”For circularity, how is it scalable for our brand? There was no product management system for the secondhand economy — so we pitched one!”
On how to communicate sustainability in a trustworthy way
August 30, 2021
Originally from the US, Everding has worked as fabric and sustainability manager at Filippa K for the last five years.
— I’ve worked with fabric R&D for 20 years and am definitely a textile nerd, she states. More recently I’ve been focused on circularity, new business models, traceability, and more general sustainability on top of fabric sourcing.
— Some people have the stamina to read through a 75-page report, but others prefer bullet points! By making the report easier to digest, we aim to help a broader audience understand our sustainability efforts and challenges, tells Everding. She continues:
— One thing we wanted to highlight is that we changed our e-commerce packaging to FSC-certified paper bags, which reduced our plastic use by 2400 kg. We also scaled up our use of Swedish wool during 2020 and won an award from Drapers for best supply chain initiative, which is important because we never approach anything as a one-time project. We might have to start small, but we don’t start anything we don’t plan to continue. We also reported that 67% of our styles are made in ”more sustainable” fibres, according to our internal fibre tool, which ranks fibres based on longevity and reduced impact. This is a challenge for us as we strive to make all of our styles in more sustainable fibres, but due to MOQs [Mininum Order Quantity’s, Ed’s note], lead times, or cost, we sometimes must compromise. We’re constantly working to increase the share of more sustainable fibres each season.
The entire industry (well, almost) talk about sustainability. Also, there’s a growing issue with green-washing. From your perspective, what’s the best way to communicate sustainability in a trustworthy way?
— Be specific, be honest, and walk the walk. Glossy talk and oversimplification are harbingers of greenwashing. Being specific does not mean boring people with super technical talk, but rather being targeted and clear in your communications. Being honest means talking in an approachable way and sharing the challenges and the things that aren’t perfect. We must help people understand not only the more sustainable choices they can make in their daily lives but that it is now bigger than that and we need government and policies to enable major transformation sooner than later. The purpose is not to scare and overwhelm people, but instead to inspire them to be agents of change. It’s also important that we show people what we mean through our actions as a brand, and the choices we make at a high level and on a daily basis. This shows people that we’re practicing what we preach. All of this went into the thinking behind this year’s sustainability report being published in a new way.
How can technology and innovation be used to create an even better and greener industry? And how do you use it?
— We are working a lot with how technology can support us in our traceability and circularity efforts — trying to expand the scope of existing tools or find entirely new ways. For a few years, we have been working with blockchain-powered start-up TrusTrace to help us trace our supply chain more fully. Recently, we have started working together to be able to trace our materials while we are product developing, instead of hindsight. This way we can reduce our impacts at conception.
— For the circularity, we had been struggling to be able to understand the cost and time associated with repairing and reselling preowned and claimed garments. How is it scalable for our brand — what could we do in-house and what should we find partners to help us with? There was no product management system for the secondhand economy — so we pitched one! We received a Re:Source grant to pilot a system to track business-critical info around reuse and repair, together with Trustrace and Fugeetex. The idea is not that this will be a system proprietary to Filippa K, but that any brand looking to integrate circularity into business could also use it. Driving a movement in the industry is at the core of our approach, and one way we can do this is to lead by example and share our resources and knowledge, says Everding.
If we speak about the end consumer, how can the industry communicate the importance of sustainability to them?
— One thing is to do right by your supply chain and product development, making decisions for lower impact products so that when a consumer chooses a product from you that they love, they don’t have to worry that its impact was not considered and reduced. In this way, it also means offering a fuller range of circular products, facilitating that people can find preowned or remade garments to ensure that these garments live longer and/or multiple lives. We can’t forget about the emotional side of fashion — people’s purchases are often driven by their love for a garment, and if we can show them that quality and style don’t have to be compromised for sustainability, it will encourage them to continue making better choices for the planet and invest in long-lasting products.
What’s next for you?
— We’re in the process of expanding the Filippa K Studio to connect back to our seasonal design, as well as engage even more with our community and encourage a circular approach to fashion. We’ve always aimed to take responsibility for each garment we create — this has included Archive sales and donation programs. Soon, we’ll be integrating a second-hand element as well as designer collaborations and limited edition pieces that make use of existing fabrics and garments. There’s so much potential in circularity, and it’s encouraging to see our customers wanting to learn more and make positive changes in their own lives, says Everding, adding,
— We should buy less, keep what we have for as long as possible, and think about what we do with things at the end of their lives. But, also, ask brands how and where they produce and support those that are willing and able to answer. And even more, we need big structural change to move things forward faster. Get involved and let your governmental representatives know that we need their help to support innovation and policies to reduce emissions sooner than later.