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The Truth Behind Sustainable Textiles Panel

As part of Fashion Revolution Week, Sustainable Fashion Alliance and Fashion Incubator San Francisco at Macy's Union Square hosted a panel designed to expose and examine textile sustainability. Do you know what your clothing is made from and how fabric production effects the health of the planet? A packed house of attendees got the impact rating on their favorite textiles and learned how the fashion industry is faring in sustainable textile sourcing. 

Panelists included Annie Gullingsrud, Director, Textiles and Apparel Sector of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Jamie Bainbridge, VP of Product Development of Bolt Threads, Juan Diego Gerscovich, Founder of Industry of All Nations and was moderated by Joyce Hu, Marketing Director of Wildlife Works and Co-Founder of Sustainable Fashion Alliance.  

The theme of the content focused on trade-offs. Every textile choice comes with its benefits and negative impacts. Navigating textile choices depend on the retail category (performance, swim, casual, lifestyle) and requires prioritizing impact area; is it water, carbon footprint, recycled, zero waste, vegan, comparability? Annie Gullingsrud's textile guide “Fashion Fibers: Designing for Sustainability” is a good place to start getting to know textile attributes, both positive and negative. Then with every textile, better choices can be guided by certifications and audited factories. Get to know some of them here.

Referring to buying more consciously, Jamie Bainbridge said “We should all be skeptics and we need to do our homework,” acknowledging that her move from Oregon to San Francisco resulted in a more minimal wardrobe making her picky about the clothing she will buy- let alone fit in a San Francisco-sized Victorian closet. She also went on to encourage small and medium sized ethical brands: “As a small brand you can control the source unlike a bigger brand.”

“We exist because of the disappointments we’ve had with big brands… certifications aren’t enough,” said Juan Diego Gerscovich who believes that larger brands with big budgets have the resources for the R&D needed to help shift the industry, yet most of their money is spent on marketing. He went on to inspire the audience as consumers in the conversation, “It’s not going to be them. You make up 7 billion people who can make the difference - the change is in your hands.”

Annie presented an overview of the state of the industry and the innovative textiles currently on the market — and those in development. In addition, she expressed her own personal relationship with apparel and a newfound love for second hand clothing. "I believe in beautiful hangers because I treat everything like I value it…. The problem isn’t buying, it’s buying new, but used. This stuff sometimes we use it in three months. Once you’re over it, sell it back to the company. Check out sites like The Real Real, Postmark and Thred Up. Keep it circulating.”

Watch the live stream here.

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