Sustainable sourcing took center stage at UK sourcing fair Fashion SVP 2018 (16-17 Jan.), which was held as per previous years at the Olympia in west London. The show’s seminar program drew crowds – so much so that attendees spilled out of the designated halls – particularly the panel talks centering on green topics, of which there were many over the two-day duration of the show. One of the talks, entitled “Sustainable sourcing: fresh challenges, new opportunities,” noted upliftingly that the green and ethical campaign Fashion Revolution has seen a 250% increase in consumer engagement in 2017. This is reassuring, since the fashion industry need all the help it can get to tackle the significant plastic contamination of the world’s water table it is responsible for – it reportedly stands at 83% currently.
Sustainability generated a lot of interest across the exhibitor landscape, too. The booth of Dutch company Star Sock was consistently busy during the day of our visit (on the final day). Visitors, many of which ran new labels, showed particular interest in the range produced in partnership with the sustainable initiative Healthy Seas, which sees fishing nets being regenerated into yarn used for socks. Positive as the healthy level of interest may seem, Star Sock’s MD Eric Roosen noted that consumers are yet to wake up to the urgency of buying greener (despite the positive data recorded by Fashion Revolution). Said Roosen: “Most consumers buy what they’re used to instead of reaching for greener alternatives that may be a little more expensive. But in due course, attitudes will have to change among consumers and brands alike.” As for Star Sock’s outing at the show, which marked its second appearance there, Roosen was surprised to find that none of the major clients (brands and retailers) he’d connected with last year returned to the booth this time round. “It takes time for big companies to change their sourcing strategies, and instead of striking up partnerships with clients we met last year, we’ve gathered over 30 new contacts this time.”
Another busy booth was that of ASAP Hong Kong – a leading manufacturer of Fairtrade/SA8000 and GOTS certified garments with offices in London and LA and factories in India (clients include: Obey, Prana and Monkee Genes). We caught up at the booth with Navi Bhagrath, director of ASAP Hong Hong, to pick her brains about brands’ attitudes to green and ethical sourcing. “I’d say there’s a clear geographical divide – we’ve found that many US brands want to produce sustainably because they feel it’s the right thing to do, without necessarily advertising the fact to consumers. The UK is a little behind on this front, aside from British players such as Monkee Genes, of course, who’s built a brand on sustainable principles. But as pressure grows from consumers wanting to shop more sustainably, brands that had no interest previously in our organic and fairtrade options have come forward requesting these lately. Encouragingly, we’ve also met a couple of UK universities at the show who’ve asked us to give talks to students about our sustainable methods and the field as a whole.”
Few denim suppliers exhibited this time, but we discovered a diverse range at Master Denim’s booth (the denim side of Master Textiles, whose clients include Arcadia Group, Guess Jeans and Aeropostale). Neon colors, laser-printed paisley, allover stars, floral embroidery and random bleach-effect were among the most popular finishes. Gary Freeman, Master Textile’s sales and marketing director, made some interesting observations at this year’s show. “We’ve exhibited at Fashion SVP previously but this time the big brands didn’t come out to play. Rather, and quite encouragingly for me personally, was that our booth attracted a significant number of fashion graduates and new labels interested in selling jeans in their newly set-up web shops. Unfortunately we weren’t able to meet the low minimum order requirements of some of these new contacts, but their presence at the fair indicates that a new retail generation is out in force. Many asked if our jeans are made in the UK, not always being aware that this is a rarity today. Again, I see this as something positive – there’s a clear interest in local production among young fashion folk.”
For more information on trade shows check out DFV Group’s expocheck.com.