Last Friday, I attended the 2013 SOURCE Summit organized by the Ethical Fashion Forum. What started as an informal gathering of a handful of UK-based members a few years back has today grown into a full-day conference that brought together over 200 industry insiders from all corners of the world, from major fashion brands to sustainable start-ups, and from glossy magazine executives to aspiring fashion bloggers.
Held in London’s brand new spectacular and sustainable venue, The Crystal, the SOURCE Summit 2013 took the theme of generating momentum towards sustainability in the fashion industry in the wake of the 24.04.2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 people. In spite of this tragic leitmotif, the event had a surprisingly positive vibe. There was a real buzz among participants that the transition towards a more responsible fashion industry – from high street to haute couture – is within reach.
What stood out for me at this year’s event is that the aesthetics of sustainable fashion have finally caught up with the ethics. As one participant remarked, “ethical is no longer a USP (unique selling point)”.
Among the highlights of SOURCE Summit 2013 for me was the sustainable luxury label and Nueluxe member Eden Diodati, and its charismatic founder and former lawyer Jennifer Ewah, whose collection includes couture pieces created by some of the most vulnerable and marginalized women artisans in places as diverse as Italy and Rwanda.
Another discovery was the Dubai-based jewellery and accessories brand Numa, founded by designer Melika Dahlouk. Her enterprise promotes fair trade and traditional savoir-faire in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Another outstanding sustainable jewellery label present in London was Moonshined Designs, set up in California by former marketing executive Cate Rubenstein, who has since received accolades from the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
Last but not least, I was enchanted by Choolips, a London-based womenswear label headed by designer Annegret Affolderbach, who had previously done collections for Topshop and other major retailers.
Overall, the SOURCE Summit 2013 showed that sustainable fashion is indeed at a tipping point towards going mainstream. Perhaps 12 July 2013 will be remembered as the day when ethical fashion has really come of age.
Moreover, there was even talk of an imminent Fashion Revolution Day designed to rally public support against ‘fast fashion’, and to demand sustainability and transparency across the board.
In the words of award-winning designer and the founder of honest by label Bruno Pieters, “Everyone who doubts it (transparency in the fashion industry) are the same people that doubted that women would get the right to vote”.
Are sustainable fashionistas twenty-first-century suffragettes? I must say I quite like the comparison!