On 27th April 2012, Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at M&S and Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion discussed wide ranging themes associated with fashion and sustainability as part of the launch of M&S’s ‘Shwopping’ recycling initiative and the two week creative ‘Shwop Lab’ co-ordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in Dray Walk, London to explore shwopping design implications.
The conversation, described by one journalist as one of the most interesting and wide-ranging she’d ever heard on fashion and sustainability, has been edited into four podcasts available for download.
Part 1 covers broad themes in fashion and business:
- Different ways to experience fashion – how are they influenced by business models? How does M&S’s shwopping initiative relate to this?
- Statistics about global levels of consumption – and asks how they will be clothed.
- Shwopping goes some way towards closing the loop – a pragmatic solution to clothing people in the future.
- Consumption: requires a new balance between long and short-term objectives and involves hard choices: how can society be organised in a different way?
- How can resources be maximised for the common good?
- Many big businesses now recognise that they cannot go on as before. M&S engaged in a consumption model over the last 30 years – it needs new models and new collaborations. How should we talk about sustainability to the board?
- The different challenges associated with different types of consumers.
Part 2 explores the themes of local manufacture:
- Bringing manufacturing back to UK
- Whether Shwopping could create a fibre resource in the UK
- Human scale important to sustainability: connections to land, to community.
- Different business models which include local: hyper efficient global; hyper local and the disruptive effect of environmental impact on ways of conducting commerce.
Part 3 covers brands and consumers:
- The role of the big brands in fashion and sustainability
- Brands are getting better at communicating sustainability. M&S good at functional discussion around sustainability. The challenge is the cultural and emotional discussion.
- Shwopping is the beginning of this different discussion in M&S and leading change rather than reacting to it.
- But it is still framing people as individual consumers – rather than drawing people together in a connected effort.
- More clothes are bought than discarded every year… wardrobe obesity
Part 4 includes discussion of recycling and related issues:
- The relationship between Shwopping and other clothing and textile recycling schemes – how can we gain access to unwanted fibre and facilitate the process of recycling?
- Has the current model of recycling clothing reached a natural plateau? Is the inertia in recycling functional or emotions? Linked to our psyche?
- Competition for resources means that materials have a greater value.
- What is the role of design in take back schemes? What are the design for recycling criteria?
- Design for recycling criteria. In order to extract maximum value build in a way of thinking that allows to plan for multiple future uses.
- Does recycling justify the existing business model? Also have to promote intensive, joyful, ongoing use.