Annie Gullingsrud, Director of Textiles and Apparel at Cradle to Cradle.

Annie Gullingsrud: “Achieving sustainable fashion means a full-on system change”

Fashion brands need to have access to new solutions, especially when it comes to materials, in order to become more sustainable. Annie Gullingsrud of Cradle to Cradle has made it her mission to enable this. We asked her to share her vision for a circular fashion future.

“Since I began my career, I made a personal commitment to expand education and knowledge around the negative impacts of the fashion industry—as you know, there are many. And also to maintain acute focus on being a leader in developing a solution: to find the most high-impact, aggressive, large-scale approach to fashion positive.

My name is Annie, and I am the Director of Textiles and Apparel for Fashion Positive. This is a sector initiative of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in California and the Netherlands. At Fashion Positive, we know that achieving sustainable fashion means a full-on system change. We need to shift the desire to create and express ourselves through clothing, take it out of the current, linear fashion economy and into a circular one.

Linear fashion is fashion that is grown or extracted, woven, dyed, cut and sewn without regard for harmful externalities like excessive resource extraction, pollution or social fairness. Linear fashion is purchased, worn and disposed of as waste in landfills. Circular fashion, on the other hand, is fashion intelligently designed and made from healthy and reusable materials, in ways that positively impact people and planet. After circular fashion has been used, it is remade and used again. There is no such thing as waste in circular fashion.

Healthy and reusable material inputs are key enablers of a systemic shift towards circular fashion. And as of right now, there aren’t many circular fashion materials in the world. That’s why at Fashion Positive, our work is singularly focused on developing and providing access to verified circular fashion materials.

« Healthy and reusable material inputs are key enablers of a systemic shift towards circular fashion, and as of right now—there aren’t many »

For the first few years of Fashion Positive, we worked one-on-one with circular-thinking brands like Maiyet and Stella McCartney to develop Cradle to Cradle Certified dyes and fibers. It was fun, but slow. We need to be fast with this work, or there will be no more fun. So we launched an acceleration strategy in September 2016 called Fashion Positive PLUS—a group of brands collaborating to identify, improve and certify the ‘building block’ materials of fashion.

PLUS operates using a volume collaboration methodology wherein we identify strategic shared high impact materials amongst members that are in need of further action, in order to be considered circular. Building block materials include dyes, basic yarns and fabrics, zippers, trims, finishing chemicals and more.

PLUS workgroups optimize and verify building block materials against the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard for material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness—creating a collection of ‘positive’ materials with which to design circular fashion from the beginning and at scale. This approach assists companies in creating clarity around the determination of ‘sustainable’ or ‘circular’ materials through a standardized and vetted verification process. It also decreases costs and time associated with verifying materials as individual companies.

The result of our efforts will be the Fashion Positive Materials Collection, a portfolio of Cradle to Cradle Certified building block materials that will greatly increase the positive impact of resulting apparel garments. We will also scale intelligence and best practices to accelerate fashion’s contribution to the emerging circular economy.

Get it? Pretty smart, right? Join us!”

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