speaker panel at the Sustainable Fashion Forum Conference

Insights from The Sustainable Fashion Forum (SFF) Conference: Navigating the Path to Sustainable Fashion

Written by COSAP Co-op co-founder Emily Deevers

In April, I had the pleasure of attending the SFF's annual conference in Austin, Texas. Over three enlightening days, attendees dove into workshops, panels, and networking sessions, delving deep into the challenges and opportunities facing the industry today. From established giants to nimble startups, the conference showcased a vibrant tapestry of ideas and initiatives aimed at reshaping the future of fashion. Here, I share some key takeaways and insights gleaned from the event.

Challenges in Sustainability:

The fashion industry grapples with a myriad of sustainability challenges, including speed, cost, overproduction, lack of regulation, traceability, and transparency. Shockingly, the industry contributes to approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with more than half of that stemming from material production alone. Harnessing the power of data is critical in addressing these challenges, as it provides invaluable insights for informed decision making.

"Consumerism is the opposite of conservation and sustainability is conservation." - Amelia Eleiter, CEO of Debrand

Consumerism and Conscious Consumption:

Educating consumers and fostering a connection between their purchases and values is paramount. Often there is also a cost-per-wear misconception among consumers where ultimately buying less, higher quality, more durable garments end up being more economic than continually purchasing cheap, low-quality items. It is important to note, change cannot be achieved through shaming but rather through empowerment and education.

"By shaming people you exclude them from the conversation. You cannot change behavior by shaming people into it." - Kate Sanders, Co-Founder & CEO of Beni

Circularity and Human Rights:

Circularity isn't merely a passing trend but a fundamental shift needed in the industry. But what is circularity? A circular economy is based on three principals:

  1. Eliminate waste and pollution from production cycles
  2. Keep products and materials in circulation for as long as possible
  3. Regenerate natural ecosystems

These three components are what all brands and companies need to keep top of mind when developing products and understanding their impact. 

We also cannot ignore the high human involvement in this industry and how many hands touch a garment throughout the supply chain. Suppliers need to be viewed and treated as an extension of your team.

“Everyone involved in the process is a ’rightsholder’ what is their role and do they have a voice? How can we involve them in the process and get ahead of issues?” - Sanchita Sexena, Senior Supply Chain Advisor at Article One


When it comes to regulation, legislation, and policy we have a lot of work to do. It is the absence of this in our industry that has found us in the current situation. In tandem, government funding and subsidies are critical to give brands the initiative to do better. Some hopeful legislation is already in the work and I would encourage you to learn more through the links provided: The Americas Act supports many circular practices and includes the first textile incentives, and The New York State Fashion Act would require supply chain transparency and accountability for any apparel or footwear company doing business in New York that has annual global revenue of $100 million or more. 

Recommended Reading:

We also heard from Raz Godelnik and Eugene Chan who are both professors and authors with very interesting insights. Linking both of their books below which have already been added to our reading lists!

Long-Term Strategy and Collaboration:

The sustainable fashion movement offers myriad avenues for impact, ranging from next-gen materials to policy advocacy. Whether through textile recycling, resale, repair, or on-demand production, individuals and organizations can contribute meaningfully to the cause.

In conclusion, the journey toward sustainable fashion is multifaceted and requires collective effort. Through alliances, collaboration, and open communication, we can pave the way for a more equitable and eco-conscious industry. Let's remain steadfast in our commitment, find strength in community, and forge ahead toward a brighter, more sustainable future.

“We need to accept progress over perfection.” - Nicole Rawling, Co-Founder & CEO of Material Innovation Initiative

Companies to know:

 Textile Innovation/Recycling:
Mending/Repairing and Tailoring:
Consulting, Reporting and Policy Work:
Sustainable Sourcing Solutions:


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