Eco Fashion Talk Reports On The Cradle to Cradle Product Symposium 2015

ECO FASHION TALK- December 13, 2015
by Sass Brown

The Cradle to Cradle Product Symposium and Innovation Celebration is two years old, and what a difference a year makes. The two-day conference, launched in the showroom of industry partner Steel Case, and relocated to the Conrad Hotel in downtown Manhattan, evolved from exploratory industry conversations to full blown conference in just one year. The vision of the event is to gather business leaders from across industries, to engage in a ‘community of practice’ around the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. Celebrating sustainable design and innovation, the goal is to learn, share, and collaborate across a full two days of working groups, plenaries, panel discussions, case studies, and breakout sessions.

Year two’s event was dedicating to supporting participants on their path to safer materials perpetually cycled, by delivering practical insights and perspectives. The Symposium is an opportunity to learn, and engage directly with leaders in the field of Cradle to Cradle product innovation. It’s a place for companies to share best practices and identify solutions. C2C Product Innovation revolves around five key challenges; material health, and reutilization, renewable energy, water, and Social values.

Fashion Positive is a comprehensive program that guides designers and manufacturers to improve products through standards of certification, and by harmonizing with industry measures such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index. Launched in 2014, Fashion Positive is helping to drive positive change in the fashion industry, by providing low-interest loans to suppliers creating safe and perpetually cycled materials for designers. Fashion Positive partners are developing truly innovative products and materials that will transform the fashion industry, and form the basis of a resource library of fabrics, dyes, trims, and threads that meet the Cradle to Cradle Product Standard, making it easy for designers to source trusted materials.

The full day of speakers and panels at the Product Symposium featured a packed agenda of speakers, and an array of breakout sessions with a variety of focuses, allowing attendees to pick and choose based on areas of interest. The conference was launched with talks and panels from the Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy, William McDonough and the CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, covering topics on environmental health and the built environment.

The panel on Fashion and the Circular Economy was particularly pertinent to our industry, with a line up of industry heavy weights, each invested in making sustainable change. The presentation featured Linda Greer of the NRDC Clean by Design program, who have succeeded in reducing the environmental impact of 33 major mills in China producing fashion and apparel for US brands, Scott Mackinlay Hahn founder of Loomstate, and a leader in the sustainable apparel movement in the US, Scott Miller – Director of Business for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Claire Bergkamp – head of Sustainability for Stella McCartney, and Lewis Perkins – President of Cradle to Cradle’s Fashion Positive. The panel was moderated by industry change agent and Fashion Consultant Julie Gilhart, and the conversation revolved around systems thinking and circular design.

In Overcoming Hurdles to Transition Towards a Circular Economy, stakeholders that included Stella McCartney and Bionic Yarn, discussed how they used Cradle to Cradle to help them design, and create products that make a positive impact, and support the circular economy, emphasizing the importance of industry collaboration.

The Cradle to Cradle system guides and supports brands as they continue to improve their practice, and their products. Certification is awarded in levels from basic through bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The breakout sessions included a panel on Continuous Improvement in Cradle to Cradle certification, with three of Fashion Positive’s Leadership partner companies, Maiyet, Trigema, and Metawear all of whom have products certified at the bronze or silver level, and are working to achieve gold-level certification.

Fashion Positive Leadership Partners, G-Star RAW, Stella McCartney, Loomstate, Maiyet, Bionic Yarn and Saitex International, all participated in the conference as panelists and partners throughout. Innovator Awards for Product Design and Leadership were awarded, with the Systems Innovator Award bestowed on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a non-profit organization working to accelerate the Circular Economy.

Fashion Positive has successfully transitioned from a community of concerned individuals and a handful of brands having meaningful conversations, to a major player in moving our industry forward, and engaging across industries to impact our world in significant ways. As Scott Mackinlay Hahn of Loomstate said “Fashion Positive is the connective tissue empowering designers to take full accountability for the beautiful products we deliver to the world.”