As the founder of a brand that was created on strong, sustainable foundations — using organic peace silk, quality construction, ethical manufacturing, and flexible sizing — that has experienced rapid growth over the last five years, it is important to me to regularly reassess our environmental and social impact, ensuring we stay true to ourselves, and continue to strive to improve.
On Thursday (April 21st 2022), I attended the Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2022 conference in London — a full day of seminars, panels and presentations on all things sustainability in fashion, attended by brands, retailers, and suppliers big and small, from the UK and internationally.
The key areas I felt were central to the events' discussions were Circularity, Carbon, and Collaboration (I literally woke up the next day with the word 'circularity' circling my brain, I must have heard it that much!).
The topic of circularity and the post-sale customer journey focussed mainly on opportunities for the rental and resale market but also touched on some of the difficulties and opportunities in recycled fibres and fabrics. Moving onto carbon, the Scope 3 emission discussion left me feeling like there was a missed opportunity, as the seminar lacked actionable suggestions. However, there was an informative presentation from Alchemie on low energy, waterless textile dyeing, which got me thinking about Studio Pia's dying process.
"Collaboration" and "partnership" were buzzwords heard throughout many seminars, as brands discussed how they are teaming up with service providers to access resources and reach a larger network.
The day's schedule ended with an inspiring conversation with Safia Minney, Founder of People Tree and now Fashion Declares, a new grassroots campaign that urges people at all levels within the fashion industry to tackle the current climate, ecological and social emergency. Safia's commitment and drive to bringing about change was the reality check I needed to ask myself if I was doing all I could in my own business.
Since our launch back in 2017, we have taken steps to improve our sustainability, such as introducing tree planting for every garment sold on our website, moving production to an excellent factory for worker ethics and quality, including more eco fabrics such as recycled tulles and certified organic cotton jersey for gussets, and improving our packaging, labels and shipping options. However, I know there is room for further improvement.
On that note, below is the conference topics I feel are most relevant to Studio Pia and where we can bring about real improvements:
Low impact dying
After hearing Alchemie reel off stats such as "30 tonnes of water are used to dye 1 tonne of fabric", "by 2030 water demand will be 40% higher than supply", "25% of global chemical output stems from textiles alone", and "more than 3% of global CO2 emissions are caused by textile dyeing, rising rapidly to 10% by 2050", I realised we have an excellent opportunity to pursue better dye practices. We currently dye all satin, trims and gusset linings to our exact colour specifications. If we could switch to their low energy, waterless process, we could see a 95% water reduction and an 85% energy reduction whilst maintaining excellent colour quality.
Minimising overproduction and waste
A fairly obvious way we can tackle our CO2 output is by minimising unnecessary stock being produced. We have already started on the road to vastly more detailed merchandising analysis to ensure the quantities of products and the size splits we buy are as accurate as possible, reducing the number of markdowns at the end of the season. We are also exploring more exclusive pieces/lines that can allow for an extended selling period and designing pieces that use up leftover fabrics after a production run, reducing waste in landfills.
We already provide a free repair service and some size/fit adjustments for a small fee; however, I realise this is not clearly communicated on our website and is an area that we could undoubtedly publicise better so more customers know that we can help them to extend the life of their products. I also know many of our customers buy and sell pre-loved garments via resale platforms, and I am considering options for a return and reward scheme and/or connecting sellers and buyers of pre-loved Studio Pia through peer to peer reselling. This is where we might see some room for collaboration.
The final thing I’d like to share is my ambition for Studio Pia to become a B Corp. I’m still in the early stages of looking into this, and I’m not sure how long it might take, but I know we can do it, and I’m excited about where it could take us!
I hope you’re feeling suitably inspired to go forth and be the change. The future of fashion sustainability is bright! Happy Fashion Revolution Week.