Danela White was not happy with what she saw in garment manufacturing hubs in South Asia, including India. Retail giants not only exploited labour, the intense manufacturing activity also triggered high pollution.
But now, White, secretary-general at the IWTO (International Wool Textile Corporation), feels change for the better is imminent.
“I’m very optimistic,” White told a forward-looking issue of Monocle. “I was really depressed after what I saw in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India, I’ve seen ‘indigo rivers’ (where dye affects the water supply), child labour and horrific pollution. This was all caused from the pressure at the top of the industry to go cheap. For the first time I’m feeling like there is the will to change this.”
This is because the IWTO works with the EU’s PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) program. Their mission is to develop ways to measure the environmental impact of consumer goods.
“We’re getting to a point where for the first time in history, globally, there will be a group of legislative people getting involved and saying, ‘OK, this is where we’re going to draw the line and actually legislate the fashion and textile industry.’ Many countries are watching what will play out here, so it’s imperative to get it right,” White said.
On the perfume front, ethically inclined manufacturers are making fragrances with water instead of alcohol.
Victoire de Taillac-Touhami and her husband Ramdane Touhami, who own the perfume company Buly, are among those advocating the use of water instead of a powerful chemical such as alcohol.
“At Buly, we committed to water-based perfume when no one was doing it,” de Taillac-Touhami told Monocle. “My husband’s vision was to find a way to make perfume without alcohol. It was a challenge but it has been a big success: water-based perfume accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of our sales. The next thing in the fragrance industry should be a greater commitment to traceability – as in the food industry. It is happening already, though it will be a long journey.”
De Taillac-Touhami feels cosmetic brands are increasingly open about the ingredients in their products. And the same should be the case with fragrances.
“The fragrance industry should follow what is happening in cosmetics, which is becoming transparent about ingredients and composition,” she said. “It should not only be about the name on the bottle. When people buy from the big commercial brands, it is first of all about the name, followed by the scent and the physical bottle. But there should also be an awareness of the ingredients. Niche perfume brands are gaining more of a following now because people want to buy real stuff.”
Another trend forecast is the idea of shopping as an escape. It is not a new concept, but it will be back in force after the ordeal of the last two years, feels Damien Paul of Matchesfashion, a luxury fashion portal based in the UK.
“A sense of enjoyment and freedom in fashion has come back in a big way,” Paul told Monocle. “Whenever you look at history, after uncertain times there’s always been this idea of dressing up as a mood-lifter – and that’s what we’re experiencing now. Customers are focusing on mood-lifting pieces more than ever and using fashion as a kind of feel-good experiment. In terms of how we buy going forward, so much of what we do is about really understanding fabrications and fit. Physically experiencing a new product is crucial.”Also read: Dummies guide to building a perfume portfolio