Conscious Fashion: A Call For Radical Change

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Thursday, January 16, 2020 – The CORE: club, New York NY

When I took over as Chair of the Conscious Capitalism Chapter of NYC in 2019, our board set the objective of maximizing both the awareness and impact of conscious business practices. To accomplish this, we knew we would need to do two things: 1) focus our events on provocative topics that would resonate with the widest possible audiences and, 2) bring them to venues that would attract the most influential audience possible.

We settled on four major event topics for our 2020 event series: Conscious Fashion (Jan 2020), Conscious Cannabis (April 2020), Conscious Cuisine (July 2020) and Conscious Technology (October 2020) and we established a venue sponsorship with the CORE: club – one of the most notable venues in NYC and home to a community of 1600+ of the world’s most accomplished and transformative leaders of industry and society. Our first event took place tonight, and if the response we got is any indication of things to come, this chapter is going to leave a deep impression indeed.

Our topic, Conscious Fashion: a Case for Radical Change, brought together a panel of three amazing women discussing an industry that touches (literally) every single person on the planet:

  • Amy Hall – Vice President of Social Consciousness at Eileen Fisher – a pioneering leader of conscious business practices in the fashion industry.
  • Anthea Kelsick– Chief Marketing Office of B-Lab, the organization that launched the B-Corp designation and movement.
  • Laura Hall – Our charming moderator from WhyZ Partners, who has 30 years of experience advising apparel companies and is author of the forthcoming book: The ABCs of Conscious Capitalism for Kids.

Together, the three of them explored conscious business trends in the fashion industry including resource consumption and recycling, living wage initiatives, U.N. sustainability goals, and the importance of giving supply chain partners space and time to make lasting changes. But they also discussed the ways each of us – as consumers – can change the trajectory of the industry based on our individual buying decisions. Among the most important takeaways: to buy less, but buy higher quality that lasts longer.

The discussion and the energetic Q&A that followed revealed the sobering reality that comes with trying to shift the habits and practices of a trillion+ dollar industry. As with all conscious business shifts, there are no quick and easy paths to change. But in general, there was hope that an emerging awareness of excess consumerism, the more purposeful approach of investors, and the mindset of younger generations, will help make a difference. Lots of small changes can add up.

But what most guests will remember from the event was how it ended. It’s one thing for 60 industry leaders to come together in the comfort of the CORE: club to have a meaningful conversation about the fashion industry and how it impacts our environment. But it’s another thing entirely to come face to face with the raw human impact our individual decisions can engender.

Our final audience question of the evening came from a young woman named Nasreen Sheikh who is rapidly becoming an iconic spokesperson for the rights of women and children laborers. Growing up as an undocumented child (she has no official birth certificate and does not know her actual age) on the border of Nepal and India, she personally witnessed the horrors of child laborers as she ate, slept, and toiled in a sweatshop workstation the size of a prison cell with 10 other young girls. She eventually escaped both the facility and a forced/arrange marriage, came to the U.S. and founded the Empowerment Collective, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that envisions a world where women are leaders in their communities — in control of their own lives, their own rights, and their own decisions.