Suki Dusanj-Lenz, Country Head of Fashion Revolution India is one of the most prominent voices in the field of sustainable fashion. She gives us an insider view of how transparency and sustainability are essential for a more evolved fashion industry.
Launched in 2013 by fashion designers and social entrepreneurs, Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution is a not-for-profit people-powered campaign that aims to honour those who lost their lives during the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 24th.
Since then, every year, the Fashion Revolution mobilises several industry insiders and sustainability activists to become a part of a week-long dialogue, campaign momentum, and action around key messages from their manifesto, to conserve and restore the environment and values people over growth and profit.
In 2016, the first Fashion Revolution Week launched the first edition of the Fashion Transparency Index, which was collated after working with 40 of the biggest global fashion companies on the information they disclose to their various stakeholders on issues about transparency, environmental issues, and overall accountability.
This year the fashion week focused on 4 key areas: Consumption, Composition, Conditions, and Collective Action. It showed how COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the people who make our clothes, and how it is impacting the earth. With everything digitized, followed by many social media-led campaigns, the Indian edition saw participation from the likes of Bodice, Ka-Sha, and Jaipur-based sustainable fashion label Iro Iro.
Suki Dusanj Lenz, Country Head of Fashion Revolution India, is a member of the sustainable fashion tribe that is mobilizing to make fashion a more transparent industry. She gives us a complete lowdown on what fashion will look like post-COVID-19, and how sustainability will be rewired as the world prepares for a new normal.
On what makes Fashion Revolution Week different this time
This year we have digitized most of our campaigns by cancelling physical events. I do believe our campaigning has been just as effective, with people joining in masses via one click on a digital button.
Hosting a digital event doesn’t require many resources as it does content. We have had multiple dialogues, live chats, and panel discussions through digital means, yet gained larger audiences than we would in a physical place. Our highlight was launching Fashion Revolutions’ first policy dialogue in India, “Gender Equity and it’s Impact on Sustainability on Cotton Farming in India”, which I co-authored with our Head of Policy, Shruti Singh. The British Council supported our report, with advice from Fairtrade India and Intellecap providing insight into women cotton farmers in India.
Besides this, partnering with Pearl Academy was a huge highlight where we delivered 3 masterclasses throughout the week, including one with influential stylist Ekta Rajani about our #LovedClothesLast campaign, exploring the joy of re-wearing and caring for your clothes.
On curating fashion Open Studio in India
Fashion Open Studio is typically a week of presentations, talks, and workshops with emerging designers, established trailblazers, and major players, to celebrate the people and processes behind the process of making our clothes. When designers open up their studios to the public, it creates a space for honest conversation, transparency, and accountability.
We nominated a number of designers from India and 3 got selected to represent India: Iro Iro zero waste (Jaipur), Ka-Sha (Pune), and Bodice (Delhi). The designers had to apply their creativity to turn physical events into digital ones, which were a challenge. But I can safely say that I am proud of the innovative ideas formed by the designers.
On understanding the standards of transparency in fashion
First, let’s be clear that if a brand is transparent, it does not mean they are the most sustainable. Transparency isn’t about which brand does best, but about who discloses the most. Brands may be disclosing a lot of information about their policies and practices, but this doesn’t mean they are acting sustainably or ethically. Without transparency, we cannot see or protect vulnerable people and the living planet.
The Fashion Transparency Index measures the most transparent among 250 of the world’s largest brands and retailers. We don’t rank every brand in the world. The Index is a tool to incentivize and push major brands to be more transparent about their policies, practices, and supply chain.
On rewiring sustainability post-COVID-19 crisis
Consumers should rethink the way we buy. Sustainable choices are better for the people that work in the fashion industry with a commitment to fairer wages and their conditions. Retail brands need to rethink the way they produce and should be held accountable. The fashion industry requires greater governance, a more responsible manufacturer, and a more conscious consumer.
On some of her favourite brands leading the cause of sustainability
Brands that have sustainability rights like No Nasties (Fairtrade India), Iro Iro zero waste, Ka-Sha, Okhai, and Soul Space (Fairtrade India) should continue doing what they do, which is exemplary work and commitment to people, practices, and the environment.
I particularly like the prints and dresses by Omninana. Chola the Label has some fun and exciting collections too. I also keep an eye on Christopher Raeburn for that edgy something; his commitment to sustainability is profound. Anita Dongre grassroots is also right up my street; I enjoy her commitment to the people in her supply chain and craft.