William McDonough talks ‘cradle to cradle’ design theory in this TED talk.
“I think we have a design problem.”
Work & Research
William McDonough talks ‘cradle to cradle’ design theory in this TED talk.
“I think we have a design problem.”
7th July 2009
“A Fashioning an Ethical Industry tutor training day and official launch of Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators edited by Liz Parker for Fashioning an Ethical Industry, UK, and Dr Marsha A. Dickson for Educators for Socially Responsible Apparel Business, USA.
This event will bring together educators from fashion-related courses and organisations around the country to share ideas and resources, and support tutors in teaching about ethical fashion. The day is aimed at tutors on any fashion-related further or higher education course who are looking to be inspired and share best practice with other tutors.
The event will also launch the HEA funded research, being coordinated by the Centre For Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, into the needs and expectations of fashion industry employers in relation to sustainable education within fashion related courses at HE.
The event will take place at London College of Fashion between 9.30 – 4.30.” (FEI)
Direct Source: Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI)
Nowadays, when it comes to cotton, you can pretty much take your ‘pick’: low-chemical, organic, low-water use, fair trade, conventional. So what’s all the hype this week about organic cotton? Well, Organic Exchange released their 2007-2008 Organic Cotton Market Report.
According to this article:
“Global retail sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products climbed 63 percent in 2008 to $3.2 billion […]
‘Despite the global retail outlook, most brands and retailers selling organic cotton products remain committed to their sustainability plans and upbeat about market growth with plans to expand their product lines 24 and 33 percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively, to result in an estimated $4 billion market in 2009 and a $5.3 billion market in 2010,’ the report said.
The amount of organic cotton farmers grew worldwide in 2007/08 increased 152 percent, according to the 2008 Organic Cotton Farm and Fiber Report.
The amount hit 145,872 metric tons, which is equivalent to 668,581 (480-lb.) bales. It was grown on 161,000 hectares (400,000 acres) in 22 countries worldwide.
Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without using pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.”
Keep in mind, just because the cotton is certified organic, doesn’t necessarily make it the best defence against the many negative effects of conventional cotton.
Take, for example, the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP). The low-chemical system of biological integrated pest management (IPM) helps farmers reduce chemical usage at a much larger scale than what would be achieved through a smaller number of completely organic cotton farms. This approach looks toward the overall impact of the sector, rather than just on one farm at a time. To help growers and consumers make sense of the difference, the project has developed an online calculator. Buyers and growers can use the calculator as a means of comparing the ecological footprint of BASIC (biological agricultural systems in cotton) against conventional cotton. The ecological calculator measures land, water and carbon footprints. I haven’t used the calculator (as I am neither a cotton buyer nor grower) and would like to welcome anyone who has used it, or who is interested in using it, to leave a comment with some feedback on the success/failure of the SCP initiative. What impresses me most about SCP is their involvement in sustainable fashion design education. Based out of California, the SCP initiative has partnered with California College of the Arts and The Academy of Art educating fashion design students in the area of sustainable design through the BASIC program. This is exciting.
Missing from most footprint calculators is a fibre’s social impact. But, how do you measure a social footprint? How do you measure happiness? Certified Fairtrade cotton is not always organic, so what is it?
According to the Fairtrade Foundation
“The Mark is an independent product certification label which guarantees that cotton farmers are getting a better deal – receiving a fair and stable Fairtrade price and Fairtrade premium, receiving pre-financing where requested and benefiting from longer-term, more direct trading relationships.
The Fairtrade minimum price is set at the farm gate level and is based on actual costs of sustainable production. If the local market price is higher than this minimum price, then the market price applies. An additional payment of a Fairtrade premium is set aside for farmers’ organisations to spend on social and environmental projects or to strengthen their businesses. This ensures that communities have the power and resources to invest in long-term improvements. Elected farmer committees decide democratically how these premiums are spent.”
Organic Cotton ≠ Fair Trade Cotton: Responsible fashion is not just about being ‘organic’.
“All Fairtrade certified cotton producers are required to demonstrate increased diligence in choosing appropriate non-harmful chemicals or a biological or home-made alternative wherever possible. As would be expected, farmers are prohibited from using pesticides in the Pesticide Action Network’s “dirty dozen” list and those in the FAO/UNEP’s Prior Informed Consent Procedure list.”
According to Kate Fletcher, “[t]he total area of land dedicated to cotton growing has not changed significantly for around 80 years, but in that time output has tripled” (8). Fletcher directly associates the increase in production to a swell in pesticide and fertilizer use, and recommends organic, low chemical, hand-picked, rain-fed, or drip-irrigated cotton as alternatives, or using hemp or flax as a fibre substitution (9). A rise in consumer awareness about the negative effects of conventional cotton on the environment has no doubt created the business case for companies to begin to source organic cotton.
1. Wal-Mart (USA)
2. C&A (Belgium)
3. Nike (USA)
4. H&M (SE)
5. Zara (Spain)
6. Anvil (USA)
7. Coop Switzerland
8. Pottery Barn (USA)
9. Greensource (USA)
10. Hess Natur (Germany).
But how have companies such as these been able to incorporate organic cotton into their production lines? According to Fletcher, “[u]nlike more politically contentious and technically challenging ‘alternative’ fibres such as hemp, organic cotton fibre is a fairly straightforward like-for-like substitute for conventionally grown cotton” (21). And what stands in the way of an increased use in organic cotton? Apparently the answer is supply. According to Fletcher, “organic cotton makes up a tiny percentage (0.18 per cent) of the world fibre demand and around 1 per cent of the total cotton market.” (21)
So what does all this mean? When searching for sustainable fibres make sure to consider the entire lifecycle of that fibre (both environmental and social). Eliminating pesticide use is only part of the solution. Let’s not forget to think outside the crop.
Source: Greenbiz, Fairtrade, Reuters, SCP and Sustainable Fashion & Textiles: Design Journeys, by Kate Fletcher
The National Labor Committee released a report last week citing sweatshop conditions in a Guatemalan factory manufacturing clothing for Briggs New York (80%) and Lane Bryant (remaining 20%) clothing.
If you don’t want to read the full article, here is the abstract:
“Young Mayan women sew Briggs New York and Lane Bryant clothing under abusive and illegal sweatshop conditions at the Nicotex factory outside Guatemala City. Women in the U.S. are unknowingly purchasing clothing made by other women who are being exploited.
All overtime at the Nicotex factory is mandatory, and 14 2/3-hour shifts, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:40 p.m. including six hours of overtime, are uncommon. The women are routinely at the factory up to 72 hours, forced to toil 20 to 25 hours of overtime. Women unable to remain for overtime work, even if they have family emergencies, are fired. The workers are allowed just 10.2 minutes to sew each Briggs New York blouse for which they are paid 19 ½ cents. The women and their families are trapped in extreme poverty, earning just 76 cents to $1.15 an hour, which comes nowhere close to meeting even their most basic subsistence level needs.
Workers and their children are cheated of health and maternity care, including paid maternity leave, which they paid for and is supposed to be guaranteed under Guatemalan law. Workers are also robbed of their vacation and severance pay and are shortchanged of their legal bonuses.
For those of you who don’t know who Charles Kernaghan is, he is “The Man Who Made Kathy Lee Cry”. He also heads the National Labor Committee. Here’s a video of him discussing the science of exploitation and his work with the NLC from the film The Corporation.
I have been obsessed with U.K. designer Katharine Hamnett for a long time. In fact, it was her slogan t-shirts that first showed me that there was opportunity to transform this industry; she is the quintessential example of a pissed off designer who refuses to stand for the high human cost of fashion. She is dedicated to the promotion of organic cotton, and runs a strong campaign against the conventional ‘white gold’:
“Conventional cotton represents 10% of world agriculture and uses 25% of the world’s pesticides.
100 million conventional cotton farmers, from Russia to South Africa, are living in conditions of abject poverty and near starvation.
Conventional cotton subsidies funded by American taxpayers are causing poverty in the developing world as they lower the world price for cotton. (Americans are the only ones that can change this by writing to their Congress people and telling them they insist on organic cotton clothing.)
20,000 people die every year from accidental pesticide poisoning in conventional cotton agriculture (World Health Organisation). Death by starvation is alarmingly prevalent and 200,000 cotton farmers commit suicide annually due to spiralling debts incurred from buying pesticides. A further 1,000,000 people a year suffer from long-term pesticide poisoning (Pesticide Action Network).
However, if farmers grow cotton organically and can sell it as such, this dire situation is reversed.
By growing organically, farmers get a 50% increase in their income – due to a 40% reduction in costs – and the 20% premium they receive for producing organic cotton allows them to feed, clothe, educate and provide healthcare for their children.
Organic cotton helps farmers trade their way out of poverty. It’s the only formula for survival in the cotton sector in the developing world.”
(Katharine Hamnett, Campaigns: Organic Cotton)
Another company that offers slogan t-shirts is American Apparel. I have been familiar with their ‘Legalize L.A.’ campaign shirt, but only recently came across their ‘Legalize Gay’ slogan t-shirt. The American Apparel slogan t-shirt wants you to promote and support the repeal of prop 8.
It got me thinking. For me, these slogan shirts represent the convergence of fashion and politics in a clear and positive way; they offer the consumer a sense of empowerment, and send a clear message of support. But what do you think?
Two very different questions….
Below is my tweet along for Compostmodern09, which took place on Sat. Feb 21st 09. This event was greatly inspiring, and I will be writing a post soon on the over all themes of the conference and where the convergence into sustainable fashion design comes into play. Stay tuned for that post (and some images as well).
· excited to be at #cm09
· #cm09 only 5000 days left. take it as fact.
· #cm09 Allan Chochinov ten rules applicable to fashion design.
· Michel Gelobler: design through the lens of soul and policy coming up, #cm09
· wonderment being made plain/plain being made wonderment cm#09
· Michel Gelobler certainty/worry/sorrow/hope #cm09
· need to bend the Al Gore curve #cm09
· Michel Gelobter: what we have, what we are using, need to establish equilibrium looking to connect product to solution. #cm09
· #cm09 we own the solution not the problem, Michel Gelobter
· Michel Gelobter #cm09 further mention of the design acccord http://tinyurl.com/b5yzl4
· Saul Griffith howtoons http://www.howtoons.com/ #cm09
· Saul Griffith: 2008, the year of ‘peak waste’ #cm09
Saul Griffith: need to re-design everything. make it small, fish shaped,slow. need a new soundtrack, font, aesthetic. need a bob dylan.#cm09
· Saul Griffith: we need an heirloom culture #cm09
· Saul Griffith: I’m an earth fucker and so are you, #cm09
· Saul Griffith: http://www.wattzon.com/ #cm09
· Saul Griffith: soon to be born child going to kick ninja ass #cm09
· Saul Griffith: the planet is the new design client. #cm09
· HR + PR does not equal CSR
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 1. what>how (sustainability=human+environment)
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 2. the other 90% is next door (local+global)
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 3. always bring pom-poms (and a picket signs)
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 4. scalable systems, not stuff (take the product out of product design)
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 5. 2 (thousand) heads are better than one (the more the merrier)
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 6. more cattle, less hat (stop talking and just do it)
· whats the opportunity for graphic design, asks Makower..needs to play a bigger role.
· Emily Pilloton #cm09 started project H with 400$ in her bank
· take the poll http://tinyurl.com/coebq5
· Watching Pam Dorr short film “Housing Hope”
· John Bielenberg and Pam Dorr #cm09 spoke on Project M, and some amazing housing projects.
· John Bielenberg wants you to think “wrong” so you can find solutions. Inspired by Sambo rural studios and a beautiful mind.
· John Bielenberg #cm09, breakthroughs happen in your late 20’s-he is inspired by grad/students.
· #cm09 project M: think wrong http://www.projectmlab.com/
· #cm09 project H http://www.projecthdesign.com/
· all speakers at #cm09 stress the importance of serendipity in the process
· Dawn Danby #cm09 takes an interdisciplinary perspective on responsible design
· Dawn Danby #cm09 concerned with the small size of sustainable design social network
· Dawn Danby #cm09 asks “are we not educating our designers correctly?” this is my research question (fashion designers)
· Dawn Danby #cm09 “1. be cool w/ paradox 2. learn the local language 3. reconsider work worth doing 4. YOUR CLIENT IS THE PLANET”
· Dawn Danby #cm09 talking: sustainability is not a communist plot…semantics are crucial here. **YES!**
· Dawn Danby #cm09 designers are looking for direction-but they still need to understand the numbers in product lifecycle analysis
· Dawn Danby-if your client is the planet…then it’s on you to figure out how to solve the problems that weve got and how to pay for it
· Dawn Danby #cm09 “we need to get rid of our specialness” and open it up to others, interdisciplinary partnerships
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 is about to tell us what we can do Monday morning, when we wake up at work with all of this.
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 conservative = conservation start the ‘conservative’ movement with the actual definition
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 don’t use green… use blue… it comes off more effective in business (without being too ‘environmental’)
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 OH… and use the work capital *this business advice is awesome*
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 use some sustainable frameworks: 1. lifecycle analysis
· 2. natural capitalism (eco- efficiency)..
· 3. cradle to cradle
· 4. “natural step” (trademarked)
· 5. biomimicry
· (the point here is that these frameworks are all incomplete…they do not cover social, financial and environmental)
· 6. Datschefski’s “Total Beauty”
· 7. social return on investment (SROI)*very difficult to quantify*
· 8. (last one) sustainability helix
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants you to bring the frameworks together for a good place to start..overlap them to cover all ground
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants you to design for use be the ‘apple’ and lead the way the challenge is on your compeditor will do it if you dont
Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants you to design for dematerialization (all the way back) the whole lifecycle
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants you to think about material substitution. **in the context of fibre (textiles) diversify and substitute**
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants you to think local, to decrease transport. not always a good idea though.
· transmaterialization, Nathan Shedroff #cm09, and informationalization, are more sustainable (still have impact)
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09: next, design for durability (did i miss one? oops)
· design with multifuction in mind, design for reuse: Nathan Shedroff #cm09
· design for disassembly (Rickshaw zero bag example) http://www.rickshawbags.com/#
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09: redesign the system (Curitiba, Brazil, example)
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 wants us to find new models, economic models suck (ex. GDP and GPI measurements)
· Nathan Shedroff #cm09 said DONT USE PVC!!!!!! YES!!!! http://tinyurl.com/bftk4d *thank you!!*
· How is this a debate, again? why are these shoes being sold as “sustainable” http://tinyurl.com/b4tnaf I wish i new more about PVC
· Joel Makower asks about green marketing #cm09
· #cm09 Joel Makower wants gree to equal better. work around the dogma. remember the business case, here.
· #cm09 question asked “the planet is your client” is an internal conversation? Ans. sometimes. sometimes we have to talk around the subject.
· Joel Makower #cm09 stories through design can/should/will integrate head and heart in the discussion
· AIGA #cm09 http://sustainability.aiga….
I just wondered onto this site from David Muro II ‘s blog, and wanted to post the link here. It is a video of Emily Pilloton speaking on ‘social minded product design’ at the Metropolis Conference. Pilloton was one of the quest speakers presenting this past Saturday at Compostmodern09 on her work as founder of Project H. Check out the video; these are product design concepts that need to be discussed in fashion design courses. They are interdisciplinary and the cross-over to fashion students is a necessary step toward sustainable fashion design.
The video link is embedded in the photo.
Or, follow this link to listen to Emily Pilloton talk about her work at Project H
The first FIBERcast, featuring Dr. Marsha Dickson and Mr. Doug Cahn, took place today, February 23, 2008. The broadcast was hosted by Dr. Hye-Shin Kim, of the University of Delaware, and focused on “Social Responsibility in the Apparel Industry”.
For those not following on Twitter, here are my live tweets of the event: searchable under #fibercast, #csr and #sr
· Dr. Marsha Dickson # fibercast: monitoring become the standard, but often does not provide solutions. new book http://tinyurl.com/aqb85w
· #fibercast problems are complex and widespread/freedom of association/forced labour/discrimination/child labour
· Environmental responsibility does not just have to do with fiber choice. remember the whole life cycle analysis/ #fibercast
· CSR to Mr. Doug Cahn# fibercast is about looking at the impact, to mitigate the negative, and augment the possitive
· Doug Cahn #fibercast http://thecahngroup.com/
· #csr is not an add-on, its a core issue, supplychain for an apparel company..pay your workers the legal limit, at least make up short fall
· disctinction between compliant and non-compliant/the industry is aflling short. yes there is cost, but also have a business case (save$)#csr
· #csr #fibercast Dr. Marsha Dickson Answers Q. on WRAP factory certification is important but not the answer http://tinyurl.com/bjckwu
· limitations of factory monitoring asks “what?” not “why?” and quality of auditing can be lacking…provides only ‘snapshop’ #csr #fibercast
· # fibercast #csr #recession: Cahn finds opportunity in downturn for better integration/restructuring interdepartmental thinking opportunity
· #csr #fibercast Dickson: consumer difference perceptions from behaviour. no real ‘no sweat’ label, cannot ensure compliance
· #csr #fibercast Dickson believes to look for honest companies working toward real change #nike #adidas (ex)
· # fibercast #csr Cahn: government can play a voluntary role, also use trade agreement..ensure internationally approved standards on imports
· # fibercast #csr Cahn check out fairlabor.org for opperations and http://www.sa-intl.org/
· # fibercast #csr Cahn, small/med. company: ask questions again and again, collaboration fairfactories.org
· #csr #fibercast Dickson stresses importance of multi-stakeholder initiatives and also ngo’s light the fire under companies
· #csr #fibercast Dickson to students: we need to educate students on #sr in graduate program, but also integrated into undergrad class
· #csr #fibercast #sr Dickson http://tinyurl.com/b3ep9u
New edition of fibre, this edition is focused on China.
Treehugger rounds up the eco fashion scene at New York Fashion Week, here.
An article from The MailOnline talks more about the horrible quality of fast fashion….hey, have you taken the poll from a few weeks back? Don’t tell me your clothes have never malfunctioned!
Greenloop offers a promotional sale up to 75% off (they really just mean an additional 25%).
Now it’s time to move on to much greener pastures: London Fashion Week.
The British Fashion Council (BFC) launches 6th season of estethica today, Feb 20th. Care to read the press release? The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is set to launch a Sustainable Clothing Action Plan off of London Fashion Week. This post from the guardian provided that spoiler alert. Furthermore, it turns out that actor Colin Firth owns an eco shop in London, Eco Age (it’s linked, but the site doesn’t seem to be working). It is launching 12 Degrees pop-up shop, collaboration between Lucy Siegle (the guardian), fashion designer Orsola de Castro (estethica) and Jocelyn Whipple. Exciting stuff.
Getting Back to Mr. Darcy…
David Berman asks his reader to understand the ways in which design can impact society, arguing that it has the potential to change the world. Berman successfully establishes and outlines the need for change, and inspires his readers, both designer and design aficionado, to open their minds to the possibilities of a new design industry. What might such an industry look like? For starters, it would hold itself accountable.
With supporting Forwards from Erik Spiekermann (of Spiekermann Partners and Honorary Professor, University of the Arts in Bremen), Min Wang (Dean of Central Academy of Fine Arts School of Design in China and design director of the Beijing Olympics) and Richard Grefé (Executive Director of AIGA), there is no question that Berman’s work is not to be taken lightly.
It is not a book about outlining his own accomplishments as a designer, or his own designs. Rather, it stays focused on qualifying the ways in which design has failed democracy, the environment, the feminist movement, and in fact design itself.
All hope is not lost, as Berman maintains an extremely positive attitude in outlining the ways that design can be used toward creating positive and lasting change. The message is simple: designers have a social responsibility.
I absolutely loved this book, and can’t wait to use it as a guide in my own research.
Interested in taking this design pledge? Do it.