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Scientists, Designers And Activists Collaborate To Tackle Fashion’s Biggest Problem

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As the first World Economic Forum summit of this decade in Davos approaches, several announcements and launches are taking place to define the direction of sustainability across industries, with a notable focus on fashion. The upcoming Study Hall – Climate Positivity At Scale conference in New York (and live-streamed online) later this month will bring together eminent environmental scientists, chemists, fashion designers and activists to push the sustainability conversation beyond incremental and marketing-driven initiatives towards a decade of “listening to the scientists,” as urged by activist Greta Thunberg. The Study Hall Conference will use the UN Decade of Action to begin writing a new chapter in fashion history, where science is its closest collaborator.

Fashion and science have historically had a tricky relationship. Fashion reinvents itself perpetually and is heavily influenced by art, politics and popular culture, dancing to the beat of ephemerality, fleeting trends, and creative whims. Science employs a rigor and methodology that demands an entirely different and resolutely rational approach. The environmental situation we find ourselves in today demands that the two sectors harness the power of each other to fulfill our collective climate goals.

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Climate Change and Fashion

I spoke to Robin E. Bell, the ground-breaking Geophysicist and environmental scientist based at LDEO, Columbia University, who has been correlating antarctic ice sheet changes over the past three decades with projected climate change and agreed to speak at the conference for two reasons. One is practical and action-oriented, she told me, with the very top line message being “the planet is changing and we are the cause of it.” The second is her belief that the fashion industry can take an intellectual and emotional lead by being part of the climate conversation. She also urges collaboration, saying “it’s very clear that we have to build partnerships across all industries so we have the knowledge to look at this [climate change] as a system.”

This is where the fashion industry has struggled. Sustainable transformation in the context of the industry’s total environmental impact (from design to end-of-life) has been difficult to diagnose and evaluate. Without capturing the critical data and applying appropriate analysis any transformation strategy is a guess—educated or otherwise. This is where listening to the scientists (and digitizing the supply chain to ensure all required data is collected) comes in.

On the topic of the supply chain, Bell will urge fashion companies to assess the use of energy and the amount of CO2 generated, (and therefore the contribution to increased global temperatures) in their supply chain. The subsequent actions of the industry should be “looked at in relation to the CO2 budget,” she stated. Underpinning this is a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

The concept that people think we are doomed—we are not. We are fortunate as a species to be able to see what we are doing. We, as a species, can look at the planet as a whole. We can see how this global system works. We haven’t done that yet because we haven’t gotten awareness of the problem.

Robin E. Bell, professor, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

What’s striking about the conversation with Bell is that she is utterly optimistic and warns again a fatalistic attitude to climate change. Knowing the facts, I asked why. “We have a lot of resources on the planet— solar, wind, nuclear. The application of this knowledge and the will to do so is missing,” was her response. How can the fashion industry help catalyze action toward renewable energy? “Fashion conveys the sense that our planet is a beautiful home in a way that other industries can’t. Fashion can be a platform for the voice of science,” she believes. She makes the point that it is far more difficult to communicate what we cannot see, like carbon emissions. If the message of science can be delivered by fashion that is a powerful partnership.

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The fashion industry is powerful because everyone sees fashion, it is a way to communicate.

Robin E. Bell, professor, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Fashion Storytelling

A fashion brand with a voice it isn’t afraid to use is Noah Clothing. Co-founded by Estelle Bailey-Babenzien (interior designer) and Brendon Babenzien (ex-Design Director at Supreme) and based in NY, the brand shares global environmental news interwoven with fashion product images and photos of their community—devotees of the skate, music and fashion scenes.

We present a lot of terrifying facts to our customers, but in the middle of that we are a brand that talks about skateboarding.

Brendon Babenzien, co-founder, Noah Clothing

If fashion is synonymous with culture and lifestyle, then the decisions each of us make about what we wear says something about your beliefs and values. Noah Clothing’s values are rooted in a commitment that puts morals ahead of profits. “We will not grow if it means making a decision we are not proud of. If the conversation becomes about paying people less, that’s not appropriate,” said Brendon Babenzien. This no doubt draws admiration, dedication, and trust from fans of the brand, which is why when Noah Clothing speaks, their community listen.

Brendon Babenzien reflects on the business values he saw as a kid growing up in the ’80s. “It was all about ROI, what Wall Street is saying, the money value. But if you make people sick in the process it is a failure,” he said.

If you have to factor in human suffering everything changes—you’re not going to make as much money. We need a complete and total value shift about how we talk about things.

Brendon Babenzien, co-founder, Noah Clothing

Noah Clothing will contribute to a discussion at the conference on why fashion isn’t sustainable, presenting open and honest viewpoints about why sustainability is often talked about, but rarely achieved in a measurable, verifiable way. When asked about sustainability initiatives within his brand, he points to heavy reliance on textile mills and suppliers to guide them on sustainable materials. However, without the ability to assess the relative merits of one textile versus another, he says they have chosen to opt for the highest quality virgin and recycled materials to ensure the longest possible lifespan of their garments.

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Quantifying Sustainable Materials

A chemist tackling the lack of verifiable material sustainability data hampering companies like Noah Clothing is the CEO of Bolt Threads, Dan Widmaier. He has overseen the growth of Bolt Threads from a three-person material science startup in 2009 to a biomaterials and fabrics company with over 125 staff that has raised over 215 million dollars in investment. Since inception, Bolt has worked on the principle that nature is making extraordinary protein-based fibers that, if they could be made synthetically, would require far less planetary resources. A win for the planet, and a win for those wanting to take advantage of the billions of years of evolutionary refinement that nature has distilled in those natural fibers. Following nature’s blueprint and introducing lab-based efficiencies has led to Bolt Threads developing their Microsilk (synthetic spider silk) and Mylo products (a mycelium-based leather alternative) in small batches to test via designer collaborations.

Bolt Threads are very aware of the power of fashion to tell the story of science and have worked with Stella McCartney and adidas to release small ranges of sportswear knitted from Microsilk yarns. At the conference, Widmaier will discuss the role and methodology of Life Cycle Analysis, which is the current best practice tool (but far from perfect, he told me) for assessing the total environmental impact of a material or product—information that would be highly useful for fashion brands, including Noah Clothing, who do not create their own textiles.

We don’t sense and experience CO2 increase, we see the climate change effects—hurricanes, wildfires…  As carbon goes up, we need to make materials that stop contributing to that.

Dan Widmaier, CEO, Bolt Threads

It is evident that a symbiotic relationship between fashion and science is evolving, along with a moral imperative for the fashion industry, as a global leader in visual storytelling, to present a version of the planet we want to live on, to counter the current doom and gloom view of climate change. The Climate Positivity At Scale Conference is bringing this unique array of speakers together to foster a new fashion and science debate and instigate new collaborations. Other speakers at the conference, which is free to attend, include actress and advocate Yara Shahidi, Creative Director of Timberland, Christopher Raeburn and the fashion designer Mara Hoffman. Sustainability and regenerative farming experts from G-Star Raw and Hudson Carbon will also be amongst the speakers.

 

 

Celine Semaan, Founder of Slow Factory Foundation, a non-profit design lab and sustainable literacy initiative based in New York, established the Study Hall summit series in 2018. Reflecting on the purpose of the upcoming conference she said “fashion has only had a platonic relationship with science so far. What Study Hall is aiming to do is infuse the industry with important knowledge to accelerate the actions needed to achieve a reduction of 30% of carbon emissions by 2030, leading up to zero carbon emissions by 2050.” This feat is surely only achievable by bringing together science-based facts and the powerful voice of fashion. The Climate Positivity At Scale Conference is set to start a new chapter in the partnership that will facilitate this action.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am a sustainability and fashion tech journalist, innovator and public speaker with several years of experience working across this growing sector. I am also Director of the innovation agency BRIA, where we create materials-tech collaborations and sustainability innovations with brands from both the fashion and technology sectors, directly combining my knowledge of the latest developments in fashion tech with my cross-discipline approach to developing new materials. As one of few specialists with career experience of working in the fields of both science and design, as well as previously running a fashion brand, I use my expertise to write about the new emerging sector of fashion tech, along with the advances which will drive sustainability in the fashion industry. I have written for a number of publications, including HuffPost and my own platform, Techstyler, and have been invited to speak about fashion tech at numerous conferences and events, including delivering a TED talk.

Source: Scientists, Designers And Activists Collaborate To Tackle Fashion’s Biggest Problem

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Why This Fashion Entrepreneur Moved From L.A. to a Navajo Reservation to Run Her Own Clothing Business

Editor’s note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

The store has no name. Just a neon sign in the window with a symbol: a Native American storm cloud. It represents rebirth.

“I don’t feel the need to do things the way you are supposed to,” says Amy Yeung, when asked why she has made her new shop, which sells fashions handcrafted from upcycled materials as well as art and accessories, virtually unsearchable. “The right people will find it. It is an experiment.”

The same could be said for all of Yeung’s new life. In June, the one-time fast-fashion executive gave away virtually all her possessions, except for two boxes of clothes, some sewing tools, and upward of 500 pounds of vintage fabric collected over 30 years of global travel. Loading that inventory–the physical assets of her online apparel business Orenda Tribe–into a U-Haul, she departed her longtime home in Los Angeles to live a nomadic existence on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, among the indigenous sewers, jewelry makers, and artisans who are her suppliers. Now Yeung has ambitious plans to help the tribe, while further connecting with its members.

The store, near the Old Town section of Albuquerque, has a small living space in back that serves Yeung as a base. Mostly, though, she intends to keep moving, scouting new artistic talent on the reservation and transacting with her existing vendors, most of whom lack smartphones, access to electronic payment, or even mailboxes. While traveling, she will sleep on the road in a series of traditional Navajo dwellings, called hogans, which she intends to start building in the spring. “We’re taught to think you have to have ‘a’ home, and that is very limiting,” says Yeung, 55. “My goal is to have a whole batch of those little homes everyplace I want to live. I know a lot of people in rodeo who do that.”

Amy Yeung at her store in Albuquerque.Ramsay de Give

Yeung’s birth mother is Navajo. Her family, including some of the artisans who supply her businesses, is spread across 70 square miles of the Bisti Badlands near Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. Until seven years ago, Yeung, who was adopted, never knew them. But now she is intent on helping them and other members of the tribe by creating jobs that don’t involve extraction industries–which she detests–and by funding, through a separate foundation, food programs, activities, and supplies for students of schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

One way Yeung plans to create jobs is by launching a small-scale manufacturing facility to produce items like T-shirts and bandanas. She expects to fund it with grants. Government agencies, she says, are eager to support indigenous entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, she raises money for her charities through Instagram–$150,000 in eight months–and through business contacts from her corporate days. She also invests profits from Orenda Tribe and, now, from her unnamed store. “Sometimes all the revenue is going to those programs,” says Yeung, who views the accumulation of worldly goods as a social and spiritual scourge and, consequently, keeps little for herself.

Seizing on the entrepreneur’s prerogative to design her own life, Yeung is creating one that is at once stripped down and bountiful–solitary and rich in community. With her only child, Lily, heading off for a peripatetic gap year, Yeung has decided to embark–“like Georgia O’Keefe in the desert”–on a grand adventure of her own.

A mother and a mission found

Yeung always knew she was adopted. She was raised in rural Indiana “by two beautiful, loving humans”–a small-town pharmacist and his wife, who helped him in the store. Her limited understanding of indigenous life “was a very colonized view that came through U.S. history,” she says.

For 25 years, Yeung worked in companies like Reebok and Puma, designing activewear. Then in 2009, she suffered a serious bout of hypocrite parent syndrome. Yeung was teaching her then 7-year-old daughter to preserve the environment; at the same time she was creating fast fashions destined for landfills.

Amy Yeung.Ramsay de Give

Over the next four years she began to move away from corporate work, acting as an independent consultant for international apparel companies and startups eager to manufacture in the United States. During this period, she launched Orenda Tribe as a side gig, producing one-of-a-kind garments crafted from upcycled materials. Making things responsibly, she knew, was good for the earth. But remaking things that already existed was better. Yeung designed the clothes herself and hired small family businesses around Los Angeles to sew them.

In 2013, she ditched consulting to do Orenda Tribe full-time. The business grew thanks to popular items like military knit underwear and flight suits from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s that Yeung buys from vintage and surplus dealers, restores, and dyes in rich colors.

One repeat customer is Kinsale Hueston, a sophomore at Yale and one of Time magazine’s 2019 People Changing How We See the World. Like Yeung, Hueston is Navajo. She is also a performance poet striving to elevate indigenous voices. Onstage, she often wears pieces by Orenda Tribe. “As indigenous people, we have been taught by our grandmothers and mothers not to use brand new fabrics,” Hueston says. “So what she does is closely tied to what I am passionate about.” Even better, the clothes “allow me to be comfortable onstage but also look really put together.”

Ramsay de Give

While Yeung was morphing professionally, she was also exploring and deepening her family ties. She tracked down her biological mother on the internet and heard the story of her mother’s past. A teenager in the 1960s when the Indian Child Welfare Act was breaking apart indigenous families, she had been shipped to a boarding school in Ohio, where at times she was beaten or starved.

“Crazy stuff happened to her there,” says Yeung. “That is how I happened.”

Yeung’s mother stayed in Ohio. In 2007, Yeung and Lily visited her there; then the three generations traveled to the reservation. Over the next 10 years, Yeung often visited New Mexico, gradually meeting her extended family. She also started sourcing jewelry and custom apparel pieces from members of the tribe, her relatives among them, to sell through Orenda Tribe. And she learned about the social, environmental, and economic ills bedeviling her people. More than 500 abandoned uranium mines pock the land around her family’s home: one cousin is dying of uranium poisoning. Suicide and meth addiction are common.

“One third of my reservation is without electricity,” Yeung says. “One third is without running water. So there is a lot of work to be done out there.”

Yeung wanted to help, and not from a distance. As soon as Lily graduated high school, she resolved, she would move her studio, her business, and her life to New Mexico.

Stocking a store and a school

Yeung’s store, on Rio Grande Boulevard, is in a gentrifying neighborhood of a poor city. Albuquerque’s poverty rate is around 17 percent, compared with 12.3 percent nationally.

A former trading post, the space is packed with antique mercantile fixtures: glass displays and looming wooden cases with dozens of shallow drawers that are perfect for storing tools and fabrics. In the middle of the space sits a mahogany bed that Yeung says was formerly owned by Cary Grant (she has the documentation).

“A medicine man from the Jemez Pueblo cleansed and blessed the space and made an offering for all the new energy and the new intentions,” she says.

While a construction crew worked on the interior, Yeung spent the first two months in her new home creating inventory, both for the store and for festivals like the Spirit Weavers Gathering and the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love. (Thirty percent of Orenda Tribe’s revenue comes from shows, and 70 percent from e-commerce.)

In addition to Yeung’s creations, the store stocks work from around 50 indigenous artisans, a number Yeung hopes will rise to 200. A few have small dedicated spaces in the store, including a 9-year-old painter of hoop dancers and an 11-year-old silversmith who makes bracelets with visual stories engraved on them.

Ramsay de Give

Yeung’s intent is to spend three weeks a month on sales and production and one in service to the tribe, chiefly through her K’e Foundation (K’e is the Navajo word for “kinship”), for which she is seeking nonprofit status. She has already identified generous donors among her corporate connections and the stylist community in L.A. “My LinkedIn is pretty tasty,” she says.

The first focus of Yeung’s philanthropy is the Tohaali Community School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs K-8 boarding school with all Navajo students. Contributions she has raised include not just money but also goods: warm clothes from Patagonia; feminine hygiene products from the Monthly Gift Company; art supplies from Papaya Art; sports bras and leggings from Avocado Activewear; and hats and mittens from Dakine. A major athletic brand is in talks with Yeung about partnering on kids’ sports programs.

“We have a real problem here with hunger on the weekends when we have a lot of kids who go home to houses where there isn’t much food, says Delores Bitsilly, Tohaali’s principal. When Yeung heard that last December, on an early visit to the school, she went on Instagram and quickly raised enough money to fund take-home food for students through the summer term. She also brought them holiday gifts.

“Amy has been such a plus for us,” Bitsilly says. “And she’s a great role model for the kids to see what is possible.”

A birthday and a new life

The store with no name opened officially on August 29–Yeung’s 55th birthday. Surrounded by her rediscovered family and new friends, Yeung celebrated her surprising path.

“I could have been a vice president of some big company making tons of cash, but I would not have been happy,” she says. “What would I have told my daughter? That I produced fast fashion all my life? That I destroyed the environment?”

Amy Yeung.Ramsay de Give

But those years in corporate land were not wasted. They bestowed on Yeung a wealth of connections as well as fundraising, organizational, and communication skills that are largely missing from the reservation. In Los Angeles, she generated income for the tiny businesses and individuals who made Orenda Tribe’s products. She wants to do the same in New Mexico.

“Maybe the whole point of my not growing up here is now I can be the bridge to bring these things back,” Yeung says. “I want to crush it. I want to make things different. I think I can.”

By: Leigh Buchanan

Source: Why This Fashion Entrepreneur Moved From L.A. to a Navajo Reservation to Run Her Own Clothing Business

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Online Dress Boutique | Selfie Leslie | Jumpsuits and Rompers

Hey there, Gorgeous! We’re Selfie Leslie, one of the hottest online fashion boutiques in the industry. We’re obsessed with fun, flirty styles, and we’re always bringing you the best in “It”-girl dresses and rompers, tops and bottoms, jumpsuits, and more — so stop back often to see what we’re up to!

Our Story

Selfie Leslie was founded in Australia, but we came stateside to California in 2016, so we like to say we’re Australian-born, Los Angeles-bred. We own several other successful (and mega cute!) Aussie brands, including Angel Biba, Saints Secrets, Mika & Gala, Here Comes the Sun, Indikah and Debbie Dabble. No matter the brand or where we are, our goal has always been to become one of the best trendy online boutiques so you can find the hottest styles, year round.

Our Fashion Philosophy

Part of shopping at Selfie Leslie means having access to your favorite pieces, all the time. At Selfie Leslie, we make it a point to be on top of the latest trends. What kinds of looks make our cut? We’ll let our styles do the talking. Browse our collection to see our favorite looks this season:

Get In Touch

Have questions about any of our items or our policies? Contact us and we’ll be delighted to assist you. Be sure to follow us on Instagram to get styling advice, updates on sales, and see new styles as soon as they hit the store.

Source: Online Dress Boutique | Selfie Leslie | Jumpsuits and Rompers

Monetize Your Closet With New Peer-To-Peer Fashion Marketplace, Wardrobe

The millennial consumer psyche has changed the way we think about fashion and how we shop. Is it instantly gratifying, convenient, and am I getting the most out of my purchase? Is this product sustainable? Can I test-drive before buying, or rent without having to buy at all? Newly launched mobile app, Wardrobe appeals to these behaviors by offering a digital platform that allows users to both monetize items in their own closet that might not get a ton of play, or rent product from peers in the same space: a new approach to the sharing economy in the world of fashion……….

Source: Monetize Your Closet With New Peer-To-Peer Fashion Marketplace, Wardrobe

These are the top trending wedding dresses in the world right now — Straylite Media

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via These are the top trending wedding dresses in the world right now — Straylite Media

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