Executive Director Lauren Fay’s interview for Life and Style Mexico magazine. Check out the original Spanish here.
Text: Lauren Fay
Illustration: Alberto Caudillo
The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013 brought to my attention some of the problems associated with the fashion industry and sparked my interest in learning more about its global impacts. Three years ago, I decided to go back to school, to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, to better understand the real dimension of these problems. My intention was to return to an industry that I had been away from for a while, but I wanted to work on it in a different way in order to help change it. Issues like the current environmental crisis directly affect the next generations, who are much more aware of the need for sustainable fashion. We are standing at a precipice. According to one of the latest United Nations reports, we have 10 years to make really significant changes. It’s not just about zero-waste design or reducing our carbon footprint, but about generating businesses that are sustainable in every way. I created The New Fashion Initiative as a foundation with an ongoing educational program. The secret is to train and empower the leaders and designers of the future to bring about the changes this industry needs. Reorienting the course in the right direction could save us from falling off the cliff I mentioned earlier. Every firm should know what their impact is. Making the fashion industry responsible for its effects is not an option – it’s the only possible way. I am not just speaking in environmental terms, but in terms of its employees, the use of renewable energy, the incorporation of new materials, and the development of new standards. If brands do not talk about how they do things and who they work with, they are likely choosing to ignore the situation. Of course, there are different layers, and each must be analyzed individually. Many brands have already started to make changes – Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher to name a few – and it’s also important to recognize that there is no such thing as perfection.
“Making the fashion industry responsible for its effects is not an option – it’s the only possible way.”
As consumers, we have to change the framework with which we assess the cost of our clothes. We shouldn’t look at a shirt and think, “Why does this cost $50?”. Rather, we should ask ourselves why a shirt costs only $10. If something is so cheap, someone is being affected. On the other hand, just because a garment costs a lot of money doesn’t mean that it was made in the right conditions. If one invests a lot of money in a garment, the story of the piece should as beautiful as the piece itself. We can choose to buy second-hand clothes or invest in clothes that we will wear for a long time. Buying from local designers and stores, washing our clothes by hand, and researching the brands we choose – and questioning them through social networks when necessary – are actions that can make a big difference. Maybe we should go back to having a more intimate and respectful relationship with clothes. I would love to see fashion companies hiring fewer employees for their marketing departments and more corporate social responsibility experts or environmental consultants. We must reverse this situation now and to do it, we need to work together even more.
Based on her experience in publishing, digital media, and information technology, Lauren Fay founded The New Fashion Initiative in 2018 as a vehicle to bring about a paradigm shift in the fashion industry.