In our latest industry deep dive, we discussed the world’s first sustainability requirements for fashion weeks, which have already been implemented in Denmark and Norway. Considering the likelihood of this trend spreading to other fashion capitals, it’s wise for brands and manufacturers to proactively prepare. By scrutinizing your supply chain, you can identify areas of concern and devise strategies for implementing additional ethical practices. Here is your action plan.
The current plan for Copenhagen’s future fashion weeks is centered on 18 minimum sustainability requirements that all participating brands must adhere to. These requirements not only address ethical concerns during the shows but also the development of long-term sustainable strategies encompassing design, production, distribution, usage, and even the management of a collection’s afterlife.
To ensure that sustainability is integrated throughout the entire business model, the new fashion week requirements demand a strategic approach:
- Sit down with your team and start by reevaluating the company’s mission, vision, values, and statement. Do they incorporate people-profit-planet elements equally? If not, it’s likely that sustainability has been treated as an add-on, something to consider when resources allow for it. Rewrite the core principles of your organization to ensure that ethics are a fundamental consideration in all business activities.
- Consequently, establish measurable sustainability goals that align with your overall business objectives. Some brands choose to articulate these goals as commitments: for example, not disposing of unsold clothes from previous collections or ensuring a living wage for factory workers.
- Ensure that you have identified and mapped the key stakeholders affected by your sustainability efforts, so you can prioritize their needs accordingly and engage them as you strive to become a ‘better business.’
The future of fashion weeks will mandate commitments to operating a safe, healthy and respectful working environment, free from harassment and discrimination and with equal opportunities. Customer service staff will have to be well-informed about your sustainability strategy and action plans, so you need the right training in place. And the list goes on, and on.
You will discover that an inside-out approach is instrumental in addressing t challenges in your day-to-day operations, including issues such as diversity and inclusion planning, forming effective partnerships, transparent communication without greenwashing and hushing, and ethical product design.
Design & Smart material choices
One of the core steps in ethicizing your business is to reconsider product design and materials, including packaging. The new regulations for fashion weeks demand a lot from brands and their manufacturers, starting with a general mindset focused on increasing the quality and value of fashion products economically and materially. Brands are expected to have half of their collections made from better materials, whether certified, upcycled, or using deadstock. Fortunately, brands have the freedom to choose their focus (you can’t achieve everything overnight).
Begin by asking the following questions:
- Is there a nearby supplier, such as European ones on Manufy, that offers sustainable production options?
- When considering sustainable production options, which solutions align most closely with our company values? Should we prioritize waste water management, end-of-life solutions, fair wages, and plan for future focuses?
- How much are we willing to invest to produce more ethically? How can we specify our scope to grow in small, realistic steps?
- What sustainable production requests do we receive most frequently from our clients? Is it organic cotton, recycling, or traceability of materials?
- Are there innovative machinery or materials on the market that can easily integrate with our current setup, possibly due to proximity to an innovator or geographic advantages? If not, can we collaborate with other parties to make it happen?
- Once you’ve decided on your focus, consider how to manage the expectations of potential buyers of your sustainable products and communicate these details when placing an RFQ.
Get started on Manufy
These are critical questions to ensure the right match between suppliers and brands, a stage where both parties often struggle. This is where Manufy becomes valuable. The digital sourcing platform connects thousands of European manufacturers with local fashion brands, and the matchmaking is value-based. Here’s how it works:
Let’s take the example of a brand called EcoFash, which aims to operate ethically from day one. For their first collection, they turned to Manufy. After thorough research and team discussions, they decided to focus on water management and waste reduction. When Ernst, their sustainability manager, submits his first RFQ on behalf of EcoFash, he selects options like “low water usage,” “recycled materials,” and “upcycled materials.” A day later, as he reviews the offers, he finds one from SustFactory, a Turkish supplier with similar values—and others he may consider for the future. It’s a win-win with a long-term perspective.
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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help because sustainable collections should be accessible to everyone.