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 By CODO Fashion Experts

Citing concerns over fashion’s impact on the environment, the Swedish Fashion Council cancelled Stockholm Fashion Week 2019. Rather, the Council wants to pursue an alternative fashion platform by supporting the development of sustainable brands and setting goals for a more sustainable future fashion industry.  

Following the Swedish Fashion Council’s footsteps, on November 22nd, 2019, the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of the NY (SACCNY) held its first Sustainable Fashion Forum. Organized by SACCNY Head of Communications and Impact Track Jasmina Backstrom, the Sustainable Fashion Forum was a meaningful step in the right direction towards addressing the fashion industry’s greatest problems.  

Left: Jasmina Backström, Head of Communications and Impact Track, SACCNY

Middle: Jennie Rosén, CEO, Swedish Fashion Council 

Right: Ulrika Drax Johansson, Co-founder Valuex Research and Miss Sweden '92;  Yulia Omelich, Co-founder CODO, Inc.

Photo credit: Johannes Berg, Nicholas Sosin, Edvin Kempe

The SACC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of trade relations and cooperation between the United States and Sweden, the sustainable capital of the world. The SACC’s newest initiative, called Impact Track, is designed to bridge the gap between business development and sustainable innovation. By allowing the innovative capacity of Sweden to mix with the economic opportunity of the United States, the SACC is a critical focal point in the movement to disrupt the fast fashion industry. 

The Sustainable Fashion Forum showcased several Swedish brands and innovators aiming to provide beneficial impact towards the fashion industry. Among them were SpinDye, a company fighting one of the dirtiest and most environmentally hazardous processes in the fashion industry--dyeing. By using an innovative technique to add pigment during the fabric spinning process, Spindye is able to create vibrant colors without the pollution and water waste of traditional textile dyeing. 

Also present was Nudie Jeans, which uses 100% recycled fibers in their polyester and wool jackets and provides a sustainable model of garment ownership. Rather than going out and buying several pairs of cheap, environmentally destructive jeans, Nudie Jeans encourages owning one pair of high quality, organic cotton jeans--even offering free repair services so consumers can wear and love their jeans longer.  

Another Swedish brand to take on the fashion industry is House of Dagmar, which creates classical designs from high quality, eco-friendly materials and emphasizes longevity in their products. Dagmar is also aware of the social impact of the fashion industry, so it ensures its suppliers take care of their employees and uphold human rights, as well as refrain from harming the environment.

Left: Display by House of Dagmar, featuring some of its sustainably-crafted designs

Right: Informative display by SpinDye, showing how its dyeing process has significantly less impact on the environment than current practices. 

Photo Credit: Johannes Berg, Nicholas Sosin, Edvin Kempe

The Sustainable Fashion Forum also provided technical expertise from industry professionals, particularly the keynote speaker Michael Ferraro, executive director of the Fashion Institute of Technology/Infor Dtech Lab. He opened the discussion with the power of technology to influence and even rewrite the fashion industry we know today. From wearable tech in “smart” garments to using technology to rethink the way fashion designers design their creations, Ferraro showed the audience a new world of sustainable possibilities for the industry through technology.

Ferraro also played the role of moderator for a panel of sustainable industry experts, titled “Redesigning the Bottom Line”. Members of the panel included Corey Spencer, Country Manager USA & Canada, Nudie Jeans; Hanna Wennerstein Williams, Country Manager USA, Gudrun Sjoden; Kristina Tjader, Founder of House of Dagmar; Jean-Marie Shields, VP of Brand Experience, Fjallraven; and Emily Scarlett, Head of Communications and Public Relations, H&M USA.  

The topic of conversation was fast fashion and what we consumers can do to consume sustainably. The term “fast fashion” gets thrown around a lot these days as more and more consumers are becoming aware of the negative impacts of the fashion industry. And big companies, such as H&M, are frequently the target of fast fashion’s negative connotation due to their size and prevalence: H&M operates in over 60 countries, employing over 130,000 people in 4,500 stores worldwide--with 573 stores in the United States. However, as we continue to push towards a more circular, sustainable fashion model, it is important that we not characterize a designer or company based on what they don’t do, but rather focus on and promote what they are doing for sustainability.

FIT's Executive Director Michael Ferraro gives a presentation on technology in fashion, and leads an expert panel called Redesigning the Bottom Line. 

Photo credit: Johannes Berg, Nicholas Sosin, Edvin Kempe

Emily Scarlett brought up an interesting perspective from the retailer side: a big company such as H&M has the resources and presence to enact meaningful, large-scale change to the fashion industry. She discussed H&M’s continued efforts at promoting and applying sustainable practices to its own business model, including H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection inspired by natural beauty, new sustainable fibers such as Orange Fibre made from citrus and Pineapple Leather to replace animal leathers, and H&M’s garment recycling program, available in all stores worldwide.

Perhaps most interesting was a comment about H&M experimenting with the resale industry. In fact, H&M is conducting a pilot with Swedish secondhand startup Sellpy, which is set to create a section for H&M’s “& Other Stories” line. It’s part of a bigger trend of large fashion retailers entering the secondhand and resale markets, as more and more young shoppers are prioritizing sustainability in their fashion consumption.Some resale experts fear that fashion giants getting involved in resale could be a detriment to our sustainable fashion industry, but we at CODO actually believe that a big retailer’s move towards the secondhand fashion market is beneficial. Retail and resale working together to help solve the industry’s greatest problems would be a welcome sight. This cooperation would continue to normalize the growing trend of resale consumerism and help change the way we view fashion altogether, curbing fashion’s environmental impact and providing for social change in the industry.We thank SACCNY for all the great work they do to promote sustainable business innovation, and for inviting us to Gateway, and we look forward to next year’s Sustainable Fashion Forum!

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