How Can The Fashion Industry Build a More Sustainable Future? Experts weigh in.

From talking about women empowerment to debates on whether fashion can save itself, here are the key takeaways from Scandinavian MIND's conference.

It was through Fredrik Timour, founder of Fashion Innovation Center, that I had the privilege of meeting Konrad Olsson, editor of Scandinavian MIND. He was the one who introduced me to the Transformation Conference, an event, in collaboration with Nordic Talks, that took place in Stockholm, Sweden last week. Not put off by the current pandemic, Olsson and his team managed to bring together the best minds from technology, fashion, design, beauty, and ­mobility, to discuss how the fashion industry can build a more sustainable future.

Sophia Bendz: “It’s Time More Women Step into Their Power”

When one thinks of investors, a specific type of person usually pops to mind, but Sophia Bendz is changing this one startup at a time. With 93.9% of 3.2 billion invested annually going to male founders in Sweden, Bendz wants to increase the 1.3% that currently goes to female founders. The angel investor, who is an advisor to Niklas Zennstrom’s Venture capital firm, is on a mission to bring more female founders to the table. In a recent interview by Roland-Philippe Kretzschmar for Scandinavian MINDS AW20 first issue, Bendz shared: “There is strength in sisterhood. My sister has taught me what it means to have someone’s back. I want to give back the same.”

Sophia Bendz on stage. Image Credit: Erik Sedin

What makes Bendz, former marketing director for Spotify, stand out from other investors is her humanist approach to investments; a strength that Kretzschmar highlights in his write up, and founder of Daye, Valentina Milanova seconds. “I get excited about the idea of more women stepping into their power and grabbing a seat at the table”, Bendz told Kretzschmar. Adding, “I’m inspired to help enable and support more women to consider a career as a startup founder or as an investor, and I’ve been thinking about ways to scale it.”

On stage with Kretzschmar, during the conference, Bendz, who is also an advisor to the Swedish Prime Minister, talked about the importance of FemTech. Estimated to be a $50 Billion industry by 2025, FemTech is not hype; it is defined as “a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology often to focus on women’s health.” Think Elvie, Thinx underwear and Ava fertility trackers. Currently, Bendz has a few investments in this area, like Daye, a FemTech company I mentioned earlier. Founder Milanova’s objective is to raise the standards of female health with organic products like CBD-infused tampons.

Roger Dupe: “Skincare is a form of self-love.”

Roger Dupe is the man behind Melyon, a skincare line for people of colour. Breaking the stereotypes of what a typical beauty entrepreneur might look like, Dupe, has brought vegan and ecological products to market. Although anyone can use these products, not just people of colour, Dupe has focused on conditions suffered by people with darker skin tones like hyperpigmentation. “Baobab oil is a very special agreement,” Dupe told the interviewer of Scandinavian MIND Johan Magnusson.

(L-R) Roger Dupe on stage Kicki Norman, Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Daisy Beauty, Johan Hellström, owner, Björn Axén and moderator Konrad Olsson. Image Credit: Erik Sedin

At the conference, Dupe was joined on stage by Johan Hellström, owner, Björn Axén and Kicki Norman, Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Daisy Beauty. The trio, moderated by Konrad Olsson, talked about the future of beauty through innovation in sustainability. The green uprising in the beauty industry has been a noticeable one. Driven by a need to define a new phase of the beauty industry, innovative brands like Melyon have set the wheels in motion when it comes to pushing diversity beyond 40+ shades and being the catalyst that propels forward a cleaner approach to beauty.

Looking to drive momentum and implement real and positive change for those underrepresented and uncredited, Dupe, a former model, who worked with international brands such as Kenzo, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Acne Studios, admitted to Magnusson, that the beauty industry is not inclusive enough yet. “There is a gap that needs to be closed. We’re in 2020, and still, for example, we don’t have makeup in every shade or skincare developed with darker skin tones in mind. Until now”, Dupe explained to Magnusson.

Fredrik Timour: “Can Fashion Save Itself? No.”

I met Swedish entrepreneur Fredrik Timour back when he was the founder of fashion tech company Neue. Driven by the belief that new and exciting technology should always be in the hands of everyone with an idea, Neue successfully removed the complexities, usually associated with bringing an IoT device or service from prototype to market. Since moving on from Neue, Timour founded Fashion Innovation Center.

Pushing forward new business models that encourage fashion businesses to collaborate, Timour made a strong statement that fashion cannot save themselves. When asked by Olsson, who interviewed him for Scandinavian MIND, why he thinks this, Timour’s response was: “Let me ask you this: do you think Spotify runs its own servers? No, they’re running on Google servers.” He explained further: “Can the fashion industry do this themselves? Of course not. Digitisation is always about collaboration”.

Fredrik Timour Image Credit: Erik Sedin

This was a topic we talked further on when we joined Olsson on stage at the Transformation conference. Our topic of conversation was SMART FASHION — the future of fashion through technology. We talked about the importance of the fashion industry, investing in offering experiences and services. We debated about the era of opportunity, and why the fashion industry still does not invest in R&D. I am sure most of you are aware that this is a problem that has been discussed many times over.

During our discussion, we agreed that change would not come from within the industry, but instead, it will come from an outsider who understands how to solve particular problems. A great example is Bolt Threads. They are scientists, not fashion experts, who have come up with a solution, a new material that has proven to be more sustainable than the current and much-favoured polyester. Yes, it is not perfect, but it is certainly a better alternative.

Of all the great points that were made during our conversation, I think Timour hit the nail on the head when we talked about the ever-evolving consumer. Elaborating on a point he made during his interview with Scandinavian MIND which was: “The thing with the younger generations is that 50 per cent of their time is spent online. Fashion companies have completely missed this”, led to a discussion of whether fashion brands can evolve into “a Netflix of fashion”. Imagine your wardrobe being available on an app on your phone. You could be out and about, and whenever you want to check what you have in your closet, you open the app and there it is. The clothes could be rentals that you have rented. They will be compiled in a similar way to the list that we all have on our Netflix account of the films/series we want to watch. Maybe the fashion brands will have subscribers who pay a certain amount a month to have access to their products. Sounds too farfetched? Well, maybe, but Timour had me convinced at: “What will happen if Netflix started selling clothes to their 200 million subscribers!”

Watch the full conference recorded at Alma’s Park, Stockholm, Sweden HERE. If you want to read more about innovation out of Sweden click MORE.

Share Your Tips & Corrections

Founding Editor in Chief at | editor@fashnerd.com | Website

Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.