Can Collaboration Replace Competition In The Fashion Industry?
The fashion industry is a notoriously competitive and unethical space.
Rachel Sheila Kan from The Ecosystem Incubator talks to us about how businesses can adopt a more collaborative approach that benefits all.
Rachel Sheila Kan
Wed 13 Apr 2022
The fashion industry has been one of the most cut-throat competitive industries to work and be in. Often I was told I was lucky to have a job in it at all and should be grateful, full stop.
I spent decades trying to be trendy and relevant and to become a design manager before I got past my sell-by date.
Is that really a world that we want to pass on to our children?
One of competition and where only the ruthless, lucky and privileged survive?
I certainly started that there are other ways to do business in this new world that we are living in.
I started to apply sustainability from the inside of business, through my time as a design manager and realised just how surface-based and slow that change was.
It is a journey for sure for many brands working within the business-as-usual mindset and system.
Recentering the business mindset to a more regenerative approach
I understood quite early on in my journey that the current economic system and the way that we do business itself didn’t support our sustainability strategies in circularity and very much in the reduction of overproduction.
How could we keep the balance with business still overproducing to keep everlasting growth?
I saw that a deeper change is needed systemically to create the lasting transformation that we need to see in both our industry and the world.
I started to look at applying the theory that I’d begun to learn in regenerative living systems, from the amazing work done in regenerative leadership by regenerative practitioners and authors of the book ‘’Regenerative Leadership’’ Laura storm and Giles Hutchins - right to the extensive early work done by Donella Meadows in living systems thinking.
Donella outlined the changes needed over 2 decades ago and was very much one of the first thinkers in living systems.
The idea of building towards regenerative systems thinking with Frederick Laloux, Author of Reinventing organisations. The work of new wave philosopher Charles Eisenstein in my ears.
So many authors and inspirations I’ve had over the last few years of my journey to mention them all would be to write a thesis on it.
Instead, I’ll write what we are creating in action.
Theory is all well and good, but best to put it into reality and practice, and to learn experientially in an agile way how to apply this change.
Enter The Ecosystem Incubator, where small fashion businesses can come together to bring about change via collective efforts and collaborate.
The power of collaboration
I have worked with many small fashion businesses throughout my career.
One huge problem in small businesses, even on the non-sustainable trail, is ordering minimum order quantities.
It is really hard when you are starting off generally with your own money, to get a hold of quality fabric with authentic aspects, in a small quantity that you can afford.
Many opt for second or third party wholesale and base models, pushing the retail price up, meaning it’s just too expensive for the regular consumer.
Imagine joining together in just that one aspect and working as a collaborative, sourcing and reducing costs and making sure the quality is adhered to as one, never mind the reduction of all those small brands overproducing to hit the MOQs.
One thing we need to do is reduce the amount of fabric that we produce from raw materials
Organics are all well and good, but if we are not addressing the overproduction, I believe we will just move onto another set of unintended consequences.
Create a brand from the bottom up rather than top down
One question is do we need brands at all?
Imagine being a supplier, accessing designers and sustainability professionals to help create a brand for yourself, bottom up rather than top down, bringing something together and collaborating?
As a brand why not go straight to source, really know where things are from and create regenerative cooperative products that work in the aesthetic.
One of the first members of The Ecosystem Incubator is Kishore Shah of Khadi London, he said that he was interested to see the systems that they have in their collaborative fabric growing and weaving community placed into the AI space.
Imagine being able to as one collective collaboratively add co-circularity and offer that as a boon to your customer?
The ecosystem then scoops up any waste created by it and brings it back into the system with our partners and indeed internal circular brands and re-supply the system with waste to wear.
One of our other founding members is John Parkinson of Iinouiio, whose podcast I was so inspired by.
In Sheffield, John and his team have been reviving an industry that was working with recycled post-consumer waste for 200 years!
An Industry that until now wasn’t to be shouted about as it was considered dirty.
Collaboration through The Ecosystem Incubator
The Ecosystem Incubator applies new economics to work into how each member of the ecosystem thrives, that might be through a monetary exchange, experience exchange, networking, co-marketing, or co-creation.
Building at first trusted networks and partnerships that create a win-win for all involved.
We collaborated with the amazing team at Wondr network to create the first online co-creation networking space and long term we will build with Ethical AI to create a bigger ethics-based data lead program over time as the community grows.
The Ecosystem is not about me, it is about us, for the first part we are building B2B from soil to store.
Join us for the co-creation and to be involved in this project that will disrupt the state of play & create eco-systemic change.
We need YOU to help bring the collaborative to life. An Ecosystem is a living breathing thing and needs life to help each other thrive and grow new life from that cut-throat old system.
Long term we will be building the B2C part of the platform, for now, our main focus is creating the B2B connections and trusted partnerships.
Join us every Friday for an introduction to dive into The Ecosystem Incubator and learn how to get involved with systemic change.
Sign up at The Ecosystem Incubator.
Learn more on our new info video here.
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