The first edition of the Sustainable Fashion Conference, which was held on March 14, 2019, was well attended. The event is part of APLF’s aim to establish itself as the main Sustainable Sourcing Platform of the Asia Pacific Region.

Panelists with backgrounds ranging from design to leather tanning debated about the incredibly vast and relevant topic that is sustainability today. Who would have thought that blockchain technology could be discussed in the same breath as the benefits of customization of consumer products and the necessity of collaboration between the different sectors of the fashion industry?

While profoundly philosophical at times, the conference was pragmatically informative and for many participants a true eye opener. “Participating in the conference gave me a sustainable mind-set to make my sourcing decision,” said Orla Kiely, senior accessories designer of the namesake brand.

Among the many topics discussed, blockchain, a technology that proves the integrity of a fully transparent supply chain, made a particularly big impression, reminding everyone that modern day slave labor is as much part of sustainability as raw materials, chemistry and waste. Mark Blick, Head of Government Solutions at Diginex, reminded the participants that there are 40.3 million labor slaves in the world today and explained how blockchain can help with the issue. “Blockchain empowers good actors to do the right thing,” Blick said.

The conference was also a reminder that textile and clothing waste account for 20 per cent of landfill volumes, highlighting how urgent it is to find ways to discourage fast fashion, as urges Ralph Goodstone, founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum. This is where customization comes in, according to South African designer Adrian Furstenburg, who advocates customization and personalization as opposed to mass production.

It was concluded that sustainability cannot be imposed and that to become established it has to be a priority for all – starting from the designers all the way to consumers. Leadership, commitment and education are the way forward. The entire structure of society and enterprises especially has to change dramatically to integrate it.