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Youth Forum "Regenerative models"

Poster of the event with dates and speakers

Summary of the event

Hecho por Nosotros (HxN) and its sister social enterprise animana, hosted for the ECOSOC Youth Forum’s 10th anniversary, the ‘Regenerative Models: Towards Resilience in Fashion’ event. This event focused on regenerative models in the fashion industry and provided a space for connecting new young leaders in a sustainable fashion. The conversation was led by Jennifer Fisher, HxN UN Ambassador and founder of Fisher Clay Group. The panel comprised of:

Adriana Marina, Founder & president of Hecho por Nosotros and B-Corp Animaná

Radhika Shah, Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

Sarah Gresty, BA Fashion Course Leader Central Saint Martins

Yoann Regent, Biodiversity and Animal Welfare Specialist at Kering

Yoann started by explaining the idea and model of regenerative agriculture which is based on agriculture that has a positive impact on the soil’s health, animal diversity, and people. Regenerative agriculture focuses on the outcome and less on the practices. The fashion industry tends to forget where the materials it uses come from as supply chains are long and fragmented, but the biggest impact can start from the sourcing i.e. the farm level. In order to measure this impact, Kering has developed the Environmental Profit & Loss tool to measure and quantify the environmental impact of its activities. The group also launched the Regenerative Fund for Nature, a fund supporting regenerative agriculture models throughout the world. Yoann also argued that technology will be useful in connecting suppliers to fashion brands, it will help farmers increase their visibility to ultimately scale up their regenerative agriculture practices. Finally, education was portrayed to be the key element in empowering regenerative movements.

Sarah presented initiatives taken at Central Saint Martin to increase the use of responsibly made garments. The London-based fashion school is working with plant-based material and responsibly sourced fabrics. Back in 2015, a lecturer sensitized students about the impact cashmere production had on Mongolian soils as the increased population of goats destroyed the land and its regeneration. A suggested solution was the development of Yak fiber to replace cashmere. Sarah continued by emphasizing that education helped open students' and professors’ eyes about the yarn and material they were using. Today, the school is paying extra attention to where the fabrics they are using are coming from. Examples of creative projects including a student creating a leather alternative out of mango pulp which was gathered in London juice bars. Due to the pandemic, students working from their home countries had to come up with innovative ideas.

Adriana remarked that all actors need to be involved in order to create a systemic change. This starts by including the understanding of local communities and the wisdom of indigenous people into the discussions of the fashion industry. In order to achieve this, a collaborative framework is needed, where all players, including young leaders, need to have a voice. Nowadays, there is an enormous opportunity for technology to help share experiences and increase collaborations. Technology can become the main tool to create local clusters of trust. It can push for transparency, traceability and increase collaboration in the fashion market. HxN is helping small and local producers to gain visibility and ultimately access key players in the market, designers, academics, and institutions all around the world. The HxN Toolkit Igniting Circular Fashion Through Collaboration focuses on integrating all participants, from producers to consumers in a circular regenerative model. It is based on case studies and best practices incorporating circular models. It is there to enable access, connect, improve, and help co-create circular regenerative chains.

Radhika demonstrated today’s opportunity for investment in regenerative models. Collaborating in this field presents opportunities to collaborate with foundations, governments as well as building public-private infrastructures. An example includes Boheco, a model working with disadvantaged farmers in India in helping them build bridges with larger producers and bigger players. Additionally, investing in sustainable fashion projects is seen as an effective business model as consumers do support responsible projects. The new generation Z is the one that will influence the development of brands with impacts and impact investors will play a role in that. Here again, Radhika emphasized that technology can play an important role in closing the knowledge gap between impact investors and the savoir-faire and stories of artisans.

Key takeaways

  • Regenerative agriculture is agriculture that has a positive impact on its ecosystem and people. It is deeply rooted in the traditions and history of the textile industry.

  • Education has the power to teach producers, suppliers, designers, and customers i.e. all members of the value chain, in bringing awareness about regenerative models. Most importantly, it will empower and train new leaders in the field of sustainable fashion.

  • Technology plays an important role in bridging gaps between smaller players and larger investors. It can raise awareness in topics that are

  • The demand for sustainable and responsible fashion products has increased. Companies will need to adapt to this new business model to answer the new generations’ inquiries.

The discussion was followed by the presentation of young entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas helping build a sustainable future.

List of young entrepreneurs

Neha Roa from Hemp Fabric Labs at Boheco

Neha described the benefits of hemp arguing that it is one of the most sustainable fibers on the market and also produces zero waste as every part of the plant can be used. Additionally, it only requires little water to grow (for the production of one hemp t-shirt 680 liters of water are required whereas a cotton t-shirt will need 2700 liters) and thrives without the use of pesticides. It is also fully biodegradable as it is a natural product. As of today, hemp can be used in over 25.000 ways (from ropes to clothing and paper among many others). Hemp can be one of the solutions to improve the fashion industry.

Shafat Khan, Community team at Ashoka’s UK and Ireland Office

Ashoka works with social entrepreneurs around the world. Shafat stated that it is critical to empower young people in becoming changemakers as the world will have the largest youth population ever over the next few years. Not only we need to support young people to step up and create change but also to consume more responsibly as they currently represent 30% of luxury buyers in the fashion sector and between now and 2025, they will cover over 45% of total purchases. It is tremendously important to include young people in the development agenda, and this is what Ashoka is achieving. Shafat concluded by affirming the need to embrace the huge youth population to actively participate in building a regenerative society.

We thank the audience and panelists for their thoughts and empowering ideas. Challenges are ahead of us, but they can be overcome in a collaborative approach if we use the right resources and technologies available to us. The world has shown us that drastic changes are possible, we need to remain hopeful that better outcomes in the fashion industry are ahead of us and will protect our environment responsibly.

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