We Checked Out The First-Ever NYC Sustainable Fashion Community Meeting

Sustainable Community Meeting, Impact Hub NYC, January 9, 2018.   Photo by Gabriela Fernandes-DaSilva.

Sustainable Community Meeting, Impact Hub NYC, January 9, 2018. Photo by Gabriela Fernandes-DaSilva.

On January 9th, 2018, New York City held its first-ever sustainable fashion community meeting led by chair of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition, Andrea Reyes, at Impact Hub NYC. The room was filled with passionate experts, retail professionals, and those eager to learn more about local sustainable organizations performing impactful global work.

The stage was illuminated with the host of the evening, Andrea, who introduced the speaking program. The panels included: Ngozi Okaro of Custom Collaborative, Marika Shiga of NEST, Patrick Duffy and Brooke Blashill of Global Fashion Exchange, Rachel Tobias of the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator (BFDA), Marcos Salazar of Be Social Change and Hanna Cody of Unicef USA.

“I'm hoping tonight you will feel empowered to take little actions, actions that foster the movement to grow,” said Andrea.  

After the event wrapped, we sat Andrea down for a few questions about her current role(s), what she sees as the future of sustainable fashion, and where a shopper can start to do better.

In your words, what is your role tonight at Sustainable Fashion Community Meeting?

My role for tonight is hostess, mentor, and MC. As I often wear many different hats from chairing the NYC Fair Trade Coalition, running a small business (A. Bernadette), and teaching at a few fashion schools, it was a pleasure to throw the mic over to a variety of different organizations and listen to their goals, initiatives, and passion.

How would you define sustainable fashion?

From an academic standpoint, I can say sustainable fashion is taking into account the social, environmental, and economic implications (the triple bottom line) when dealing with the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of apparel. Adding a bit more nuance, I would continue to say no one company is able to achieve all three simultaneously. When inviting new members to join the NYC Fair Trade Coalition, we look for businesses that are active in questioning and pushing their ethics in the efforts to do better.

What are some trends that you envision this year for sustainable fashion?

Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of newly sustainable textiles which will continue. My prediction is we will see more auxiliary service-based startup companies. We have a good base of small businesses manufacturing and designing, now is the time to add additional services. Marketing, retailing, PR, and event coordinating. We will see different types of events, not just panel discussions, as the industry evolves and customers demand more sustainable experiences over simply sustainable shopping events.

What is the most exciting innovation/event/project you are looking forward this year within the sustainable fashion community?

I am excited to see how many of the social causes from voting rights, to black lives matter, to the women's march collide with the sustainable fashion movement. I believe one of our big goals is to connect the dots bringing those movements together. As the mainstream retail environment continues, these connections will become more obvious and there lies the opportunity for the sustainable fashion industry to come in and offer solutions.

For example, we are starting to see a significant decline in retail jobs. Jobs that are being replaced by automated systems. These are first jobs for many young women, single mothers, and older folks who have had to return to the job market and will have to look elsewhere. The sustainable fashion industry can offer employment opportunities by creating unique experiences by bringing together community, education, and even social service based events.

When it comes to shopping more sustainably, many don't know where to start. What are some tips you have to get started? Are there easy access resources consumers can use?

At this point, we still see gaps in the sustainability industry or opportunities depending on how you look at it. There are still not many great options for the plus-size customer and for the price-conscious customer but there is an abundance of second hand and swap options. There is a very robust swap network in NYC where you can find a swap most weekends.

To learn more about the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and sign up for the event newsletters, click here or follow @NYCFairTrade.