Prague’s first Sustainable Fashion Day
Fashion is one of the dirtiest industries in the world and employs more than 40 million people. Intense pressure to achieve the lowest price, a large margin for the industry and mass consumption devastate nature and human lives. Workers suffer poor conditions in textile factories, sometimes even resulting in death as in the case of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Pesticides used to grow cotton harm the health not only of farmers, but stealthily also of consumers.
How to make the fashion industry more sustainable and what can designers and consumers do to help? These questions were addressed on September 4th at the first Sustainable Fashion Day in Prague, with presentations by Kamila Boudová, organizer and sustainable fashion advocate, as well as Jaroslav Pašmik, Holger Brodkorb and other Czech retailers and sustainable fashion designers.
Below a few key learnings.
Sustainability Enthusiast, Community Organiser, Business Consultant, Lecturer at VŠE
“We need to keep the economy growing, but to separate it from its negative traits. We need for there to be a decoupling in industry. This is the biggest challenge.” – Jaroslav Pašmik.
Jaroslav had some words of critique about our definition of the word sustainability, explaining that there needs to be a more nuanced understanding of the term. There are aspects of our modern system that are working and others that are not, and the key is to “decouple” these.
“The word ‘sustainability’ in itself does not make sense. What should we keep? Why? And for how long? Sustainability needs to be more specific. Sustainability is a question of maintaining prosperity and extending it to the entire population. Ideally indefinitely. But the concept alludes to a specific problem – these are the systems and environment in which we operate. For 250 years we have been following a status quo, and we depend on the carbon economy. We have 30 to 35 years. We need to keep the economy growing, but to separate it from its negative traits. We need for there to be a decoupling in industry. This is the biggest challenge.”
Jaroslav proposed a better definition of a prosperous and sustainable life within the limits of our planet as meaning: a sustainable food and water supply, clean energies, healthy and productive ecosystems and good governance.
Coordinator of Fashion Revolution and founder of Sustainable Fashion Day & Moyomi
“Cradle to cradle is for me the answer to everything.” – Kamila Boudová
Kamila spoke about what steps fashion designers and consumers can take to become more sustainable, highlighting the importance of the “Cradle to Cradle” approach.
“Cradle to Cradle is for me the answer to everything. To not be poisoned too fast, our goal is zero consumption. But zero consumption is not a sexy vision. The Cradle to Cradle system does not limit citizens. It’s not tyranny and dictatorship in which our options are limited, but rather a series of material and energy flows.”
How does the principle of Cradle to Cradle work? Products are designed so that at the end of their life cycle they can be decomposed and their individual parts used in the next cycle. Everything is planned from the beginning, so that each element becomes a raw material for a further new product, and nothing is wasted.
In addition to design, Kamila spoke about other issues to consider such as energy, transparency, location of production and respect for diversity. First, a sustainable business must find ways to use clean energy for production as well as for offices, shops and transport. Further, there must be transparency around the origin of the materials, guaranteed ethical conditions in production, and information sharing with customers.
“Transparency is not just a tool for self control, but also the opportunity for the customer to create their own choice.”
A sustainable place of production furthermore needs to be found for all materials, crafts and technology, where possible using local products. An example would be the French brand Veja, who decided to produce the most ecological sneakers in the world. All materials such as rubber, cotton and leather are sourced from Brazil, and a factory and the company’s headquarters are also located there.
Finally, a key aspect of sustainable fashion is about respecting diversity, which means being individual rather than following trends. As Kamila said, “why copy everything and be the same? Get inspired by nature and what nature has to offer locally.”
Founder and director of fashion brand Ragwear
“Sustainable fashion brands should be the new standard. There is no excuse – it should be the new normal.” – Holger Brodkorb
Holger Brodkorb, founder and director of Prague-based fashion brand Ragwear, spoke about how to make conventional fashion brands more sustainable.
“Everyone has to take responsibility. Me, as an entrepreneur, that is what I could do. The first thing was to be completely animal free — to be vegan.”
The brand also carries the Fairwear label and has an upcoming organic collection.
Holger emphasized the importance of knowing your subcontractors. Though the brand manufactures its clothes in China, Holger regularly goes there in person to supervise conditions in the factories.
And it seems that we in the West may have some misperceptions about the standards in Chinese factories.
“Production in China has changed dramatically. Its terms are at a much higher level. Industry has started to move out because the prices are going up. I have had a business relationship with my suppliers for over 15 years. I’m a big fan of China. I have personal relationships there, and we have our own factory.”
However, he noted that he had his first asthma attack in China due to the pollution, a clear sign that things need to change.
“I’m focused on changing my own environment. It’s Business 2.0. There’s a lot of movement happening, especially in education. I have to respect my own distribution channels. My priorities are as follows: 1. good design, 2. competitive price and 3. a healthy margin. Our production is more expensive and who is absorbing this? Me. But that’s my strategy. It is urgent and needed. It’s not me looking at my own profit, but a wider view… The gap is closing.”
Check the “Fashion & Design” category in our directory for some great sustainable fashion options in Prague!