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Our co-founder Jenny Ringland goes behind the scenes at Legacy Sustainable Fashion Summit
When we first heard about the inaugural Legacy Responsible Fashion Summit I couldn’t wait to find out more. For starters, the speaker list of the two-day Surry Hills event was basically my ultimate sustainable fashion wish list of designers, journalists, business leaders and experts all wrapped up into one neat package. There was Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann giving opening remarks, podcaster and Vogue Australia sustainability editor-at-large Clare Press as MC on day one, while Global Fashion Exchange founder Patrick Duffy would MC on day two. We’d hear from brainchild of the event Melinda Tually who is the director of both Ndless: The New Normal and Fashion Revolution Australia. There’d be moderated panels featuring founders of Bassike, Nudie Jeans, Outland Denim, Bianca Spender, A.BCH, with breakout power sessions talking about everything from decarbonising apparel supply chains to examples of how to design with circularity. This was going to be the chance to dive deep into the complex world of sustainable fashion and the excitement was palpable.
The summit was everything I was imagining and more. It was inspiring, eye-opening and at times shocking. Hearing statistics like there are 40 million people currently trapped in modern slavery was a sobering insight into an industry we contribute to each day. Or that in Cambodia 1 in 3 working women are exposed to sexual harassment. I also learned that Australians contribute more clothes to landfill per capita than the UK. Fortunately, there was some good news storytelling too. I loved hearing that the Australian cotton industry has reduced its use of pesticides by 90 per cent in the last 20 years. Many of its farmers no longer use pesticides at all. And that the reason Spell and the Gypsy Collective co-founder Lizzy Abegg started the brand on its sustainability journey was thanks to an email from a customer asking her who made their clothes. I got to listen to designer Kit Willow’s passion for climate change, Vestiaire Collective co-founder Fanny Moizant talk about how collaboration and transparency will shape the new wave of fashion businesses. And I learnt that it’s possible to trace the origins of a fabric using CSI-style forensic technology. So when a brand claims their sheets are made from 100 per cent Indian organic cotton, there’s a company called Oritain who can take a sample of the fabric and work out if what they are telling their customers is true, or not. How cool is that?
When I imagined attending this summit I thought I would spend my time in the breaks tracking down all of my favourite speakers to introduce myself. And I did, to begin with. But I wasn’t the only one with that idea, for every speaker there was usually a small swarm of well-wishers vying to introduce themselves and get their stories heard. So I changed tact and began introducing myself to whoever was in my vicinity. Whether it was in the lunch line, vying for chocolate chip cookies at the break and even in the toilets. And the surprising part is this is what I loved the most. I spoke with people who were just as excited as me to be there. Some had their own brands as inspiring as some of the official speakers. There was Nicole Banning, the founder of Ephemera Swimwear, Amanda and Jasmine, the two founders of organic girls clothing brand Lulu and Milly who told me they met at mother’s group, and Stacey Maniere an Australian creative director and designer who recently moved back to Sydney after 13 years in Paris because she wanted her one-year-old baby to have a nature-filled childhood like she did. I loved when she told me she had been learning about the best natural sunscreens to use from all the other young mums hanging out in the baby wading pool at her local beach. Then there was Simon Butler the dad from Byron Bay whose job it is to help fashion brands (including Spell and the Gypsy Collective) become more sustainable. The beauty of events like these is you attend to be inspired by the impressive speakers list (and I have a renewed respect for brands who are paving the way for sustainability because it’s not an easy path to choose), but really the best part is the other genuine connections you get to make with the like-minded people sitting next to you taking it all in.
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