Fiber Farmers, Clothing Makers Need More than ‘Maybe’

  • Earth Month
Black and white headshot of Kaley Roshitsh
Kaley Roshitsh
April 12, 2024

Preferred fibers are better in theory but how do they become reality?

At Theory’s showroom in New York City on Tuesday, guests learned just how farmers, mill owners, brands, and more align on fiber development for the brand’s “Good Talk” educational series kick off in April.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the United Nations’ Fashion and Lifestyle Network co-hosted the event alongside Fast Retailing-owned Theory. Both the CFDA and Fast Retailing are Cascale members, while U.N. Environment is a collaborator with Cascale on past reports. The panel included La Rhea Pepper, co-founder of Textile Exchange and senior advisor of Fashion Makes Change; Wendy Waugh, Theory’s senior vice president of sustainability; and Riccardo and Francesco Marini, owners of Marini and Cecconi Mills. Vogue’s sustainability editor Tonne Goodman moderated the conversation.

Values and partnership were leading points. “We can’t grow it on a maybe. We need strong market partners,” said Pepper. “We have to break away from a price paradigm to a value paradigm.”

“When you start a sustainability journey, you never go back,” added Riccardo Marini, president of Marini Industrie. Marini collaborates closely with Theory for the brand’s signature “Good Linen” made with fine flax fiber sourced from the company’s farm partners in France’s Normandy region. The company also produces stretch linen, the environmental and performance qualities of which were detailed by Francesco Marini. Marini also brought up incoming French legislation including qualities of “emotional durability,” though that is a less tangible measurement for fabric makers today.

Still, the sustainability agenda is progressing with policymakers and impacting the industry. “Brands are under more pressure than they’ve ever been because of the regulatory issues,” stressed Pepper.

In her view, echoed by panelists, legislation is greater leverage to justify the right decisions. Pepper encouraged the audience to find their kindred spirits in pre-competitive spaces and work towards decisions together that align with policy, a value shared by Cascale.

Collective action was one such solution. “The more questions you ask the stronger the relationships grow,” said Waugh. “We have to do it because of the regulation but because it’s the values of who we are at Theory.”

Theory’s event is one of many on the Earth Month events calendar in the sustainable fashion world.

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