The way forward

TCBL assists with implementing innovative sustainable transport solutions such as PimPamPost.

Fast fashion, textile industry waste, and cheaply produced garments all (rightfully) get a bad rap these days. But even the most mindfully made items can create excessive pollution and problems when sustainable shipping solutions aren’t prioritized.

Frederique Thoreau, CEO of brand engagement firm Toko Paris, former head of market and client intelligence for French luxury fashion group Kering, and member of the Textile Clothing and Business Labs network, has long been an advocate for better transportation practices in her industry. “I’ve always felt that this sort of “backstage process” is much less glamorous to talk about in terms of the textile and fashion world, but it’s very important if we want to [collectively] reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.

Continuous proliferation of online portals’ same-day or super-fast delivery services has meant that consumers’ expectations for instant gratification have skyrocketed. “Customers just want to click and get whatever they’ve ordered via the internet. They want to see it delivered right away,” Thoreau says. General public awareness of sustainability issues may be on the rise, but the fast pace of our digital-first, globalized lifestyles is perennially at odds with it. As Thoreau puts it, “There’s a fight for who can deliver the fastest to the final consumer. This is a huge problem, particularly in cities—the item has to come from a warehouse which is generally 30 kilometers outside of Paris or wherever. So many people are involved in the delivery process, and costs are high.”

Enter PimPamPost, a Barcelona-based group for whom Thoreau played a key consulting role. CEO and co-founder Benjamin Chartoire describes the group’s mission as “sustainable solutions for international goods delivery.” Clarifying further, he explained in a recent email exchange that the group offers “a responsible service for the international transport of goods, adapted to issues in European slow fashion.”

PimPamPost’s on-the-ground concept is surprisingly straightforward, though the methods and logistics of implementation can be complicated: fundamentally, it’s about making use of empty space on public transport (busses and trains) to ship goods, starting with shoes produced in northern Portugal. (Think of it as a sort of ride-sharing service, like BlaBla Car, but for commercial goods and packages). TCBL was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, Chartoire says: “[The TCBL network] helped us a lot in finding partners to launch our logistics services in Portugal—we’re settled in Sanjotec, Sao Joao da Madeira. Further still, it helped us close a fundraiser.”

TCBL’s commitment to the PimPamPost project and its baseline values are reflective of larger conversations happening within the fashion and textile industries. Thoreau explains that “since 2015, there’s a been a lot of thinking about decreasing the costs of last-mile transport.” A staggering average of 20 percent of costs, according to Thoreau, can be traced to the final mile of deliveries. Companies with eco-centered ethics are therefore rethinking their impacts, aiming to reduce the overall impact of logistics by choosing suppliers closer to where clients are located (a challenge, naturally, in an increasingly globalized marketplace, when clients can be all over the map).

Early institutional efforts, such as the Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on the Textile and Clothing Industry (first introduced in Caserta, Italy in 2004), have provided an initial help in keeping production chains within reasonable geographical proximity of each other. But “reasonable” takes on a stricter definition as conversations about industrial effects on the planet grow ever more urgent.

Restructuring is a key value of the TCBL network and is rendered easier (and earth-friendlier) when companies don’t have to start from scratch in finding solutions, but can work creatively within existing systems, as PimPamPost is doing. “The use of empty space is something I find quite astute, quite clever,” says Thoreau. Seems the group is on the “right track” in more ways than one.