Is Sustainable Fast Fashion Possible?

Now You are on the sustainability stage so You'll be hearing a lot about that Phrase while you're here now one of the Issues we're all familiar with Especially from social media like Tech Talk is fast fashion you're flowing Throwing through uh Tick Tock or Instagram lots and lots of fast fashion You like something you click it you buy It done But of course that all has an Environmental cost so the question is Can we have a sustainable fashion Industry United with the the technology world and So to discuss these kinds of issues is Harry Weber who's the senior climate Writer with TechCrunch and he's going to Join us to run this next panel and Joining him will be uh Jim a Joker from Color fix Beth esponite from unspun and Julie Willoughby from Cirque so give her A round of applause everyone Thank you [Music] Foreign [Music] I can hear myself now oh my gosh I'm so Excited to talk to you all I feel like anyone could say we have Some exciting innovators on stage Um I would not say that unless I meant It and I I feel that way about all three

Of you all of you have interesting Backgrounds working on really really Um tackling interesting problems so I'm Just super excited to have you here We're talking about sustainable fashion Um and I read a statistic that I wanted To bring up I think the UN said more uh Emissions come from the fashion industry Than shipping and Aviation uh Combined So all of that just so we can have these Like sweet clothes and you know it's Nice it's nice to like look good that's Cool but it is like an awful problem so We're gonna like try to reconcile that In a way or talk about what is potential Irreconcilable Um so I wanted to start with Julie you Work in circularity Um And I I just wanted to start just off The bat and ask uh will the H M's the Zaras and the shiens of the world always Be like fundamentally at odds with Um with climate goals No I don't think they can I mean Our climate and our world and our planet There's no way we can keep going in the In the pattern that we are without Tapping into circularity we have all the Resources we need to make all the things Including fashion in the future Do you think fast fashion Can truly become sustainable

I think it I mean it's a it's a tough Call because what defines fast fashion Does it Define it from that it's there's Just so much output and it's made at Such a a Inexpensive rate that allows people to Consume I mean I remember back in the 90s and I went to a school where I had To wear a uniform and one of seven I Didn't have many clothes and when I did Go to the store it was really expensive So what fast fashion has done is Democratized it and I think it's really Important for the tsars and they're They're one of certain investors we have A great partnership with them it's Really important for them to continue to Make sustainable fashion to turn the Corner and make what they offer Sustainable I'm curious Jim what what do you think about fast Fashion and this the speed of fast Fashion because we had talked earlier About this Um and I think you know I don't want to Split hairs too much on because the Definition could could shift but like You know what's isn't it kind of messed Up the way we were doing things now I Mean I'm not that you were arguing Otherwise but I'm curious what your Thoughts are yeah I think uh fast Fashion is not good and I don't think

It's sustainable Um I'm a guy of slow fashion I bought This jacket when I was 14 years old I'm Now retired which tells you how old I am So I've had this for over 50 years you Just take it take care of it and it will Last so a lot of this is about trying to Inform people about the problems that Are involved with fashion but also to Make them more thoughtful about what They wear it isn't just about some Instantaneous instant gratification but They should be more thoughtful about What it is that they're trying to Project when they wear things as well so It's trying to change the consumer's Attitude towards the fashion Um you know one thing that's interesting Is and and there's time for us to to Mention like what everyone's working on Obviously for those who don't know you Work in uh like dying clothes with Bacteria basically a more sustainable Way to uh deposit dyes onto Fabrics Without you know completely destroying Um natural waterways all that sort of Thing Um Fast fashion has some fundamental big Flaws at least the way I think of it Today Um you've taken money from h m how do You Balance that together h m is actually

Trying to do as much as they can do it's Always a balance by between you know you Have to make profit a superior Confidence I hope it's not my hair If we stay very still it'll be fine I Don't think my mic oh I think we might Have lost a mic We got a hand mic that we can bring up Stage Let's see well I can shout oh hold on no I I lecture for a living So speaking out Loud is part of the job so what now you Were talking about h m yeah yeah yeah Yeah is that at odds I don't know it's Not because all companies have to make a Profit okay they have invested a lot of Money in trying to understand the supply Chains and trying to understand how they Can make them better for trying to make Their clothes more sustainable so They're making an effort they're not a Total greenwash there are other aspects Of the fashion industry that are Greenwashed but they're trying so no It's not at odds Can you hear me in the back Okay I don't need a mic well We'll have it as a backup we'll have the Mic as a backup Um And uh yeah so Um Julie you work in circularity Um we just talk a little bit more about

Um Well I'm just curious How receptive have these big Brands been When it comes to Taking these old materials and turning Them into new clothes Well they're very receptive I mean the Demand that we have for our product is Tremendous and we cannot build it fast Enough we can't build the capacity fast Enough I think the challenge is the Supply chain and how the brands operate It so for instance they don't typically Own their factories and they rely on the Tier ones twos threes to do the Innovation and they are the brand and The design and that's a very powerful Powerful situation to be in and there is Power of the brand because it influences Each and every one of us and and how we Think for whether you hate the brand or You love the brand it does affect your Actions and one of the things that's Really necessary to bring Innovation to Scale is to have the brands commit to The factories that make the fabric that Make the Yarns that go into the products That they design and then market and Sell is to commit to them to take like Things The off text so for instance we're Building our first Flagship facility to Recycle polyester cotton that's a very Difficult

Textile to recycle because it's Blended But we're able to extract both the Polyester stream and the cotton stream And make circular fibers from them so Basically never needing to tap into Fossil fuels or or cotton or trees in Order to make these circular fibers And so going through it over and over Again and getting it to the point that It can scale we need to build the Flagship facility and the way to get the Funding for that is to ensure that you Have your supply agreements going into The factory and your off takes committed So that the investment Community has Confidence in investing in this what is A capital intensive endeavor Beth I'd love for you to weigh in here On this can you remind me some of the Companies you've worked with Zara one of Them no but we've worked with h M's Weekdays clean Estrada a few others that I'm not allowed to meet yet but look Forward to in the future sure sure well What what makes it difficult to I guess I'm going at this question a Little bit uh from the other side but We have all of these Technologies In development to at least uh you know Limit waste limit pollution and fashion But so much of the fashion industry Continues to operate as it has and there Is quite a bit of waste it's quite a bit Of Virgin plastics it's just how it is

So what are some of the barriers that You're encountering Beth and I'm curious For the other people on stage Could you could you just talk a little Bit about how Um How do you I I guess I'm just wondering like what's The hold up yeah great question I think We could have a long discussion about You know the various things that in play Things are moving of course they're not Moving quickly enough but what we're Seeing at least within Brands is a lot Of excitement from The New You Know The Innovation teams the teams that are like On The Cutting Edge and I love that Brands set up this way where they have One side of their company that's you Know thinking about the status quo Keeping their company alive and then They at the other side they have the People who are looking into Innovation And how we can incorporate that into the Status quo unfortunately that that Handoff is not happening quickly enough I think that's when it struggles is that You can you know start a little a small Pilot you get 50 100 a thousand pieces But to to Really scale up takes a bit of Capital so that's where what Julie's Talking about these off take agreements Similar model for our company as well You collect collect contracts and you

Prove to your investors there's there's Demand here and that's sort of how how We function as a company and how we're Starting to move things forward but it Could always be faster we happen to be In hard Hardware so there's always a Little bit of extra time needed for for Hardware but I think you know it's it is Actually happening fairly quickly when You look at the grand scheme of things Is it is cost a big barrier I think we Talked about this in our call earlier we Were talking earlier about this panel And one of the things that came up Repeatedly was just like fashion Companies want to survive uh and how do You invest in potentially more expensive Ways of doing things Uh survive meet all these goals uh and Without jacking up the prices or you Know something's got to give so I'm Curious just put your thoughts are on That well we've found that brands are Not really willing to go more than a Year two years without breaking even Um you absolutely can't come in with Something that's indefinitely going to Be more expensive than the status quo We've seen lots of polls out there that Consumers will say especially like gen Z We we say we really care about Sustainability we're going to change the Way we purchase but when you actually Look at the the purchases that happen

You don't see You don't see people standing behind That they still want the thing that's Cheaper so we've found that if we can Get to cost parity in 12 18 months that We're able to sign these contracts very Quickly is Is that realistic I'm curious about the Green premium do you This is a question for everyone on on Stage right now do your businesses rely On the green premium That that idea of like well you have to Pay a little more to get something That's sustainable Well I would say the green premium it's More about the early adapters so The reason commodity products are so Inexpensive and what has allowed us to Enjoy a level of fashion apparel but not Just fashion and apparel it's your Footwear it's it's all belongings around You that you consume is because of scale And because of delivering to the masses So what we're doing in the lab and we're We're well beyond the lab at Circ but There's it's no comparison to look at Polyester that is manufactured at Thousands and thousands of tons a day in One unit and compare it to a 200 ton per Day unit it's just it it's simple math And and Engineering that you're going to Have a higher unit cost and capital with The smaller capacity so but you need to

Prove that your technology does scale And it scales and we're building the First commercial facility but it's still Not going to be the next it's going to Be the blueprint that's going to scale Globally at the thousands of tons but It's also like one of the things that I Think you know that Is important to recognize is just how These products and all these Technologies are coming together so I Have to compliment Beth on her amazing Pants that I want to get a pair but These came off her 3D weaving right and It's just like how how can you create These sustainable fashion that the Consumer is demanding it so the the Regulation that's going on in Europe is Driving the the market pool because the Brands are being held accountable to Deliver Sustainable Solutions to stop Creating 10 of greenhouse gases but it Has to go beyond the guilt and the and The the pushing it has to go on as What's that consumer experience that Really enables everyone to be mindful About what they are buying and still Have that same level of dopamine that Shopping gives us does it feel like you Know you're like pushing a boulder up a Hill Yes and no yes it does sometimes feel Like um pushing a boulder uphill but it Depends on where the hill is okay so

Scale is a real issue you don't get to Scale you can't get to the the price Point that you want in Europe we're Pretty close to being cost competitive With chemical dying in Asia not true at All different Hills so it depends what What you where you're really aiming sure But the end is it's uh just to double Check are you are you hearing Jim back There no okay will you use the mic then Sure let's let's Now can you hear me now There we go yeah all right thank you Yeah yeah sorry thanks yeah right you Were saying so yes it is like pushing a Boulder uphill but it depends on where The hill is in Europe like I said for us Going to scale will probably be okay Because we're close to cost Competitiveness with the chemical dye Industry now in your in Asia not even Close okay so Um it's gonna it depends it's kind of The answer does it does what how on Earth do you make a difference in Asia With your technology how are how do you Compete in order to make it part of this Is coming back to the scale issue if you Can scale and you can get it to the Point where you are at that point you Can drive the cars down but until you Get to that point you have to be in a Some kind of Market where you can exist What what concerns y'all more because

Sometimes I think about I mean I live I live in sort of a bubble I live in L.A on the east side Everyone's queer everyone's talking About sustainability and climate change And having their own existential crisis As they learn about uh the realities That we face with uh you know Rapidly changing climate What concerns you more on what you do is It getting the brands on board or is it People changing their behavior in order To like what obviously those things feed Into themselves but does one take up More of your head space than the other For me yes I mean getting people to Understand the problems and to be more Thoughtful about their purchasing power Matters what concerns me more than Getting brands on board because at the End of the day if the consumer can drive What the brands want and that will Happen But unfortunately trying to educate People is much much more difficult than You might imagine Beth Julie what are your thoughts on This yeah my focus has really been on Brands I I do love that you have faith In consumers I guess I have a little Less faith in in all of us Um yeah brands are really where the Change for us at least will will happen And going back to your analogy about

Pushing rocks uphill we're the brands The contract manufacturers and and us on Spun we are pushing that boulder up Together we're basically Splitting costs on that capex that's Required to get us to that cost parity Within a year so that's really how we've Yeah curious what your thoughts are on This well So I've been a chemical engineer for Over 30 years and no time in my career Have I had such a strong Market pull so You always hear about the technology Push and the market pull it's just pull Pull No that said you know we do go up Mountains because we are a Venture-backed company and as was was Described earlier on on the panel is Like you do need to deliver and they're What the team has done together over the Last four years to bring our technology From recycling one t-shirt a day to over Thousands and thousands of teachers T-shirts a day has been incredible and That the biggest challenge and they also Talked about the team is ensuring that We don't get in our own ways that yes There's a lot that we could say this Won't work or we don't know how to do it Or or this or that but that There has to be more hope and optimism Than that because this planet is worth Saving and all these Technologies like I

Also feel like we're not competitors Like I want to take best solution and Gym solution and tie it all into this Beautiful zero liquid discharge zero Carbon facility that's an end-to-end Textile recycling dude I'm curious also Just when it comes to having such Extensive backgrounds in the science Um On the academic side there's a lot of Poking and examining and interrogating And then you come into the business World and and sometimes it I'm sure the Academics can be plenty political in its Own way Um do you have to soften how you talk About these things not you know I'm just Curious is there what your Chuck you're Chuckling best so I don't I think it's Been a little frustrating in being in The industry where there are no there Are no hard facts Um we it's a lot of brand driven things We just can't really track a lot of the Information that we need in a lot of Brands it doesn't make sense for them to Kind of disclose their numbers and so We're often making a lot of decisions on You know word of mouth or I get out of a Meeting that I've heard what their Experience is and I kind of have to Extrapolate that across the whole Industry and it's it's Um sometimes it's kind of embarrassing

To you know want to have a really deep Discussion and just to say like well I've heard somewhere and some sources That maybe were at four percent of the Global carbon emissions and I've heard Other places it's ten percent so I think That's been one of my biggest Frustrations I mean of course there's Everything we're working on but just From like a kind of scientific lens we Really need just better data Y'all have thoughts on this oh yes Let them rip come on okay so you know I Ran a Lab in Cambridge for 30 years Um the science really hasn't changed but What changes going into the space that I'm in now is that we've turned into Engineers so it's not quite as Dr Perhaps dramatic as you guys Um the brand since we have an advantage Being in well sort of in Europe unless You count brexit Um Because the brands exist in Europe so we Have less of a problem trying to Communicate with them we're working in Portugal that work in die houses that Work for the brands anyway so we have Less of a problem with Brands and you Guys do simply by geography On the other hand the science part of it Hasn't really changed it's now that we Are design briefs our engineering so It's an engineering problem rather than

One of pure science or just observation And experimentation Julie what are your thoughts on I don't really think it's how We're talking about things I will say in Academia and I did I did a stent in Academia and there is a tremendous Amount of pressure to ensure that you're An individual contributor so you you do All this work you you grow you develop Students which I love and but it's it's Still an i versus a we and that's that's The difference when you you jump over Into industry is that in Commercialization it has to be a team it Has to be a team that's seamless in Order to bring it because it really is About the execution you're going to Always have challenges and opportunities Yes we call them problems but they're Just opportunities to innovate against And so we've had really tight timelines To to deliver to for products so I'm Wearing one of them that was launched in In May and in Milan design week and it Was a collab with with Zara's or we made It into the label which is huge and and That's you know those are the types of Things that the brands can do because It's important that the technology and The companies and the entrepreneurs that We continue to grow our values so that We can that we can deliver on the Commercialization of these Technologies

And then bring them all together because It is an ecosystem are you hopeful that Zara will see the results of this Collaboration and say like you know what Let's do more let's oh yes they already Are I mean they're a great collaborator We love them do you but in the scope of Zara which is this massive company uh What do you feel is the the impact of That right because if you're you got to Start somewhere I don't want to belittle That in any way I'm just curious is it a Drop in the bucket when it comes or is It does it is that diminishing it no They actually That by 2030 they're gonna have all Recycled Materials okay and with that we have to Build a lot of factories which is Exciting I mean we get to I think back To the technology what we've innovated Is around a system and we've innovated In bringing disparate Industries Together and what is really comforting Or reassuring and reducing risk for Scaling this is that many of these Technologies were available in the 90s And you could recycle in the 90s but no One wanted to it was it was like too Expensive I remember being told by Managers and leaders it's just like it Doesn't make sense to put that recycle Line in now to be able to create a Factory that truly is green that pulls

From renewable energy that Uses everything it makes and sends it Back for all the byproducts is exciting And and we're gonna the brands that that Can use their be a force of good are Going to support us to get there Speaking of the brands that can or might Not be a force of good I'm curious and In the audience has anyone here shop GN Anyone else no other Xi'an buyers three You gotta you got a few statistics I bring them up for a very specific Reason uh they've exploded on Tick Tock Um Doing massive amounts of sales and Whenever I go there uh like I haven't Bought anything from there that's Honestly probably because I had trouble Finding my size more than it was from a Conscious decision because I it's I find It tempting I see something and it is Difficult to resist just buying it Um but the prices are just insane I mean The prices it's like it's like a couple Bucks for uh something that's going to Be in for the next couple months it's Like a niche Niche Cottage core thing And and it's I I get why people are Going there for those things but does That the emergence of that kind of Company at the same time as as these Opportunities to recycle to to reuse Materials to change how we produce Clothes at the same time you've got like

The polar opposite happening where it's Like Just like the Um you know this wildly cheap place to Shop Does that what is this what do you think Of that this is that me is that your Competitor in a way is that you're Competing with the the sheens of the World I don't know I mean I won't let my 14 Year old daughter shop there and I'm I Think It's it's disheartening that things are So cheap and they're cheap because of of Where you know how are they making them So cheap they're making it cheap because Of not having sustainable labor so where Are the labor rates going the materials Are they making are they making Changes on quality so really being able To access sustainable fashion and Education of what fast fashion does and What the over consumption does is is Going to need to continue to be made but We're going to have to make it really Attractive for the average consumer to Want it because they're just we we're Programming people to have rapid Immediate you know if you have a need And you want a new design you can get it Tomorrow and have it delivered and Really the way they've made it so cheap Is getting around regulation and taking

Obviously we all know about exploitation But specifically homework is kind of What some people call it craft work Where you don't necessarily have to make Things in factories in certain parts of The world where they just need the money So people are assigned you know make These 200 dresses and legally we also Don't have to pay you by hour so it's by A piece rate so they just get paid per Garment no matter how long it takes you So it's automatically very very cheap Because of where this is coming from and It's it's very much a broken system but I I think that Demand is really not going to stop Anytime soon like I I really admire Jim And I wish we could all be like Jim and Like appreciate our clothing and that's Something that at unspun we also aspire To do but I think there's with social Media the push there and the push for The global population the middle class Increasing there like that's this is Just a huge wave that none of us are Going to be able to stop so how do we Work with that how do we make sure that All of that increasing demand is could Be sustainable and however we Define it In a way you know how could the Earth Continue to sustain this behavior and I Think the ways that we think about Recycling are really going to be how it Works right right now we have a very

Very linear model for our industry Once You turn something into garment you've Downgraded it it's now trash essentially Because things either get trashed burned Or you know sent to another country Where they don't want it so it's it's Never really unless you can find a Solution like the solutions we're Working on is really not going back so If we can create those circular life Cycles if we can think differently about Uh The value chain that something has the Same value whether it's the beginning of Life or the end of life that's when I Think we can sustain terrible models Like Sheen there might be a future for It we'll see Jim I'm curious you mentioned especially In our calls we've talked a few times I love this jacket I want this jacket For myself I you know I want it's yours Jonathan Chung who used to be the head Designer at Levi's this is a design Classic it is very much so Um I mean it's a bit yeah it's an Admirable jacket what do you think about Changing the minds the hearts and Minds How on Earth do you do that when when The you know the alternative is like Wild convenience I think part of this is that Um this audience and This whole event

Is very focused around us Europe sure Nations that are wealthy okay that's not Most of the world Unfortunately most people don't get a Glimpse of the rest of the world which They don't have what we have a lot of The places where we're going to have to Work are places where the people don't Make a lot of money they can exploit Cheap labor and cheap materials and no Legislation so they can get away with a Lot of things that would otherwise be Very expensive in Europe or in North America okay so the U.S offloaded all of Their textile dying in the 60s to Asia That was a purposeful move unfortunately It has consequences and a lot of it's About Labor and exploitation And so I wish people could go and see Some of these places and see what what The real cost is of what they're buying Is not just oh I can buy this because I Feel good about it for myself think About who put all the labor into making That thing and labor still exploited Regardless of where you're getting your Clothing from pretty much so really Education is yeah people need to be Educated and be thoughtful about what it Is they're buying I this has been Awesome I wish we could talk more but We're going to be either going to come Out with a cane and hook us off Um gosh but this is just getting into

The meat so I would love to talk with All of you more later Um and thank you so much for for being Here I love this conversation thank you For listening thank you

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