Photo by Presstigieux
We talked to Katrin Ley, Managing Director at Fashion for Good about sustainable innovation in the fashion industry and here is what she said about it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Fashion for Good.
Katrin Ley: For many years, I worked in the apparel and footwear industry, both on the strategy consulting side and the corporate side. And for the last couple of years, I was in the world of impact investing, investing in early-stage startups with circular ambitions.
The path that led me to Fashion for Good wasn’t that clear cut, and the career choices I made didn’t seem to connect for a while. I became more and more aware of the problems and challenges that face the fashion industry — the need for change as well as the potential solutions and innovations that exist.
By joining Fashion for Good, dots that previously seemed unconnected now connect – I am able to bring together the corporate apparel and footwear world, the startup world, and the investment world with meaning.
How does Fashion for Good innovate?
Katrin Ley: Fashion for Good is the global initiative that is here to make all fashion good. We are a global platform for innovation, made possible through collaboration and community. We work closely with our corporate partners to select the most promising startups globally.
At the core of Fashion for Good is an Innovation Platform, which includes:
Accelerator Programme: gives promising startup innovators the funding and expertise they need in order to grow.
Scaling Programme: supports innovations that have passed the proof-of-concept phase. A dedicated team helps them scale by offering bespoke support and access to expertise, customers, and capital and initiates foundational pilot projects together with our brand partners to test and scale their innovations.
Our Good Fashion Fund catalyzes access to finance to shift at scale to more sustainable production methods.
Fashion for Good also acts as a convener for change. In October 2018, the Fashion for Good Experience opened: the world’s first interactive tech museum dedicated to sustainable fashion innovation, where we inspire, educate and engage people from across the world. Visitors learn about the past, present, and future of the fashion industry, and with the digitally-enabled Good Fashion Journey and an RFID bracelet, they can discover and commit to ways that they can make a difference. In the end, they take home a personalized Good Fashion Action Plan, a digital guide filled with tips for extending what they learned in the experience into their daily lives.
In our hub in Amsterdam, Fashion for Good also houses a Circular Apparel Community co-working space and creates open-source resources like its Good Fashion Guide about cradle-to-cradle apparel.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Katrin Ley: Over the past 3 years, Fashion for Good has scouted over 2,000 sustainable fashion innovation startups from around the world, supporting over 100 of them in our Accelerator and Scaling Programmes.
To understand the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on our innovators, Fashion for Good created a survey which we shared with the 105 innovators in our Programmes (survey timeframe, mid-April 2020). The survey responses provided us insights into the effect the crisis is having on their businesses, their concerns, what support they need moving forward, and what they hope for the future.
In addition, as a response to the crisis, many innovators have pivoted their business models to address some of the immediate issues brought about by the current situation, using their innovations to support solutions in manufacturing goods and materials.
· In general, innovators are significantly affected by COVID, primarily in business development (pilot projects with industry players) and financing
· Although a few innovators see very little impact, mid-stage and late-stage companies generally experience negative impact as a result of difficult access to their clients (brands and manufacturers)
· Some responses have indicated positive impact in the long term, particularly in Circular Business Models
· Innovator actions undertaken in response to the crisis show flexibility in strategy or operating expenditure
· Most innovators are optimistic things will improve in 12 months
· Innovators need the most support in the areas of business development and fundraising
· Innovators see this crisis as a potential trigger to completely transform the industry.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Katrin Ley: As with most organizations, we shifted our activities online; our biannual innovation fest with our partners and innovators were both hosted on zoom. We continue to have personal meetings with our startups and innovators through Zoom or Google meets.
Your final thoughts?
Katrin Ley: The industry finds itself treading in unfamiliar waters, uncertain of its fate. It is easy to fall back on familiar, tried and tested practices to measure security and safety. The challenge faced demands leadership; for the industry to not lose sight of the long-term cause while in a situation of short-term difficulty.
Innovation, particularly in challenging times, has proven its relevance time and again to reinvigorate business as usual to achieve organizational objectives. To emerge stronger from this critical period, we must double down on our commitment to our mission of innovation.
As an industry, we have persevered through challenging times, have shown our resilience, ingenuity, and creativity to emerge all the better. We have numerous allies and champions across the industry whose steadfast commitment to sustainability and innovation is needed to ensure they remain a priority moving forward.
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