I was fortunate to be on the last day of a business trip to NYC to have the privilege to attend Study Hall`s Climate Positivity at Scale and the Times Center on Jan 31st. What sets this conference from the too many sustainability conferences I attend globally is that we did not discuss only sustainability but our humanity, our innocence, resilience, our connected, diverse individuality to each other, to the past and to the future – all the elements that make us whole, in tune and bring us together.
Study Hall is founded by Céline Seeman and I could not agree more when she says;
“ What we need to do is expand. Expand our minds in thinking outside of the colonial mind-set. Austerity can never allow for the kind of imagination needed for us to creatively solve the climate crisis globally. We need to zoom out and look at the big picture in a holistic inclusive way, one that challenges the status quo but also dreams up to new possibilities.”
Study Hall aims to gather industry experts, scientists, students, designers, policy makers, executives to take action collaboratively and is growing by the day with 700 participants in NYC at their 5th edition of the seminar series.
The pre-conference atmosphere was already set with the super lively line up at the door, warm greetings of the Study Hall team, the delicious House of Waris tea as I made news friends and embraced old ones. The conference was a melting pot of diverse perspectives and applications of regenerative agriculture, recycling of materials, new raw materials with low to negative carbon impact, circular systems, impact of women and indigenous communities, collaboration versus alienation. I had many take-aways which I feel is my responsibility to share with my community and through genuine collaboration we can embrace our uniqueness and at the same time acknowledge that we are all parts of each other – human, non-human and even non-living and some gatherings transform into happenings – Climate Positivity at Scale was one such gathering which has already transformed into being a happening.
Korina Emmerich of EMME welcomes the crowd by saying that she offers to dismantle systems of oppression. Manhattan had been home to Native American Indians of Lenape and was acquired by the Colonists on May 24, 1626 for 24 $. Manhattan is also home to garment manufacturers who came as immigrants. We later heard Haatepah @_coyotl on the panel of A message from the Earth – that it will not be possible to achieve climate positivity without decolonization, dismantling environmental racism, without learning to live with each other and Mother Earth. It was not only him with tears as he said “and it has been taught to us to hate who we are for hundreds of years. We have been slaves and I feel that now people are beginning to reclaim and understand where we come from.
Whitney McGuire stated that her ancestors have worked and died for the fashion industry and that we have to learn from the ones who have suffered the most. Indigenous people have circular practices. The industry has to start relating to the inclusive and pervasive stories which are interdependent, and we have to notice, understand and acknowledge to be able to device solutions.
Ayana as a scientist cries over the climate crisis data however she uses hope as the hammer that breaks the glass in emergency. She calls everyone for action – not solely on an individual scale but start where one is at his/her best and engage the communities as we are not in isolation. Be a professional troublemaker, change the status quo, be the unexpected Ayana called out remarking that policy follows culture. If we can change and ignite culture, then we can achieve climate justice globally.
Céline Seeman – Céline speaks softly and yet very clearly, there is a nurturing aspect to her voice that invites and welcomes even as she speaks the difficult. “Climate Change is already replacing 41 people each minute globally.”
Jungwon Kim of – Farmers and forest communities have no choice but to take action every single day. She reminds us of our connectivity to the environment. %80 of the Earth`s biodiversity is maintained by the Indigenous people and they manage %11 of the world`s forests. Although they are %5 of the world`s population they hold ecological IP and expertise on land management. Jungwon`s point reminds me that in the denim industry we also need to talk to the manufacturers who are under climate crisis the most to device the right solutions.
Incentivizing Good Behavior Panel
Sebastian Kopp of VEJA sneakers explained how they have worked with the farmers on the fields and aimed to have growth in their earnings as well as paying the fair price for raw materials. Sebastian emphasized that cultural transformation is needed rather than a sustainable product offer and that we are dealing with urgency rather than marketing products.
Matthew Sheffer of Hudson Carbon uses technology to connect the farmers to the brands as well as to the climate concerned consumers. Hudson Carbon offers farmers to be compensated for following practices that sequester carbon. Mark focuses on the value of products rather than the price – “The true cost of food and fiber is not reflected in what you pay for”. Stop for a moment on this thought and consider what this means as an industry expert and/or as a consumer. The idea of value and not price convenes humans with the environment as redefines our relations.
Dominique Drakeford of Sustainable Brooklyn and Fibershed called herself a virus that connects, infiltrates and she sure does with her vibrant energy and passion. Sustainable Brooklyn focuses on the individual, the community as well as the stakeholders. Fibershed on the other hand is a regional fiber manufacturing initiative with the goal to reduce footprint of fashion, invest in local communities and incentives authenticity and craftsmanship. Education, training, local communities, regenerative systems will transform industries. The True Blue Project of Fibershed assesses economic, social and environmental concerns and presents a general overview on indigo, a focus on planting and harvesting strategies and compost making pigment extraction methods enabling a soil to soil indigo production.
Marco Tedesco and Laurel Zaima of Lomont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University presented the impact of microplastics on humans and the environment. There are 13 times more plastic than the stars in our galaxy. %35 of the microplastic infiltrating the oceans and us is coming from the synthetic textiles and we are ingesting 5 grams of plastic every week which is the size of a credit card. Consumers have the voting power through the purchases they make and if they are informed, they can choose wisely.
Transforming the Global Garment Workforce Panel
Rick Relinger of PVH, Tara Rangarajan of Better Work
Moderated by Lilian Liu of Futerra
Environment and social justice are inseparable, and we do have to create an awareness to understand. We vote every time we make a purchase and coming from the industry, we make a vote every time we design and present a collection. Rick Relinger highlighted that what is best for the workers in the manufacturing need to come from the fields and not through the management offices. Tara called for profound inquiry on knowing where our clothes are made and the conditions of these factories. Fashion is getting a sustainability attention and the industry has the potential to make this an advantage to transform. What is fashion to the people`s lives living in the countries where our clothes are being produced?
Waste Led Design – From Landfills as Museums to New Production Paradigms Panel
Ayesha Martin of Adidas
Jay Kaplan of Waste Management
Céline Seeman of Slow Factory
Where does our trash go? Do we know? We have to ask ourselves is trash is a necessary by product of life and what are we investing in as consumers? Waste is a part of our lives and we need to reduce the stigma and the shame around being wasteful. We might end up wish cycling when we think we are re cycling so we really have to learn about the concept of waste to be able to offer solutions. Wish cycling is the links consumers to the landfill. Study Hall took design students from Parson and FIT on a field trip to Pennsylvania to experience the end of life cycle of products as well as to present them with the urgency to design products not to end up in a landfill.
Design for purpose, the power of communities, storytelling and waste possibilities are a part of the waste dialogue. Céline says “Trash doesn`t just go away. There is no away: where are these things going? Trash is a necessary by product of our existence. We need to observe waste as a new resource, and we have to think of waste as an asset.”
This is why it is important to engage in circular business systems and not just circular product.
Ayesha commented that Adidas is going virgin poly free by 2024 and that being a part of the problem urges them to be a part of the solution. She pinpointed that there is spirituality in sustainability`s essence and that we shift things by finding meaning to each other, to ourselves. Every single person in an organization count as they show up with their values and beliefs.
A Message from the Earth Panel
Mari Copeny – LITTLEMISSFLINT
Ms Tina Knowles-Lawson
This session presented voices of strength, resilience, hope, non-despair in difficult times, mindfulness perspective for our lives and communities. Mari Copeny; a 13-year-old activist from Michigan Flint, not only raised 500K USD since 2016 reached out to 25K kids in her effort to raise awareness on the water problem in Flint but also wrote a letter to President Obama who came to visit Flint to meet her. Educating girls and women do matter and we have to tell the real stories. The very labor rights in textiles exist because of the immigrant women who have historically worked in the industry. We have to honor the Earth and bring other people into the dialogue. Haatepah rightfully comments that the indigenous people have always known how to act with nature instead of against it. Ms. Tina Knowles makes a humane call to say that we are not different from each other and proposes that the consumers open up to more options.
Life Cycle Analysis Introduction
Dan Widmaier – Bolt Threads
Rethinking innovation is what Bolt Threads are doing. Bolt Threads is a materials innovation company. Taking nature as our inspiration, we use cutting-edge technology and biology to develop new textiles and materials that raise the bar for sustainability. Mycrosilk, Mylo developed from mycelium cells are designed with nature bio solutions. Bolt Threads was founded in 2009 and is valued at 700millions usd.
Honest is Leading the Way Panel
Moderated by : Burak Cakmak Dean of FIT and Shaway Yeh - YEHYEHYEH
Waris Ahluwalia – House of Waris
Christopher Reaburn – Reaburn and Timberland
Brendon and Estelle-Bailey Babenzien – Noah Clothing
Sofie Schop – G Star Raw
Is it really hard to make the right choice when you are manufacturing or when you are marketing or purchasing? Brendon says that it is only hard if you are greedy. Being responsible is not hard at all as it is a choice however, he still acknowledges that turning big companies around to be responsible will require help. Estelle goes to comment on the younger generation`s want and need to be conscious and that at Noah they choose to remain honest and listen to their customers. Sophie Schop of G-Star focuses on the value chain idea and not the supply chain and partnerships. The Cradle to Cradle product offer defines a new system of manufacturing. Waris of House of Waris remarks that he got tired of creating for people`s wants and shifted to create for people`s needs and that if we are not in balance as human beings then the earth cannot be in balance. Will we keep on wanting to own our clothes? Christopher Reaburn - Christopher’s never-ending ‘archaeological’ discoveries led to his first full collection (AW10 PREPARE) using de-commissioned military stock to create limited edition outerwear for both men and women. From wool field jackets to nylon parachute canopies, each RÆMADE style is produced by meticulously deconstructing the original and reworking the materials into unique and ethical garments.
Erin Allweis – of No 29 a communications agency with a mission brightens the room saying that human health and planetary help are connected. Scaling up innovations panel is where technology, collaborative social impact projects, science meet with the industry designers, brands. Babak Radboy – Telfar – questions if fashion is really shallow or not as what we wear defines who we are and how we live. Phillip Lim – “If we start the right way we will have less to correct and apologize for” Philip also adds with a smile that we need to join forces and bring on the change. Theanne Schiros – Professor and Chemical Physicist : Theanne is the FIT coordinator and faculty lead for the international Biodesign Challenge, guiding students on how to rethink textiles through technology, biology and sustainable design. “Waste is Waste if you call is waste.” and she channels her joy into discovery and suggests that we turn to indigenous knowledge of the Earth next to the Nature`s R&D of 3,8 billion years. Ngozi Ogard – Custom Collaborative is a New York City-based entrepreneurship and workforce development program that trains and supports women from low-income and immigrant communities to launch fashion careers and businesses. Custom Collaborative helps heroes to emerge and put their learning and experience in use. Mara Hoffman – Mara Hoffman runs human centric projects and collections. Mara speaks in a velvety tone to define human connection as the antidote of darkness and despair. We will have to look into what works and what does not work to get out of the darkness. Charlotte McCrudy – who is an interdisciplinary designer elaborates on the function of design with a circular perspective and remarks that anything that has been made can be unmade. For her project “After Ancient Sunlight,” McCurdy fashioned a water-resistant raincoat from a plastic-like material she developed made of algae, which naturally sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
I have been on stage at the 1st Study Hall Event in LA on August 26,2018 to tell the story of how denim can accelerate the inclusive transformational dialogue with its social, environmental, technical global presence through manufacturing as well as consumption practices. I have been involved in growing sales, planting marketing programs, designing products as well as leading social and environmental projects of education, field work to send girls back to school, using denim blankets as a force of good for refugees, raising awareness, getting my hands dirty, asking for justice, asking for my rights as a woman, failing and succeeding. Thanks to the very inclusive and humane approach that Study Hall presents there is a sense of unity, connectedness, partnership and understanding. When a gathering becomes a happening it is greater than the sum of its parts and at this point the participants change through the very encounters they have made forever. Thank you, Céline Seeman and Study Hall, for hosting such and amazing happening of action.