Last week, the first event in 2020's Fashion & Sustainability Summit was held by Fashiondex & LIM College. This featured the Director of Sustainability + Social Impact of Free People, Julie Verdugo, and the Director of Sustainability & Product Ops at prAna Living, Rachel Lincoln. Jordana Guimaràes, Co-founder of Fashioninnovation acted as moderator, asking interesting questions that Julie and Rachel answered about their company strategies, job roles, and opinions on areas of the sustainable movement in the apparel industry.
These questions led to an informative discussion about the importance of a circular economy and different actions Free People and prAna Living take to achieve that method. Julie announced Free People is working with non-profit charities that dress women about to enter into the workforce; she also announced a partnership with Poshmark, as a way to promote secondhand clothing and sell excess inventory. Rachel discussed prAna living’s focus on product sourcing and knowing how materials used in the apparel and packaging can translate to waste. prAna Living is also working on an upcycling model for future collections.
Jordanna then asked the panelists to describe their definitions of sustainability in the industry. Rachel suggests, “We leave things better than we found them.” Julie mentioned how there is no right answer or “magic material” that will make an apparel company sustainable. Sustainable companies must be diverse in their production methods and textile sources.
Jordanna mentioned "Green Washing"—conveying a false ecofriendly impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are environmentally sound—and asked what Julie and Rachel think of this problematic practice of many companies. Rachel suggests the best way to combat that is transparency, an important value of prAna Living. She mentioned being able to back up claims made with facts and statistics allows for honesty when marketing products and builds loyalty with customers seeking sustainable clothing.
Towards the end of the summit, the floor was open to questions from the event’s attendees. LIM students, Rylee Bott and Rebecca Margolis were a part of the panel as student mediators. They did a fantastic job monitoring the chat box and posed the questions of the summit’s viewers. Important topics, like inclusiveness in the sustainable movement, were brought into the conversation. Julie suggests the importance of providing equity within the movement and Free People is working on that by diversifying their team and focusing on the needs of their customers. Rachel spoke about prAna living’s outdoor outreach and the concept of including people in fair trade and amplifying it.
Finally, Julie and Rachel were optimistic and candid with their responses about the future of the sustainable movement and their plans to grow upon their sustainable practices. prAna is far along with making every product sustainable, each product having at least one of their 12 sustainable attributes. prAna and Free People are going to move into more circular methods. Rachel says, “The next stage is circularity—there are enough materials in existence, and that’s where collaboration is important.” Both Julie and Rachel were inspiring women and taught the summit’s attendees and other panelists about the importance of a circular economy and how these brands continue to work towards sustainability even through the pandemic.
We expect to see more great speakers and conversation on fashion and sustainability each week, so sign up for the next summit event below!