Larissa Gomes is a journalist reporting on the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability and tech. She’s covered everything from NYFW to SXSW, and has been published in print and online publications including Marie Claire and Refinery29. At Current Daily, she writes about innovations in retail, consumer trends and new developments across technology.
Living in such a connected world is damaging our ability to think creatively, says Brian Solis, a world-leading anthropologist and futurist, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.
By being constantly online, we are constantly distracted, he suggests. He refers to this particularly applying to “Generation C”, where the C stands for “Connected”.
“We all live in a similar lifestyle. And when you live that lifestyle, you’re rewiring your brain. You’re speeding it up; you’re moving faster, you’re becoming less patient, you’re becoming incredibly narcissistic. The world literally revolves around you,” he explains. “You have followers, your friends, you feel like you need to constantly feed that system, but you’re also feeding off the system. So you might find yourself endlessly scrolling for no good reason whatsoever.”
Solis experienced this himself: after writing seven best-selling books, he struggled with distraction while trying to write this eighth.
Getting caught up in cycles of sharing and consuming social media is one of the main reasons why people get less and less creative over time, he suggests. “The real problem is that I’m placing greater emphasis on what happens on this screen than I am in this moment right now. That means that I’m not placing value in the people that I’m around, or the places that I’m at, which means that becomes forgettable.”
But his quest to understand society’s digital realities, behaviors and expectations did indeed end up inspiring a new book after all. In Lifescale, he reflects on how we ended up opening ourselves up to so many distractions and what changed to make people value this way of living – points that he also touches on in the podcast.
In this conversation, recorded with the Current Global’s Liz Bacelar at our Innovation Mansion at SXSW this year, Solis explains his techniques to taking control over tech, shares how brands can be more authentic by being more empathic; and reveals what the key is to transforming us into the leaders of the future.
“[The fashion industry] is 60% larger than it needs to be relative to the actual quantity of demand,” says Paul Dillinger, Head of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.
He is referring to the fact six out of 10 garments produced every year are being discarded to landfill or incinerated within the first year of their production. The result is that those working in this world need to either think about how you can eliminate overproduction, or instead build new business models around only making and selling the four that are actually wanted, he explains, even if it affects business growth.
An alternative response to that concept is the so-called “circular economy”, whereby items are not discarded but put back into the system, which to overly simplify matters, enables businesses to continue with growth while aiming for lesser impact. But Dillinger believes such moves are merely providing brands with a guilt-free alternative to keep overproducing at a point when the technology for a truly circular system isn’t yet scalable. He instead refers to the idea of credible “circular industrial ecologies”, which are much more complex to operate and achieve.
“One of them is a corporate compliance officer selling a new shiny penny to a board of directors in the C-suite, and the other one is a studious and scientific approach to really tackling a real challenge,” he explains.
At Levi’s, Dillinger is otherwise looking at key areas like reducing the brand’s use of water. “I think people’s right to drink fresh water should be prioritized above a company’s right to access fresh water for production,” he explains.
In this conversation, hosted in front of a live audience at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion at SXSW 2019, he explains what that looks like through the innovative work he’s been doing with hemp. He also gets technical with host Rachel Arthur about the many ways in which Levi’s is working to make its supply chain responsible in one of the most complex industries in the world.
Consumer demand for more responsible products is clearer than ever, and companies – from legacy names to newer players in the field – are evolving their business models to incorporate more sustainable practices.
To hit their ambitious sustainability goals, the approach is diverse, from using blockchain in the supply chain to finding new ways to bioengineering innovative textiles.
Last year, TheCurrent Global’s Innovators podcast spoke to some of the world’s top brands and companies on what it means to be sustainable at this day and age, and how to create a more responsible future that will enable them to still be around in decades to come.
H&M has some of the fashion industry’s most ambitious goals: by 2030, it aims to use 100% recyclable or sustainably sourced materials. Nina Shariati, who leads transparency at H&M, spoke to TheCurrent Global on how the group’s size in the fast fashion space could work in their – and everyone’s – favour: “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions], and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”
For example last year already, 36% of H&M’s total material buy was recycled or sustainably sourced. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry so that you can compare your product across brands,” adds Shariati. “We are far from the time where it’s OK to work in silos.” The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions.
For Matt Scanlan, CEO and co-founder of the disruptive cashmere brand Naadam, being sustainable means transforming your supply chain into a community. The brand was conceived after he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert learning about their lifestyles. He eventually returned with $2 million in cash to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from herders, thus allowing them to earn 50% more profit than in a traditional fashion supply chain. His ambition to disrupt the cashmere industry has grown rapidly since.
But Scanlan still holds some skepticism about reaching 100% sustainability in the supply chain, which he thinks is both fake and impossible to achieve. Speaking to Innovators co-host Liz Bacelar, he also talks passionately about the human side of the industry which, after all, is built on relationships.
Ikea is focusing on creating products and services that can support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthfully, every day.
According to Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at the Swedish giant, to achieve its sustainable strategy, the company’s approach is threefold: look at its use of energy and resources – by 2020, it will be generating at least as much energy as it is consuming in their operations; focus on its people and its supply chain; and lastly, work on how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.
Since the original episode was published, Ikea has opened what it claims to be its most sustainable store in the world in Greenwich, London, featuring solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a geothermal heating system. It has also introduced a furniture leasing pilot in Switzerland.
Blockchain has an emerging and important role in sustainability, and UK-based designer Martine Jarlgaard was one of the early adopters of the technology in order to investigate a more sustainable supply chain.
In 2017, her namesake label teamed up with London-based startup Provenance to register and trace each step of the journey of a garment on a blockchain platform, which consumers could access by scanning a QR code found on its label.
Speaking to co-host Rachel Arthur last summer, Jarlgaard weighed in on how brands need to redefine the value of a product to change the way in which consumers shop, and emphasized the huge responsibility that sits on the industry’s shoulders to start driving sustainability ahead. “We are such a closed, centralized system. Being open and transparent is the only way forward.”
San Francisco-based bioengineering startup Bolt Threads is arguably one of the most known names disrupting the fashion industry, largely due to its relationship with eco-luxury label Stella McCartney. Working with the brand, it has so far launched pilot products such as a dress made of of lab-grown spider silk, as well as most recently, a ‘leather’ bag constructed out of mushroom leather, or mycelium.
Sustainable innovation and the power it now carries are a direct response to a shift in consumer behavior, he says. “Ultimately it is up to the consumer. [We’re] seeing the speed at which consumer taste is changing – 2017 was a transformative year for sustainability,” adding, “It is getting big really fast and it’s becoming one of the issues at the forefront of the industry because it touches everyone.”
“The clean beauty revolution is the next big thing that’s going to hit this industry,” says Amanda Baldwin, president of suncare brand, Supergoop!, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
Speaking to Liz Bacelar, she explains that from day one, Supergoop has maintained a singular focus: convincing people to wear sunscreen every day by making it with the cleanest ingredients possible. After 11 years in business, the company is at the forefront of a huge shift in the industry.
Founder Holly Thaggard, created Supergoop after her friend was diagnosed with skin cancer, making it her mission to develop products that would convince people to wear SPF every day.
But this purpose is more than just the core of the products, Baldwin says, it’s also the main reason people want to work there. “We just surveyed to ask what’s making people excited about being our employees and the number one reason was the mission of the company.”
According to Baldwin, working in a company as mission-driven as Supergoop makes every decision easier for the team. “When you’re faced with some decision, it comes down to: does this help people wear SPF every single day? If the reason is yes, we should do it, if the answer is no, we don’t.”
Supergoop’s staff is cognizant of its deep sense of responsibility, especially at a time when more people are becoming aware of the ingredients in the products they consume. This is the edge of what Baldwin’s call the clean revolution. “Once you start reading labels, you can never go back. And I think that consumers should be able to trust brands to have done their research and to have done their work.”
In this episode, Baldwin also talks about how food trends can tell us what to expect from the beauty industry, the importance of learning from other people in order to create a successful company, and how to commit to being clean and cruelty-free without compromising the process.
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.