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“When people think about sustainability- often negative connotations like lower quality, more expensive comes to mind. Yet when it comes to innovation, people think about technology and profit generation. If there is a way to fuse sustainability with innovation- then maybe we are onto something.”

Christine Goulay from Kering sums up the dichotomy best in her take about innovating for sustainability. In that same spirit, The Mills Fabrica was delighted to host our 1st ever event outside of Hong Kong, in the heart of London King’s Cross, specifically focused on “innovations for global change” especially for sustainability in fashion/ textiles. The following is a recap of top learnings from the event.

 

Reflecting on the sustainability journey so far

“Sustainability” has been the in-word in the industry for the past few years echoed almost in any conference or events. Many of the speakers therefore reflected on their journey in sustainability so far and thinking also about what’s next. Claire Bergkamp from Stella McCartney shared about the importance in thinking about building blocks of innovation for sustainability that can be scaled up. Manufacturers present also shared about seeing how supply chains link up such as Jeffrey Hsu from Far Eastern New Century (FENC) mentioning about their work in creating better plastics value chain through their recycling initiatives or Catherine Chiu from Crystal Group sharing about their initiatives in carbon footprint reduction including tree planting. Separately, at a consumer level, Helen Palmer mentioned about the importance of truth and honesty in communications (and not subscribing to green washing by brands).

(L to R: Claire Bergkamp, Worldwide Sustainability & Innovation Director, Stella McCartney; Jeffrey Hsu, Manager – R&D Center, Innovations, Marketing & Partnerships Office, FENC)

(L to R: Catherine Chiu, General Manager of Corporate Quality & Sustainability, Crystal Group; Helen Palmer, Director of Materials, Textiles & Knitwear, WGSN)

 

Half-empty or half-full

There were also shifts throughout the day where some speakers emphasizing more about the optimism in the industry with some expressing concerns and worries about how little time we have left. Many of the innovators present like Unspun, Reflaunt, Algalife, Renewcell gave us optimism in the new innovations coming out of the scene. And yet at the same time, Edwin Keh from The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) talked about the UN’s assessment that we only have 2600 days before it’s too late for change/ environmental impacts are irreversible. Perhaps Christine Goulay from Kering puts it best that it doesn’t matter whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, but that the glass can be refilled.

(L to R: Walden Lam, Co-Founder, Unspun; Felix Winckler, CCO & Co-Founder, Reflaunt)

(L to R: Renana Krebs, Co-Founder & CEO, Algalife; Jenny Fredricsdotter, Circular Business Manager, Re:newcell)

(L to R: Edwin Keh, CEO, HKRITA; Christine Goulay, Sustainable Innovation Senior Manager, Kering)

 

Global supply chain, global community

It was also delightful to have speakers and audiences from all around the world, from Amsterdam to Taiwan, London to Hong Kong, it was good to hear consistent theme from different perspectives be it from a brand or manufacturer. Sarah Weir from the Design Council in particular highlighted about combining both critical thinking with creativity in powering design and innovation and also about cross-cultural similarities across geographies. The nature of fashion industry demands for a global supply chain that would benefit from having an interconnected industry of partners and startups. This global cooperation might well be the key in refilling the glass. 

(L to R: Michael Charlton, Director of Investment, Department for International Trade; Sarah Weir, CEO, Design Council)

 

Towards a global community

As The Mills Fabrica officially expands into the UK with a pilot cross-border incubation programme, we are looking forward to help in building a more global Techstyle community. Over the day of the event, it was a delight to spend time with our family of both startups and partners learning and collaborating with each other. At it’s heart, The Mills has always been an experiment and as we explore the UK/ EU market we look forward to co-creating and experimenting with our partners and startups. Stay tuned for our next steps in London!

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