From Sustainable to Regenerative: The Future of Apparel

Working together to create the future we know can exist

I had the pleasure of being the opening keynote speaker for the WEAR 2017 Conference. I want to thank the World Ethical Apparel Round Table, Fashion Takes Action, and conference participants for offering a forum that encourages us to create a better future for our industry.

Fashion Takes Action's Founding Executive Director Kelly Drennan & Evrnu CEO and Co-Founder Stacy Flynn. 

Fashion Takes Action's Founding Executive Director Kelly Drennan & Evrnu CEO and Co-Founder Stacy Flynn. 

The apparel industry is in crisis, but there is a way out

It is no secret that the textile and fashion industry is in crisis. We’ve got 19th century infrastructure, a 20th century mindset of what can be done, and a 21st century reality looming. Changing the damaging models of commerce to sustainable ones is the way out. This will define our careers and determine the future of our industry.

Connecting cause and effect created a seismic shift

My life changed in 2010 when I travelled to China without large corporate credentials. I had been to China many times before, but on this particular occasion I was working for a startup and I wasn’t “Stacy from DuPont or Target.” I went to the area where manufacturing subcontracting takes place. My colleague and I got out of the car, and although we were standing together, we couldn't see each other because the air was so thick with pollution.

We took the elevator up to our meeting and hanging below the ceiling, hovering over our heads, was a cloud of pollution. We sat at a table with this smog lingering above us and we talked about how we could do business. For the first time in my career I couldn’t do my job. This was a crisis, it was personal, and I had to decide what I was going to do about it.

I traveled around the country for a month and I began adding up how many millions or billions of yards of fabric I had personally created in my career. And all of a sudden, I became connected to the cause of the problem. I vowed on that trip that I would use the rest of my career to find ways to render destructive methods of manufacturing obsolete.

Changing the future, means changing ourselves

What I also learned was the real work, changing ourselves, is the hardest work of all, because with change comes fear. However, when fear is faced the impossible, is possible. And that's what we do as inventors, leaders, and entrepreneurs. If you’re doing the world’s hard work, you will be experience resistance. Recognize that if it were easy, it would be done already.

Going beyond sustainable to regenerative

I cofounded Evrnu with a like-minded partner, Christo Stanev. We created a new kind of company with a new kind of technology that takes what is currently perceived as waste, transforming it into a resource.  Evrnu has invented a way to transform post-consumer cotton textile waste into a pristine new fiber. We are taking materials beyond sustainable and making them truly regenerative.

We accomplished this by looking at the basic building blocks of materials and asking ourselves whether they could be reused multiple times. I believe that this is the greatest design challenge of our century; how we take materials that exist in one form today and turn them into another form tomorrow, with no loss in value.

What is our collective future?

Let’s fast forward to the year 2050. Children born 20 years from now will ask you, what did you do when you knew we wouldn’t have water? The UN is predicting that the world is going to have 60% of the water we need by the year 2030. Coincidentally, this is when our $1 trillion global business converts into a $2 trillion business, or more. What are you going to say?  “I played it safe,” or “I fought like hell to change myself so that I could contribute to creating the best possible future.”

Create the future that we know can exist

Fear can always hold us back. Yet, we can choose how we respond.  Evrnu was born from a fierce love of the Earth. This is what is propelling me towards a future where I expect that together we will:

  1. Render destructive methods of manufacturing obsolete.
  2. Make the tough decisions that are required.
  3. Use our intelligence, skills and resources to create a thriving 21st century industry.
  4. Help humanity flourish.
  5. Inspire each other through what we do, and how we do it.

We need to move quickly. Not next year, but right now. This is the world that I want to live in, and the world I want future generations to experience. So today, it is time to summon all of this fierceness and be absolutely unafraid to express our shared love for humanity, creating the future that we know can exist.

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