FIT Sustainability Day
by Stephen Garner

On Wednesday, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) hosted Day 1 of 2 of its 2019 Sustainable Business and Design Conference at the school’s campus in New York City.

Under the theme of “Innovating for the Future,” the conference brought business leaders in sustainability and innovation together to discuss the latest advances in environmental initiatives across a variety of creative industries.

FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown kicked off the day with opening remarks, saying “For FIT, sustainability is a way of life. Academia has a role to play in becoming responsible conservators of the earth.”

FIT Sustainability Day
FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown

Aveda hosted “Global Changemakers Paving the Way for Sustainability in the Beauty, Fashion, Hospitality, and Nonprofit Industries” featuring Aveda’s Barbara De Laere, designer Phillip Lim, Lauren Letta of charity: water, and Hannah Bronfman of SH Hotels & Resorts. “Luxury, freedom, choice, sustainability is hand in hand, our choice is to choose sustainability,” said Lim. Letta and Lim agree on the challenges of getting involved in sustainability, saying “It’s intimidating, but we’re never going to be experts. Our job is to stay curious and keep trying…Pick a focus and follow through with it.” Bronfman added, “Sharing information is the #1 thing you can do to combat climate change.”

Next up, Nadja Swarovski shared stories about her personal journey as a female executive working towards sustainability, “Our mission for Swarovski was to push sustainability to the forefront, which seemed to be hard and challenging, but the hardest part was starting. When your last name is on the door, you do feel a greater responsibility.” Swarovski also spoke to students in the audience about how to earn credibility through “knowledge, persistence and faith,” saying “Show your track record, starting with your education. That is your knowledge, that is your power…Have the inner strength to remind you of your purpose.”

Model, Master & Muse entrepreneur and activist Amber Valletta shared advice for aspiring designers passionate about sustainability, saying “If you are becoming a designer or thinking about running a company…you must implement sustainability from the get go. Great design will draw people in and that is what will sell.” Amber and Amy Johnson from Master & Muse are also working on a new short film called “The Changing Room” to encourage more conscious shopping behavior among consumers regarding how their clothes are sourced and made.

FIT Sustainability Day
Designer Phillip Lim

Evie Evangelou from Fashion 4 Development (F4D) said, “Fashion has a loud voice. People follow it, people pay attention to it, and we can utilize it as the change. It can create awareness and bring people together.”

Lauren Bush Lauren discussed her work with FEED and the professional challenges along the way. She said “Women have to earn credibility more than men do, and struggle with knowing their worth. As girls, we’re taught not to be aggressive, but I’ve learned a lot from being an entrepreneur.”

And, finally, Kering’s Michael Beutler discussed the company’s work towards creating sustainable luxury products, emphasizing the importance of measuring and monitoring its impact as a major manufacturer. “We need to think about how our products are made and what those processes are…If we paid back nature for everything we did, we would write a check to them for 850 million dollars. We’ve since set a target to reduce this by 40 percent.” Beutler also discussed Kering’s 2025 strategy based on three pillars: caring about the planet, collaboration with the planet, and creating with innovation.

Kering’s Michael Beutler pictured at top of page.