Adriana Galijasevic, founder and CEO of Cocircular Lab, circularity expert and fashion consultant, spoke about today’s state-of-the-art and evolution of the industry toward more responsible paths.
Before she founded her own company in November 2020, she worked for for G-Star Raw where she focused on sustainable and circular product innovation scaling it across all the brand’s collections. Previously she worked as head denim designer in NYC for celebrity brands including Tina & Beyonce Knowles’ House of Deréon, Eve Jihan Jeffers’ Fetish, and Jay-Z’s Rocawear. Among other tasks, she is also one of the SDG Catalysts at Circular Fashion Summit by Lablaco, innovators' mentor at Fashion for Good, and serves on the House of Denim International Advisory Board.
The world in general, and with it the fashion market, have become more conscious over the last couple of years as the climate change, social injustice and health threats are no longer just warning signs of academic and scientific research, but have become part of everyone’s reality.
Today, we see more companies publicly communicating their 2025, 2030 and 2050 goals where they intend to curb emissions, push for diversity, inclusion and living wages, and address the water, soil, and waste issues.
As a result, we see the urgent need of smart factories that shift to near shoring, digitization, streamlining of grievance mechanisms, and rise of new business models such as rental, re-sale, and repair, made to order, direct to customer.
Complementary to this, we also see a strong focus on material innovation in order to help us design and build better products for the future.
If responsible design, production, and consumption are implemented, we can consider ourselves to be effective because working responsibly at various stakeholder touchpoints tackles the topics of emissions, transparency, water, soil, materials, chemicals, workers’ rights, and waste. Currently, it is very difficult to provide an actual percentage because an all-encompassing universal impact measuring tool is not available yet.
Bottom line is, we only have eight years left to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), if we look at the SDG tracker data which is publicly available via sdg-tracker.org, it is clear that we are behind, and that swifter action needs to be taken across all industries, including fashion and denim.
Which ones seem to be truly helping to cut emissions and lower their impact?
When doing business responsibly, there is no single solution that is working independently of another, as everything is interconnected. Improving one aspect, normally also improves a few others and vice versa. For example, if you manage your chemistry right, you will improve your water, energy, soil, and worker safety. Considering that fresh water is a precious resource, programs and technologies focusing on its conservation are of paramount importance.
When it comes to emissions, many influential brands have joined the UN Fashion Charter, which aims to drive the fashion sector towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 using Science Based Targets. Some of the same members, along with other well-known brands, are also part of The Fashion Pact, a global coalition of companies in the fashion and textile which is committed to improve climate, biodiversity, and oceans. Personally, I am excited about carbon capture and transform technologies, alternatives to fossil fuels, waste combating innovations and bio-design.
According to the joint research report by Apparel Impacts Institute (AII), a leading nonprofit leader in carbon reduction programming for apparel and footwear, and Fashion for Good (FFG), a platform for sustainable innovation, Scope 3 emissions or releases that occur in a company’s value chain generally account for up to 96% of the impact. This makes it clear that brands will not only have to augment their joint collaborations, but will also have to amplify their supply chain involvement, particularly in the matters of raw materials and production. Strengthening these relationships is essential in moving forward and will naturally require investments.
These, amongst other findings, had prompted AII to start building a US$250 million Fashion Climate Fund, which is holistically designed to bring together industry and philanthropic sources in order to help halve carbon emissions by 2030. In addition to this, we are also yet to see the impacts on the fashion industry resulting from recent and upcoming updates on greenhouse gas as emission policies, carbon footprint tax and carbon border tax activities.
Could initiatives like, for instance, the Dutch Denim Deal, or the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network involving different stakeholders and institutions, help to make a difference?
In theory, these and other similar organizations can help influence much needed policies because they are connecting the fragmented fashion sector with itself and to the governmental agendas. However, without industry’s efforts to leverage and become involved with these types of organizations, change can be difficult. Interconnectedness and partnerships are the common red thread when it comes to making a difference.
Besides lowering the emissions, leaning, and cleaning up the productions, there is also a need to revolutionize the outdated business models. Also, we must reexamine the value and connection we have with the clothing from both customer and material source perspectives in order to radically shift from wasteful and disposable practices into more responsible and more re-source full ones.
In a nutshell, we need to move faster with a moral intent, diversify, innovate, and collaboratively multitask in order to rethink, reimagine, and rebuild the world we want to live in.
How much time could it take before we see some true bettering sign?
There's a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.” If we take a look at our planetary boundaries, now is the second-best time for swift action. Sooner we ambitiously act, sooner we will see better results.
Most of the projects I am working on are under strict NDAs, therefore I am not able to disclose much on current and the upcoming. However, I can highlight a project that debuted during the April 2022 Denim Days in Amsterdam and was also shown at Denim PV in Berlin. Together with Officina39 team we created an interactive exhibition–Circular Explorations: Recipe for Change. It was a collaborative and an educational exercise using waste as a resource and prolonging the life of the garment through color. This project was in direct support of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, it was also a call to action reminding of the need for transparency and for an improved infrastructure that will enable material reuse at scale.