Stella McCartney speaks out for ACTAsia

At ACTAsia’s 6th Compassion in Fashion Forum in Shanghai, 15 eminent speakers brought hope to an audience looking for style innovation that won’t cost the future of our planet.

ACTAsia’s Fashion Forum took place at Fashion Zoo expo, on an unprecedented fur-free opening day for all exhibitors and guests. The forum addressed a live audience of 500 and reached out to an additional online audience of around 24,000.

Stella McCartney opened evening celebrations with a catwalk show, while like-minded fashionistas, campaigners and educators shared the day’s platform to convey a clear message to guests onsite and online, including press from 20 media outlets.

ACTAsia’s Pei Su opened Part 1 of the Forum with Sustainability begins with fur free, listing problems integral to real-fur production. She highlighted China as the hub of the global fur trade, producing more animals for their pelts than any other country in the world. The global impact of fur production on climate change, overconsumption of wildlife, intensive farming, inaccurate labelling of real fur products were also cited. Effective public education and moving towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12 – Responsible consumption and production – were offered as potential solutions to industrial-scale problems. Pei expressed thanks to the British Consul Shanghai, LCF for their continuing support, British Council, Stella McCartney, Fashion Zoo expo, and the following corporates for their support: Super Zoo Coffee, Oatly – Sweden, Kamill – Germany, Enrich, Inner Chapter and YouRu Enterprise.

The forum explored the true cost of fashion, considering the silent price as well as the obvious toll of unsustainable, fast-fashion on people, animals and the environment.

Mingsen Yang, Chief Supervisor of China Ecological Civilisation Research and Promotion Association, addressed the passing phases of fashion, pointing to the historic popularity of mink in Northeast China, once a symbol of wealth, now the object of ridicule. He posed that producers, operators and profiteers of fur are the strongest opposition to fur-free.

“Market demand is not a reason to abuse wildlife. If we stop the killing, there is nothing to trade. Animal welfare is a sign of modern civilisation, and we should act together to embrace and safeguard ecocivilisation,” said Yang.

Yuong Xiong, Secretary General of CDCGDF and Green Development Foundation, was clear in her message: “We 100% support fur-free and believe it is a way to protect biodiversity and animal welfare. We need to hold the flag high for biodiversity as we enter a new era of ecocivilisation and animal welfare.”

Robert Butler, Consul Economic and Political, British Consulate-General rejected the fur industry’s claim to be sustainable and environmentally responsible, an assertion he says does not stand up to scrutiny. He looked forward to further cooperation between the UK and China to meet global environmental goals, tackling harm caused by the fur industry, and setting the UK – which banned fur farming in 2000 – as an example of progress to China.

“Measured in carbon emissions, the production of 1kg of mink fur equals a car drive of 1,250km,” said Butler.

Jidi Guo, Director of Inner Chapter, asked how we can embed compassion in fashion and ensure that the next generation grows up with a love of nature?

Rehana Mughal, Director of Arts at the British Council in China addressed the future of fashion after the pandemic, and the turning point for the fashion sector.

Kehua Hu from CNTAC discussed China’s global role in equalising people and the environment – Sustainable development beyond borders

The keynote speech was given by Rehana Mughal, Director of Arts at the British Council in China: The future of fashion after the pandemic. She talked about the turning point for the fashion sector and how COVID-19 has accelerated that change, the need to protect the people who make our garments, the environment which is prone to pollution by industry, and the animals harmed for fashion. The British Council’s Crafting Futures programme, which partners traditional cultures with environmentally friendly techniques, is helping people internationally to learn through collaboration. Mughal stressed the buying power of Millennials and Generation X, and the power of training consumers to tread a cleaner, greener path into the future.

The next three speakers addressed the impact on people, animals and the environment in turn, with Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, Vaute Couture, considering how to support workers and empower others with People – Responsible employers within the fashion industry; Kehua Hu, Deputy Director of Office for Social Responsibility & Sustainability Stewardship Director at CNTAC who discussed China’s global role in equalising people and the Environment – Sustainable development beyond borders; and Rebecca Cappelli, Let us Be Heroes, asked if it is time to change the way we use Animals – Animals used in fashion.

“We know that what we’re doing to animals in srong. Their skin is not a fabric. We can only see that when we educate ourselves. Isn’t it time for a change?” Cappelli concluded.

Jidi Guo, Director of Inner Chapter, asked How to embed compassion in fashion. She talked about the impact of fashion on nature, how wearing fur is a choice, and the importance of educating the next generation so they grow up with a love for nature.

Melissa Hobbs, Founder of The Vegan Company, spoke of Compassionate lifestyle, and how ethics and sustainability have not always been easy partners. However, she gave hope that ‘compassion in fashion’ is going to become increasingly important in the years ahead.

Isobel Zhang, ACTAsia China Co-founder, shared the results of a recent survey among Consumers of Fashion in China. She addressed the cognitive dissonance that appeases the conscience of fur-wearers, explaining how education is the only way out.

In a grand finale for part 1 of the forum, John Lau, Associate Dean at School of Design and Technology at London College of Fashion launched ACTAsia and LCF’s curriculum for fashion students: A fur-free future of fashion. The curriculum, which will be taught at universities in China, will teach students the need for compassionate fashion. It is divided into three modules: the importance of preserving the environment for a better future; the need to protect the natural, raw materials we consume at an unsustainable rate; and the waste produced by the fashion industry, and how to reduce it.

“There is no need for fur. Our curriculum’s introduction to new design philosophies that are compassionate to animals and kinder to people and the environment will ensure we advance to that moment where fashion can be free from pain,” said Lau.

The underlining message of the day was the power of education as the driving force towards a more compassionate society. In fashion, the speakers suggested this must be achieved through a partnership of understanding between the ‘woke’ consumer and a responsible, sustainable supply chain. Demand and expectation must be realigned through wider understanding of exploitative processes and the damage they cause to our natural environment.

 

Our mission is to eradicate the use of fur in the fashion industry.
We can do this through education: know better, do better.
John Lau, LCF

In Part 2 of the forum, The co-responsibilities of consumers were addressed by speakers and considered at a panel discussion.

ACTAsia’s Pei Su introduced the event by asking who is paying the hidden costs of the fashion industry, and who will take responsibility for moving together towards the United Nationals Sustainable Development Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production?

Jane Fu, Co-founder of Super Zoo introduced the company she described as a nature-lovers’ community, wishing to bring peace and protection to our natural environment.

John Lau talked from the perspective of Academia – Driving force for change within higher education. He addressed how disruption to the education system caused by COVID-19 had confirmed to him the importance of a meaningful and impactful education. “I’ve realised just how important ACTAsia’s work is for young people, setting out to make the future better,” said Lau. “Young people look for change for the better. They have found a divided society with a sharp focus on the unfortunate inbalance of the world. Equal rights does not mean less right for you.”

Lau went on to address how the student-world has been affected by the global pandemic, and how learning from home, connecting online has meant combining the curriculum with their own research. He stressed the importance of delivering a world-class education, shaping lives through fashion, and integrating societal change in the design process.

Tina Ting, Marketing Director China, Allbirds, took the floor with the subject Corporate – sustainability for mutual benefit. She introduced the groundbreaking shoe that reached carbon-neutral status last year. allbirds, founded by Tim Brown, is a leading model of responsible enterprise, using responsibly sourced sugar cane, wood, and Merino wool to make shoes.

Co-founder of Workface, Xin Wang, talked about Community – Sustainability within daily life. He began by asking the audience to put down their smartphones and close their eyes for a few minutes of inner-and-outer stillness. He talked about the autonomy of Workface, a community for startup owners from multiple industries, about buildling trust and reducing conflict between people. “It’s about growing. In traditional China, family is about living together in the village. But that sense of family is weakening with urbanisation. Our mantra is serve, learn, support. ”

Chloe Lin, Lead of Sustainability at OATLY, China, suggested Fashion is not just clothes by a way of life. She told the audience how the company was founded on a desire for sustainable development, moving away from meat and dairy products. “We got our share of punishment,” said Lin, “Animal husbandry is the main cause of environmental crisis.” She addressed the issues of greenhouse gases and the impact of dietry change, explaining that in urban areas, people tend to eat 70% more protein than they need.

You can read the messages of our 15 speakers here. 

Panel discussion: promoting compassionate manufacturing and consumption

All of the day’s speakers took part in a panel discussion to round off the event with Jidi Guo, Director at Inner Chapter, moderator. She asked what we can do to promote compassionate fashion, starting with education as the first building block, and spreading knowledge about sustainble practice. She talked with John about how critical thinking helps design move in the right direction, and how changes don’t always need to come from the top-down. While there is of course a place for policy change, there is also potential for the power of the community, and change that reaches outwards.

This ethos was underlined by the growth of Workface, and the kind of consumption that starts with a small community that brings a new product to a wider audience.

Synchronicity, meeting demand, and balancing profit and growth were seen by all the panelists as essential to responsible business. The key question: are sustainability and profit in conflict? The answer was to communicate through values, to build a community in support of ethical produce. In this way, consumer and business can grow together.

“Sustainability cannot be achieved by just one person. Baby steps form a habit, and giant steps follow, and then we can find an appropriate community and in the future, sustainability will become natural,” said Jidi Guo.

You can find the event programme here and the agenda here.

“Fashion is the myriad ways in which we can express our relationships, as people, with each other and all living things. It is mediated through the creating, distributing, wearing and caring of clothes that represent our identities, our prosperity and our delight in the world. As makers and wearers of fashion, how we create and wear fashion’s forms should be aligned to our individual and collective values. It is therefore imperative for each one of us to know what fashion involves, so that we can be sure that we stand up in what we stand up for. This course, based on the expertise of the incredible team at ACTAsia and in collaboration with our colleagues at London College of Fashion, offers an important step towards an understanding of fashion that respects all elements of life on earth: the planet that we call home.” ACTAsia and LCF's curriculum has been endorsed by Professor Dilys Williams, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion