Fashion Tech

FIT Celebrates Innovation in Sustainability

Paul Dillinger, Levi’s vice president of global innovation, closed out the second day of the conference | Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio, FIT

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) celebrated innovation in sustainability with the 2019 Sustainable Business and Design Conference.

“For FIT, sustainability is a way of life,” Dr. Joyce F. Brown, FIT president, said on opening day. “Academia has a role to play in becoming responsible conservators of the earth.”

Under the theme of “Innovating for the Future,” the conference brought business leaders in sustainability and innovation together to discuss the latest advances in environmental initiatives across a variety of creative industries.

Over the course of two days, students, professionals, and more were in attendance to learn from over 50 speakers from over 30 different organizations about the best about how to bring about environmental change.

The conference was held at FIT, followed by the pinnacle Annual Awards Gala held at the American Museum of Natural History. This is the first year FIT brought these two signature events together to celebrate the college’s institutional commitment to creative and compassionate sustainability.

Day One Highlights

Aveda hosted “Global Changemakers Paving the Way for Sustainability in the Beauty, Fashion, Hospitality, and Nonprofit Industries” featuring Aveda’s Barbara De Laere, designer Phillip Lim, Lauren Letta of charity: water, and Hannah Bronfman of SH Hotels & Resorts.

“Luxury, freedom, choice, sustainability is hand in hand, our choice is to choose sustainability,” said Phillip Lim. Lauren Letta and Lim agreed on the challenges of getting involved in sustainability, stating, “It’s intimidating, but we’re never going to be experts. Our job is to stay curious and keep trying…Pick a focus and follow through with it.”

Hannah Bronfman said, “Sharing information is the No. 1 thing you can do to combat climate change.”

Evie Evangelou from Fashion 4 Development (F4D) said, “Fashion has a loud voice. People follow it, people pay attention to it, and we can utilize it as the change. It can create awareness and bring people together.”

Day Two Highlights

Céline Semaan of Slow Factory and The Library spoke with Kristy Caylor of For Days, Cynthia Power of Eileen Fisher Renew and Jessica Schreiber of FABSCRAP about the importance of circularity in the retail industry via upcycling, reusing and more. Kristy stressed the importance of breaking the commerce model of today, and noted that it’s “time to shift to receipt, return, [and] recycle.”

Designers and business leaders including Christopher Bevans of DYNE, Michael Ferraro, and Deborah Berger of Chargeurs explained how they’re using emerging technology, data, and more in their businesses. Some of these tools include artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), living labs, and blockchain.

“Know the impact of the different choices that you make,” Berger said. “You don’t need to be a scientist to understand those things. Designers in the future will be more and more knowledgeable about that and not just the design. You need to have this from the start not just the style.”


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