Around 100 fashion professionals, communication professionals and fashion fans attended Thursday’s edition of the talk show known as “True Fashion Talks,” where 3 speakers discussed how to campaign for change in the fashion industry.
Between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm, attendees gathered at Fashion for Good‘s office in Spui. “How to campaign for change” was the topic of the talkshow’s first edition this year. Founded in 2017 by True Fashion Collective, Impact Hub and Fashion for Good, “True Fashion Talks” promotes discussion about diverse issues in the textile industry and potential solutions amongst professionals in the field.
Community and partnership manager in Circle Economy Jade Wilting was the first speaker to introduce herself. As hinted by its name, the company works for the implementation of a circle economy. In contrast with the current economic model, a circle economy is sustainable and does not have a negative impact on the environment.
Wilting grew up in South Africa and has been living in the Netherlands for 7 years. She has noticed how differently the two countries deal with waste. The Dutch leave on the streets what they do not want or need anymore, waiting for them to be taken away. This made Wilting reflect on how the world could take measures for generating less waste and handling it in a sustainable and responsible way. Having worked in Hong Kong in 2016, she was able to witness the direct societal impact of powerful movements like the 2014 Umbrella Revolution.
Ron van den Akker is the co-founder and CEO of CollAction, a crowd action platform where people can join to collectively solve problems in the world. “People think their actions don’t matter”, claimed van den Akker. “Would you take action if a hundred, thousand, million other people would do the same?”. Van den Akker’s question reflects the crowd-acting approach, which aims to tackle difficult challenges through unity. “If a lot of people are committing, the rest will follow”, he explained.
“Would you take action if a hundred, thousand, million other people would do the same?”
Before her current job, Anne-Ro Klevant Goen used to work as the public relations and marketing manager for major fashion companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and Karl Lagerfeld. She believes working for commercial brands on marketing side means pushing for product sales. Today, the third speaker of Thursday’s talk show Klevant works as a communications manager at Fashion for Good. This global platform roots for a circular economic system by helping innovative fashion start-ups and companies grow sustainably.
“I think everyone is an influencer”, explained Klevant while presenting the use of influencer marketing in the fashion industry. This new marketing strategy has become increasingly popular with the rise of social media and is notoriously salient in platforms such as Youtube and Instagram. “If someone has a good story and has 100 followers, they can make a difference.”
“If someone has a good story and has 100 followers, they can make a difference”
The key for a successful campaign
“Choose a cause that you clearly believe in, and follow it,” said Jade Wilting. Fashion for Good’s communications manager claimed that passion is the key to a successful campaign. According to Wilting, it takes just the first follower to start a successful campaign. Powerful new tools such as online communication, which allows an incredible speed for spreading content, should be embraced by campaigners to cross that first-follower-threshold. Additionally, brands and organizations willing to invest in such campaigns can provide initial funding, as well as much-needed exposure.
“Choose a cause that you clearly believe in and follow it”
“It’s not rocket science”, said Ron van den Akker,when asked about the key to a successful campaign. “If you create a good idea (…) just throw it out there!”. He also mentioned tools such as influencers, that can be used to enhance the reach of campaigns. In his platform, the success of a campaign can be easily determined by checking if it reached its formerly defined and realistic target. Another way to measure if a campaign was successful is to evaluate in its resulting in some kind of policy change, or a profound and significant change in behavior.
A “good, solid plan”, is what Anne-Ro Klevant believes is the key to a successful campaign. This can be best achieved by implementing the so-called 360 degrees approach. By integrating different tools such as influencers, social media and events, a campaign could be more effective, she argues. Additionally, Klevant mentioned that staying true to oneself while campaigning can have a powerful impact. In general, the answer for this question, agreed upon by all three speakers, was: Just go for it.
It is common for campaigners and advocates to highlight the negative consequences of an issue. When the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions, a woman emphasized the importance of positivity in persuasion. While the speakers agreed that understanding the relevance of issues is important, they also acknowledged that certain framing can make the receiver feel guilty and attacked. If a method of persuasion results in a sense of hopelessness, it can prevent them from taking action. “People get tired of the negativity at some point, don’t they?”, replied van den Akker. A solution to this problem would be to balance this with positive framing, by making people feel in control and empowered. This could potentially result in a positive behavioral change.
“People get tired of the negativity at some point, don’t they?”
Keeping it relevant
Wilting argued that the relevance of a campaign could be maintained by continuously adapting its coverage using creative and diverse strategies, as well as making use of the different available mediums. Similarly, Klevant proposed that campaigns should implement new technologies and innovations to stay relevant in this rapidly evolving time.
Finally, even though he is “no expert in fashion”, van den Akker believes that the fashion revolution still has a long way to go before achieving sustainability. “I have seen that the impact of the fashion revolution is not done,” he said. “The ultimate goal hasn’t been achieved yet (…) it seems quite far away.”
In China and India, farmers say they are able to predict the color of a fashion season based on the color of the rivers, according to ABC News. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry worldwide after oil, according to The Guardian. Fast fashion allows people to buy cheap clothes in large quantity, which results in increased levels of water contamination, a collateral result from textile manufacturing. Not only does the textile industry have an increasingly negative impact on the environment, it also severely affects labor conditions in countries such as Bangladesh, where the industry is strongly rooted. Given the dimensions of the issue, fashion sustainability campaigns will stay relevant in the near future.
Incorporating sustainable fashion in our daily lives
The speakers agree that an easy and effective way of promoting a circle economy is to simply talk to one’s close friends and immediate social circles about the issue. By communicating passion and information about the topic to people who care about you, they may feel moved and inspired enough to act upon the issue to make a small behavioral change, or at least find more information about the fashion revolution.
Another way to support campaigns is to follow newsletters to stay updated on new initiatives, and ways to help. Being informed will help you when talking to others about the topic, and will overall make you rethink your choices as a consumer. Finally, by buying fewer clothes and switching to second-hand clothing, we can help reduce waste production.
A Fashion for Good staff member presented his concerns about how the campaign was led and embraced mainly by either women or middle and upper classes, excluding the majority of the world population. He wondered how diversity could increase amongst campaigners. The speakers acknowledged this issue and said that it is an important question that should seriously be discussed and addressed by the fashion industry in order to find a solution.
How can CEOs and company managers be convinced to implement sustainable models?
Anne-Ro Klevant highlighted that a circular economy does not necessarily affect companies in a negative way. In fact, they can benefit from such a change. Thus, she claims it would take a long, educational stance to make managers understand the possible positive consequences that embracing sustainability could have on their businesses. Ron van den Akker mentions the role of stakeholders such as consumers, and how their voices can influence the company’s agenda. For instance, this can be achieved through company meetings or communication channels.
For more information about sustainable fashion or programs that help this initiative, you can visit the following sites:
Hello-Goodbuy: An initiative from Circle Economy that provides strategies for fashion addicts to #getyourshittogether.
LENA the fashion library: This innovative subscription-based shop allows you to borrow expensive designer outfits for reasonable prices in Amsterdam.