On November 12, the day before the start of the World Ethical Apparel Roundtable (WEAR conference) in Toronto, the Centre for Social Innovation hosted the Fabric of Change Network Ecosystem Day. The event brought together changemakers and stakeholders from across the global fashion and apparel industry.
Fabric of Change is a partnership between Ashoka and C&A Foundation. The initiative, launched in 2015, challenges fashion entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and innovators from Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, Italy, Mexico and Sri Lanka to transform fashion into a force for good.
Among them were Stacy Flynn, CEO of Evrnu and winner of the global Fabric of Change challenge, and Ashoka Fellow and Goodweave’s country director for India, Manoj Bhatt. Flynn, who is keynote speaker at WEAR, has developed technology that breaks down and reconstitutes cotton fibres from old garments. Bhatt is focused on developing supply chain transparency to eliminate the exploitation of children.
The apparel industry is ripe for change. This industry, that literally touches each of us, is the second most polluting industry worldwide. The global fashion supply chain employs 60 million people worldwide, 75 percent of whom are women; cotton farming alone accounts for 10 percent of global pesticide use.
“Fabric of Change envisions a new system, one in which all stakeholders are empowered to make sure that all these people, and the planet we depend on, are respected,” said Dan Schiff, Ashoka’s global partnerships project manager. “We’ve really focused on digging deep to figure out the roadblocks to industry-wide change so we can then employ design principles to bring about that transformation.”
The first half of the day was all about spotting and sharing insights among the Fabric of Change cohort. The morning session, led by Courage Colab, allowed participants to reflect on and model their organizations and the broader ecosystem in which they are embedded. The idea was to create a moment of stillness to reflect on their experience, crystallize their learning and envision a path forward for the newly forged linkages.
After lunch, the event welcomed a broader stakeholder group for a social finance presentation and workshop led by Sara Minard, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University’s D’more-McKim School of Business, and Karsten Zengerling of FASE (Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship), who boasts over 25 years of corporate finance, banking and consulting experience. The two gave a comprehensive overview of the social finance and impact investing landscape with nuggets of insights for organizations at every stage of development.
The final activity of the day was an Unconference session led by Courage Colab which gave participants the chance to set the agenda. Topics that emerged included greenwashing, stress testing your partnership, and capitalizing on digital supply chain tools.
“What happened to fast food needs to happen to fast fashion. We need to make it undesirable. Make the consumer think twice,” said Ashoka Fellow Kohl Gill when asked what he was taking away from the Unconference.
After a full day of learning and ecosystem building and modeling and a crash course in social finance, the group moved up the street for drinks, dinner and relaxed conversation. The problems in the apparel industry and numerous and great. But so are the social innovators collaborating to take them on. They are truly weaving the fabric of change.
Yanique Bird is a communications associate at Ashoka Canada, an Antiguan Torontonian and an intellectual adventurer. Her academic meanderings have taken her through biology, chemistry, psychology, philosophy and marketing. When not obsessing about how to use her powers for good, she can be found singing karaoke, cycling with her bestie or feeding people. @Yanique__YYZ