Podcast Ep. 73, CLAIRE BERGKAMP -MEET STELLA MCCARTNEY'S SECRET SUSTAINABILITY WEAPON
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EPISODE 73 FEATURES CLAIRE BERGKAMP
You know the score - Stella McCartney does the eco things first. Whether it’s making all things green super-cool, proving non-leather accessories can compete with traditional animal leather in the luxury market, or bringing the circular fashion conversation mainstream, this fashion brand leads the way.
So who makes all this happen? There’s McCartney herself, of course - the designer is a visionary greenie. But no woman is an island. Claire Bergkamp, and her sustainability team, have her back.
Meet Stella McCartney’s Worldwide Sustainability & Innovation Director. A self-confessed fibre nut, Claire started out as a costume designer in LA before switching lanes to study sustainability in London. There, she found her calling.
In 2012, Claire joined the Stella McCartney brand to head up sustainability; she was a team of one. Today she runs a team based in London and Italy. Her work is disruptive and tend-setting - from rethinking traditional supply chains to working with startups on new circular materials, Claire is changing the way fashion is produced. And she’s lovely too.
Notebooks at the ready, there’s so much to learn in this Episode. (You’re welcome).
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
HAVING AN AUTHENTIC VALUE PROPOSITION. When Stella founded her company in 2001, it was no leather, no feathers, no skins, no fur - not common at that time. “Value-led business is so unusual everywhere but especially in luxury fashion,” says Claire Bergkamp.
DOUG STEPHENS is the self-styled “retail profit” - read his work on Business of Fashion.
FIBRE “I’m a raw material nut,” says Claire. “I spend a lot of my time working with startups.” Like…
BOLT THREADS is harnesses proteins found in nature to create fibres and fabrics with both practical and revolutionary uses. You’ve probably heard of their lab-engineered silk alternative based on spider silk proteins. They also have a material called Mylo - a mycelium leather alternative.
MANGO MATERIALS. This company uses methane capture to create biodegradable polymers. The are part of Fashion For Good - listen to Episode 58 to learn about the work done by Fashion For Good.
EVRNU is a regenerated recycled cellulose that is created from post-consumer cotton textile waste.
CANOPY is an NGO based in Canada that raises awareness and pushes for change on mismanagement of forests. Stella works with Canopy to ensure 100% of Stella McCartney’s viscose is sourced from sustainably managed forests - and the other side of that, which is that much of the rest is not. Did you know that the global fashion industry is responsible for the felling of about 150 million trees a year?
These are felled for viscose production, and according to Canopy, one third of them come from ancient and endangered forests. “[The fashion industry] is cutting down those forests and turning them into a blouse!” says Claire.
As she points out, there is a lack of consumer knowledge on this. “I’m always surprised how many people don’t know viscose comes from trees…. there’s a chemical impact too.”
In 2014, Stella McCartney made a public commitment with Canopy that by 2017, 100% of their viscose would be from sustainable managed forest sources. They reached their target by 2016.
CALL TO ACTION for brands: Sign up with Canopy!
‘STELLA HAS A PIONEERING NATURE, AND HER BRAVERY - IT’S WHY PEOPLE THINK OF HER, WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, AN WHEN S TALKS ABOUT IT, IT COMES WITH A LEVEL OF INTEGRITY BECAUSE IT’S PERSONAL…THIS IS NOT A MARKETING EXERCISE, IT’S A WAY OF REVOLUTIONISING HOW FASHION DOES BUSINESS.” - Claire Bergkamp
ANIMAL PRODUCTS Claire points out that the Stella McCartney brand does use cruelty-free, non-muelsed sustainable wool. However, it’s been strictly no leather, no fur, no skins from the start. In the beginning that was considered risky for a luxury fashion business. They proved it could be done.
LYST reported a 47% increase in searches for vegan leather in 2018. “I think that the rise of awareness around food has translating into fashion,” says Claire. She also points to the climate benefit of going vegan or cutting down on meat. Not to mention resisting the unsustainable and often cruel factory farming system.
IS LEATHER A BYPRODUCT OF THE MEAT INDUSTRY? Claire says the ”byproduct” argument is problematic because leather is a valuable commodity in and of itself. “It’s paid for; it’s not waste.” Acknowledging the complexity of leather’s impacts and differences across markets/origin, she says: “Worst case scenario, if you’re getting leather from Brazil, it’s 24 times the impact of polyester.”
The CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE FASHION. Claire studied at LCF and calls Centre for Sustainable Fashion co-founder Dilys Williams her mentor. Did you check out the Episode from Series 2 with Dilys yet? Listen here.
KERING is a leading luxury brand stable that includes Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Gucci - and until 2018, Stella McCartney.
Last year, McCartney announced that her brand was going it alone after a long and successful partnership with the luxury conglomerate. “It’s not them, it’s me,” the designer told Graydon Carter on stage at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. “What woman, given the opportunity, wouldn’t want her name above the door?”
Kering is widely acknowledged to be a leader in transitioning the luxury sector towards more sustainable practices. Stella McCartney was the first Kering brand to work with the ENVIRONMENTAL PROFIT & LOSS system - they still use it.
The FASHION INDUSTRY CHARTER FOR CLIMATE ACTION was launched at COP 24 n Katowice, Poland in December. Stella said: “Through collective action and bold leadership, we have the power to make this fast and drastic transformation. There are already over 20 major fashion companies that have signed the charter, and we are continuing to urge more companies to sign.
“This is a major step toward keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C, which is necessary to avoid significantly worsening the risk of droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. We hope that the list of signatories will only continue to grow. One of the ways you can show your support is by making conscious choices and buying from companies that have committed to more sustainable processes.” Watch her Voices interview here.
“IT IS COMMON SENSE, AND I FEEL LIKE PEOPLE DON’T APPLY COMMOM SENSE VERY OFTEN, UNFORTUNATELY.” - CLAIRE BERGKAMP
A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.
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Until next time,