THE fast-fashion industry has recently taken a lot of flack for being recognized as one of the biggest contributors to pollution, which has caused an even steeper rise of the “thrifting phenomenon”—where people have abandoned the throes of fast-fashion and have chosen to immerse themselves in the pocket-friendly frenzy of “thrifting” or “ukay-ukay” for a more sustainable lifestyle. Not only that, but companies are also taking active steps in addressing this problem and spreading the culture of more sustainable practices.
One of these active steps involves the embassy of Sweden, which launched the “Fashion Revolution: The Future of Textiles” Exhibit at the University of San Carlos (USC) last Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 at the School of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design (SAFAD) Lobby. The launching of the exhibit was preceded by an opening program held in the SAFAD Theatre that featured talks from the Ambassador of Sweden, Harald Fries; the head of communications for H&M, Danreb Mejia; and the market communications manager of IKEA, Jasmin Cruz—who fondly call themselves a part of “Team Sweden.”
Their talks emphasized the challenge of achieving long-term sustainable development in an industry that is considered “one of the most polluting industries in the world.” To counter this, Mejia introduced the concept of sustainable fashion, a concept that H&M strives for by recycling materials to reduce the usage of chemicals, energy and water. He defined sustainability as “the capacity to meet the needs of today without compromising our capacity to meet the needs of tomorrow.”
In line with sustainable fashion, USC alumna Page Uy-Tiu was invited to present her senior year thesis, “Upcycling Flour Sacks into an Outerwear Collection Inspired by the Terracotta Warriors of Qin Shi Huang.” Page explained the lesser-known concept of “upcycling” or “creative reuse” as the transformation of by-products, waste materials, and useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and value. In other words: Through upcycling, the value of a product is upgraded.
Jasmin Cruz shared IKEA’s Sustainability Strategy, which is to become people and planet positive through its three focus areas: healthy & sustainable living, circular & climate positive, and fair & equal. Sustainability is in the DNA of IKEA, and she admits IKEA has had failures, but it was these failures that pushed the brand to create this sustainability strategy in order to contribute towards a more sustainable world.
After the opening program, everyone moved to the entrance of the SAFAD Lobby to witness the ceremonial ribbon-cutting that would officially open the exhibit to the public. It displayed fashionable clothing from H&M made out of eco-friendly and sustainable materials such as Piñatex®, Orange Fiber™, Organic Linen, Bloom™ Foam, and Recycled Polyester. BabyBjörn also exhibited baby-carriers that were created from recycled and upcycled products.
Standing out from the exhibit were models Kristen Gayagoy and Mario Carbon, who wore garments from the Cebu-based social enterprise and textile designer, Anthill Fabric Gallery. The clothes and accessories worn by the models were part of Anthill’s zero-waste collection.
During the panel discussion, Fries said: “We do this event to create awareness for sustainability, and to show that there are companies in the world today who are working very hard on making production, transportation, design, and what we’ve heard today more sustainable.” He further discussed the role of the Swedish government in spearheading the event: “For the government of Sweden, sustainability and the achievement of the sustainable development goals is a top priority. So all the Swedish embassies around the world, we are tasked to advocate a more sustainable world.”
The “Fashion Revolution: The Future of Textiles” Exhibit is one of two advocacies the Swedish embassy is bringing to the Philippines this year; the other being their “Respeto Naman” campaign that advocates against gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and abuse.
The Swedish Government’s top priorities are the protection of the environment, and fighting climate change. These priorities are also pursued through major Swedish brands such as BabyBjörn, H&M and IKEA. These companies are at the forefront of implementing more sustainable business models in response to the worsening environmental degradation and scarcity of natural resources, and they are succeeding. Their exhibition will run until March 20.
It is now up to the students to decide: Will sustainability remain a concept, or can it become our reality as we save the Earth? One sustainable fashion statement at a time. (Clariza Sevilla)