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The Rise of Sustainable Fashion | Mainstage

Stephanie Benedetto, Founder, Queen of Raw
Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO, TO THE MARKET
June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity, BBC

In an era of fast fashion, consumers are beginning to expect that their consumer trends don’t damage the planet. The old paradigms are shifting and new companies are stepping in to fill unexpected roles. According to Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder & CEO of TO THE MARKET, connecting ethical and sustainable suppliers to brands and retailers is crucial in order to align business interests with sustainability. Women, who make up a larger percentage of the retail manufacturing industry, need access to financial resources to drive change. Stephanie Benedetto, Founder of the Queen of Raw, explained how textile producers are some of the largest water polluters. The industry creates massive waste—$288 billion in unused goods—so a global marketplace to buy and sell inventory can save billions of gallons of water. 

June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity at the BBC, asked the panelists to reflect on why it is so difficult to effect change in the fashion industry. Benedetto answered that the issues important for people, the panet, and profit were not immediately top of mind. Morris suggested that part of the problem lies in the logistics of overseas manufacturing and brokering, and a lack of education on sustainability.

Democratizing access to raw materials and fashion products helps women’s empowerment. Morris noted that most garment workers and buyers are women, but men are more likely to be factory owners, executives, and funders. Benedetto explained that doing something economically advantageous can also do good for the planet.

Never doubt that the small acts that you take when you add them up together can have a massive impact. That one tee shirt you buy less of per year actually saves 700 gallons of water—enough clean water for a person to drink for three years.

Stephanie Benedetto

Everyone can align your values with your purchasing power. We spend far more on products that we’re interested in buying than we are able to afford to give away to charity. We have much more of an impact in the way that we vote with our wallet than we’re able to from a philanthropic standpoint.

Jane Mosbacher Morris

As it stands, it’s much more expensive to buy ethically-made products.

June Sarpong

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The fashion sector has traditionally created a lot of material waste and pollution. New technologies can better connect resources with manufacturers and end users to help mitigate these effects.