Content Dio Kurazawa hs17 Style

The Sustainability Expert Cleaning Up Fashion’s Act

The Sustainability Expert Cleaning Up Fashion's Act

This story is taken from Problem 17 of Highsnobiety journal. You should purchase the brand new problem right here.

The phrase “sustainability” in style may call to mind hemp tote luggage and company greenwashing, however behind the scenes there’s been speedy progress and insane innovation. Dio Kurazawa is a manufacturing professional who’s labored within the clothes business his entire life — and he’s on the frontline of the struggle towards waste, air pollution, and employee exploitation.

It’s no secret that trend is dangerous for the planet. Our habit to low cost, disposable garments is creating a worldwide environmental disaster, and regardless of all of the sustainability initiatives, acutely aware collections, and company duty packages on the market, the business isn’t adapting quick sufficient. Provide chains are opaque, complicated, and troublesome to vary. Manufacturers are considering of their backside line, not the ice caps and oceans. The human value is super, too. Garment-producing nations are locked in a race to the underside, set off by quick style’s obsession with rock-bottom costs. Meaning factories minimize corners with laws and employee security: in 2013, 1,134 Bangladeshi garment staff have been killed when the eight-story Rana Plaza manufacturing unit in Savar collapsed on prime of them.

To make issues worse, there’s an ideological schism. What does sustainability even imply? Is it merely decreasing an organization’s unfavourable influence wherever potential, or is it utterly revolutionizing consumption habits?

On the one hand, we will reduce waste, incorporate extra recycled fibers, and scale back chemical and water consumption, however that’s not going to unravel issues long-term — clothes consumption is about to rocket within the coming years as creating markets fulfill their true potential as shoppers.

Totally different options have been provided by extra radical minds, akin to William McDonough, the award-winning architect and writer of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Method We Make Issues. McDonough believes the one method we will really get out of the mess we’re in is by utterly overhauling the best way we design, produce, and eat issues, solely making items that really profit the world we stay in.

Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

One other determine on the frontline of the sustainability motion is Dio Kurazawa. He’s been within the clothes business his entire life. He grew up operating his household’s manufacturing unit in Thailand earlier than doing manufacturing for fast-fashion manufacturers. Throughout this time he noticed firsthand how cost-cutting measures harmed staff and broken the surroundings in nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Mexico.

Now he’s denim director of development forecasting company WGSN and runs his personal firm, The Bear Scouts. On this position, he’s a intermediary between manufacturers and producers, serving to labels to realize their sustainability objectives by overhauling their manufacturing and provide chains utilizing revolutionary know-how. For Kurazawa, it’s about constructing from the bottom up, serving to manufacturers on their journey towards a so-called “circular supply chain,” whereby waste is was new merchandise.

He solely works with forward-thinking, influential labels. Proper now he’s producing for 1017 ALYX 9SM, Ex Infinitas, and Soulland, figuring out that wherever influential manufacturers lead, others will comply with. He turns down fast-fashion enterprise as a matter of precept. We caught up with Kurazawa as he met with Artwork Comes First’s Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh to get his ideas on what the longer term holds for clothes manufacturing, consumption, and the fast-fashion business.


How do you are feeling the sustainability challenge goes, proper now?

There are all the time going to be gamers like Patagonia, Levi’s, and Everlane who’re actually captivated with it. However as shoppers don’t actually demand it in the mean time, the business has to demand it. With corporations like Zalando, MR PORTER, and ASOS making massive statements about taking over manufacturers which might be solely targeted on sustainability, I feel that may mark an enormous shift. That type of assertion modifications the best way the business seems at sustainability.

How do you outline sustainability? Is it utilizing a bit much less water? Or is it utterly overhauling the best way we produce, eat, and design issues?

For me, it’s the latter. You may simply say that it’s additionally decreasing water, and I’m not gonna say that that’s mistaken, as a result of we have to do this as nicely. It’s about first having the dialog: taking a look at your corporation and the way your small business can particularly scale back some chemical utilization, can scale back some water utilization, can scale back some power utilization.

However it’s additionally about taking a look at how one can give again to the planet. For instance, in the meanwhile I’m coping with laboratories who’re making leather-based out of meals waste, out of Cocoa Puffs, which is loopy sufficient, however it truly seems to be convincing. That’s the place I feel sustainability goes. Sustainability, the phrase itself, shouldn’t be the ultimate terminology. It doesn’t have an endpoint.

Have you ever learn Cradle to Cradle?

Sure, in fact. I’m an enormous fan of Cradle to Cradle. However the largest problem is that not each product is ready to be Cradle to Cradle-certified. We’re fortunate sufficient to see G-Star having Cradle to Cradle-certified gold denim material. They’ve truly created a denim that’s as sustainable as any denim has ever been, as a result of the material could be damaged down and reused. Primarily anybody can use that material now. It’s open-source. The different half is that they use all these new applied sciences to ensure there’s no chemical compounds or no heavy water. That’s big, however we’d like that sort of innovation all over the place.

So does that imply in case you have a pair of G-Star denims made with Cradle to Cradle gold-certified denim, when you’re tired of them, they are often recycled with no loss or waste?

You’re not gonna get a one-to-one. You gained’t get a pair of pants from a pair of pants as a result of it’ll be a smaller yield, in fact. However you’re nonetheless capable of put that again right into a garment and produce a model new garment from that used merchandise. It’s actually superb what they’ve executed. G-Star’s not simply speaking about it, they’re actually about that shit. They’re not making an attempt to do it for publicity or another purpose. They are surely pushing the envelope.

What do you consider the way forward for clothes manufacturing?

I put together my bespoke provide chains for a extra consumer-to-manufacturer relationship. I feel sooner or later, designers and consumers will choose silhouettes, they’ll choose material choices, they’ll choose hardware choices, they usually’ll choose shade choices. They’ll permit the buyer to place these items collectively, and that custom-made or bespoke look will go on to the producer. The producer may have a direct hyperlink to that info and produce no matter must be produced for the shopper or shopper immediately.

Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

You’ll not have the necessity to overproduce and hope that it sells. It is going to all be bought primarily by want.

Virtually like pre-ordering.

Precisely. It provides shoppers the power to have a high-street worth level however get a product that’s totally different from anybody else. They’re not shopping for off the shelf and operating the danger that everybody is sporting the identical shirt. It’s like custom-made Vans. If everybody have been to take that mannequin, there can be an enormous quantity of success.

Similar with NIKEiD, proper?

Yeah, Nike was first, I assume. However should you take that primary enterprise mannequin and apply it to an entire assortment, it might simply work. The largest challenge is time. How lengthy is a shopper or a buyer prepared to attend to get their product? In the event that they’re prepared to attend — let’s say every week — if we will do it in every week’s time, then that might be a very viable enterprise mannequin. In the meanwhile, you wait round two to 3 weeks for custom-made Vans.

Given the knowledge out there’s so exhausting to digest, so scrappy, and so inconsistent, what can shoppers do to buy extra ethically?

We have to keep in mind that once we take into consideration meals, we take a look at the elements. Once we take into consideration clothes, we take a look at the clothes itself with out wanting on the hold tag or labels. If we begin wanting on the labels and searching on the hold tags extra, then we’re extra knowledgeable, aren’t we? We’re capable of see the place this product was truly made, what the composition of this product is.

If you consider the meals business, we didn’t should do something for the meals business to develop into extra moral. Clothes is just not a public well being difficulty, so it’s not getting the identical degree of consideration that the meals business does. It requires the buyer to tell themselves a bit extra, however the info is already there on the grasp tags.

However proper now, laws are fairly lax, in that you could end a product in Italy and that then counts as “made in Italy.”

Yeah, I imply, there’s plenty of that. At one model I labored for prior to now, we had the final label sewn on in California however all the things else was made in Mexico, however you possibly can name that “made in America.” It’s just like the Wild West in relation to this type of factor.

When you’re Patagonia, you understand this. So you recognize to not go down this path since you assume, “Although I may be able to get away with it, we don’t feel that it’s the right thing to do.” Extra corporations ought to say, “Yeah, it’s actually misleading. Let’s not go down that path. If it’s got to be made in Italy, let’s make sure that every last drop of the garment is made in Italy and not play in this gray area,” which occurs far too typically.

What do you consider the way forward for quick style?

I feel it’s beginning to die. With youthful generations and millennials, they’re very important about high quality they usually’re very acutely aware about branding. They’re additionally acutely aware about having one thing totally different from folks. You possibly can’t have that on the high-street degree.

We don’t do high-street manufacturers at The Bear Scouts. A lot of the shoppers I’ve had with The Bear Scouts are additionally not working with high-street manufacturers. The Bear Scouts turns down high-street manufacturers virtually solely as a result of it’s not about cash for us, it’s concerning the high quality. The distinction between ourselves and let’s say a Bangladeshi producer is that we don’t concentrate on that enterprise mannequin. We’re merely targeted on high quality over amount, with eyes to the longer term. Not that each one Bangladeshi producers are dangerous, however the majority of them are slicing prices and making an attempt to determine methods to get high-street enterprise.

The fast-fashion enterprise is a race to the underside, isn’t it? Everybody’s making an attempt to get the most cost effective worth conceivable.

I’ve been in conferences the place I’ve seen manufacturing unit house owners lowered to tears when a high-street model nickel-and-dimes them — and I’m speaking about $zero.07 between Bangladesh and Pakistan. So the Bangladeshi provider has to say sure to a $zero.07 discount, which if you speak about 500 items is nothing, however once you’re speaking extra, about 20,000 items or extra, they will’t say no as a result of in any other case they will’t maintain their enterprise operating. If they are saying sure, they will hold their enterprise operating, however one thing’s gonna be missed.

And that’s how issues like Rana Plaza find yourself occurring.

Precisely. Rana Plaza is strictly what we’re speaking about, however that received loads of consideration. Think about when lots of people don’t die however fixed accidents are occurring. I’ve been to locations the place heavy equipment is on the third flooring of the constructing and there are not any temperature gauges on the machines and chemical compounds aren’t saved in climate-controlled environments, simply to save lots of prices.

It may be actually, actually dangerous. I’ve been going to Bangladesh for 2 months each two years and I don’t ever need to return. It’s not as a result of the individuals aren’t nice or that it’s a horrible tradition, it’s nothing like that. It’s simply that we’re gouging locations like this. Bangladesh goes to be underwater quickly.

Is the state of affairs getting higher a minimum of?

I imply, in the event you take heed to Mostafiz Uddin, who’s CEO of Bangladesh Attire Trade, he says don’t come to Bangladesh until you’re prepared to take a position extra money. I feel the thought course of goes the appropriate means, that, sure, that you must spend extra money to get the product you want. However then it doesn’t actually make sense to go to Bangladesh anymore.

We’re giving Bangladesh the incorrect choice. We ought to be determining easy methods to assist Bangladesh cope with their flooding points, not overwhelming them in manufacturing, which isn’t doing something to assist them with the water concern. To me, it’s not getting higher as a result of we’re not putting the right consideration.

Do you assume innovation within the business ought to come from manufacturers?

No. Manufacturers are nonetheless caught making an attempt to give attention to their revenue margins, and I can’t actually hate them for that, as a result of with out cash they will’t produce clothes or pay their salaries. A number of this has to return from the manufacturing and the material mill aspect. Material mills, so as to keep aggressive towards one another, want to take a look at what can they do to remain related and innovate.

That is what you do with The Bear Scouts, proper?

Sure, undoubtedly. Principally, we’re there with material mills taking a look at choices for a way we will scale back from each perspective, or how we will reuse from each perspective, whereas nonetheless making certain the product seems simply nearly as good as if it have been made within the conventional approach. That’s an important facet of our job.

We will speak about sustainability, discount of water, chemical compounds, and power, employee impression, all these forms of issues, all day lengthy. But when the product by no means stands up towards a historically made garment, then the buyer could have purpose to decide on a historically made garment as an alternative of a sustainably made one.

If one thing doesn’t really feel proper, then that’s it.

There’s no hiding anymore. However the factor that’s all the time stunned me is that manufacturers usually are not conscious of sure kinds of applied sciences on the market that they will actually benefit from, which might virtually instantly scale back 20 % of their water utilization or their chemical utilization. That has lots to do with being digital. You possibly can digitally print colour on the whole lot. You’ll be able to even remove the dying course of by digitally printing the colour on the material. I’m all the time stunned that manufacturers don’t know this.

Talking of factories, which of them are main the dialog?

Saitex in Vietnam is superb. One of many craziest issues they do, which I’m all the time impressed with and may’t work out learn how to do it alone, is that they take the sludge, which is a large situation with manufacturing — the runoff, all that muck — they usually truly flip it into bricks. They construct homes from it and put their staff in these homes comprised of the sludge within the runoff. That’s one thing companies often should spend a great deal of cash to eliminate. As an alternative of eliminating it, you’re turning it into constructing materials. Freaking superb.

You even have producers like Pedrosa & Rodrigues out in Portugal. They’re a household enterprise. They’re a producer, they do quite a bit, they do Kenzo and Neil Barrett. They spend a great deal of cash on equipment that could be very sustainable but in addition virtually robotic. It doesn’t require human intervention to make use of. They’ve a health club of their facility, they’ve a physician there always, they’ve a playroom. It’s ridiculous, actually on one other degree.

Then you could have Tintex, a cloth mill additionally in Portugal. They’ve a few scientists who simply sit of their laboratory determining methods to create superb textures and materials out of issues like meals waste. I imply, with the leather-based made from Cocoa Puffs, that shit is definitely convincing. They’re simply enjoying with all the things: wooden mud, corks from wine bottles, a lot of loopy issues. And the result seems like shit a luxurious model would like to have. It’s simply actually a matter of getting designers into their laboratory and simply brainstorming collectively, as a result of they’re arising with shit out of skinny air. Think about if that they had a little bit of a targeted initiative.

There are a number of producers who’re doing actually loopy, progressive issues, however I don’t know why there appears to be a disconnect between manufacturers who find out about this and what they’re truly doing. I feel it has to do with the very fact [the manufacturers] aren’t screaming about themselves. They’ve not obtained a platform to speak about what they’re doing.

When it comes to manufacturers, which do you assume is admittedly main the best way?

I’m all the time gonna say Patagonia. The nucleus of their enterprise is sustainability. They consider the setting first. From a Bear Scouts perspective, that’s one of many causes we don’t work with high-street manufacturers, as a result of it’s arduous for us to vary the nucleus of their enterprise.

It’s very arduous for us to say, “Okay, consider how much paper you’re using, consider how many employees are taking company cars instead of riding a bike or taking public transportation.” It’s very exhausting to vary these methods of considering. Patagonia began that from day one. I all the time checked out them as a enterprise mannequin to repeat, if potential.

Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

It helps that Patagonia continues to be independently owned.

Yeah, it all the time helped that they’re independently owned. As I stated earlier than, I’ve labored with a variety of huge corporations, and once they’re not independently owned, you’re making an attempt to persuade individuals however you’re by no means chatting with the choice makers. There’s a board of administrators from quite a lot of totally different corporations with totally different initiatives. And on the finish of the day, it’s typically their pockets they consider first. It’s very troublesome when it’s an enormous model. However Patagonia’s not small.

The progress being made is totally unbiased of worth level. You might be the most cost effective model on the earth or the costliest model on the planet. It doesn’t make a distinction to how your environmental program is.

No, it doesn’t. So long as you’re beginning to have that dialogue, that’s already a win for me. As a result of the subsequent step is to do one thing. So long as you’re not greenwashing and saying you’re doing one thing if you’re actually not. However yeah, you’re completely proper. It has nothing to do with the worth level. It has every part to do with simply getting concerned and beginning with a technique.

And the longer term?

The future for sustainability is wanting fairly good. The cause I feel that’s as a result of influential manufacturers are specializing in it. Gucci has constructed an entire facility targeted on sustainability. Large retailers like Zalando and ASOS, they’re beginning to get up and require their manufacturers to have a foothold there.

I feel it’s brilliant. What I don’t know, and I don’t assume anybody is aware of, is that if we’re shifting quick sufficient. We have to make it attractive and cease speaking concerning the science. You’ve lots of huge brains speaking concerning the top-level helicopter view, which alienates those that’re simply within the battle.

These individuals within the battle, these manufacturers and people producers, they only need to know what they should do to make their firm extra sustainable and to have a constructive impression on the setting. We will begin to get there by giving manufacturers and producers the chance to satisfy and converse on points which are associated to them immediately, as an alternative of simply having a helicopter view and a big-brain dialogue about sustainability. It must be made sensible.


Highsnobiety journal Problem 17 is obtainable now from our on-line retailer and at choose premium stockists and boutiques worldwide.

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, however now lives in Berlin, the place he leads Highsnobiety’s digital style content material.

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