of Americans shop in at least one retail store, physical stores still have a significant role to play. As the investor-attracting concept of social shopping of Storr demonstrates the online in-store experience is opened to experiments. Read this about how Storr works.

Running in bad and good circles

Circular economy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for business, concludes this report by Fashion for Good and Accenture Strategy, exploring the financial viability of circular business models in the fashion industry based on rental, subscription-rental and re-commerce. For Sean Coxall, president of Li & Fung supply chain solutions, circles have a negative connotation, as a part of the fashion industry is stuck in circles because it’s not ready to leave traditional models behind, according to this article. Sourcing Journal featured also a report of a roundtable about how any transformation should start from the factories.

What is Made in China?

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China escalated this month: US apparel imports from China face a new 25% tariff. Read in this article about how brands reacted and this financial analysis about possible outcomes. Could this political-economic scenario accelerate some changes in China towards circular economy? Big players appreciate sustainable concepts but take no measures in real life, according to this article. There are some projects though, like Future Tech Lab, that work for building a new kind of economy. This venture capital fund that works with innovative startups prioritizing sustainability was founded by Miroslava Duma, awarded by the World Economic Forum with the title of Young Global Leader in 2018. She speaks about her project in this interview.

Salmon skin shoes

There is an alternative to industrial leather production which uses chrome in the chemical solution in the tanning process. Chrome tanning was invented in 1858 and quickly became the most commonly used process, replacing vegetable tanning because it was cheaper and faster. The hides are doused in water, chromium salts and tanning liquor for approximately two days, which changes the protein structures of the skin so that it doesn’t decompose and retains colour. If not managed correctly, this process chrome leaches arsenic, acids and other harmful chemicals into the local water supply. In this Forbes article the details of a new metal free process is revealed.
Fish skin is now being proposed as a valid ecological alternative to the leather demand of the fashion industry. Salmon skins at Atlantic Leather sell for 11 euros per square foot and use natural, non-polluting dyes. As BBC reports, now the company supplies top European fashion houses Jimmy Choo, Dior and Ferragamo. Contrary to what you might think, fish skin is actually stronger than lamb or cow and it’s suitable for shoe, belt and bag production.


The Ikea effect was first coined in a 2011 paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology to indicate a personal capability process that increases satisfaction with the result, just like the IKEA furniture that typically requires some assembly before use. This is part of the logic behind the TCBL Café: participation brings together people interested handcrafts like sewing, knitting, embroidering in a social and collective setting and you get greater satisfaction of making things yourself, even in a collaborative way.

To find out how customers think about sustainability, IKEA has launched a research project with select Family card users. According to this summary, research finds that many consumers have a perception of pro-environmental consumption choices as likely to be inconvenient, expensive and burdensome. Fighting this perception, the company opened a “leading sustainable store” in Greenwich (London) that offers the usual product line and café as well as co-working spaces and free green areas, and has gotten an outstanding accreditation in the BREEAM certification.

Posted By
Aniko Gal