Days after Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the U.K. fashion industry still has plenty to celebrate.
At a champagne reception at Downing Street Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged 80 million pounds ($98 million) to help the British Fashion Council, the British Retail Consortium, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the U.K. Fashion and Textile Association, Innovate U.K. and other stakeholders create a world-leading circular fashion and textiles ecosystem.
The check, the embattled politician promised a crowd of trade officials and sectoral leaders, which included designer Anya Hindmarch, Fashion Revolution co-founder Orsola de Castro and Worn Again Technologies founder Cyndi Rhoades, was “on its way.”
The 10-year Fashion Industry Sustainable Change Programme will create an industry-led Centre of Excellence, housed within the British Fashion Council’s Institute of Positive Fashion, that will provide training, support R&D, promote new circular business models and help create a world-class recycling and sorting infrastructure that will “truly bring about systemic change and opportunities for U.K. manufacturing.”
“The U.K. fashion industry is a big contributor to the economy and to brand Britain and I am delighted to support this brilliant industry as it moves forward with a 10-year Fashion Industry Sustainable Change Programme bringing opportunities across the U.K. to meet our Government Climate Action Plan of environmental and societal change,” said Johnson, who squeaked by a no-confidence vote this week after facing a bruising series of scandals, most notably lockdown-flouting parties at his official residence.
Stephanie Phair, chair of the British Fashion Council, said that many great things are being done in silos, but that “joining the dots, thoughtful regulation and supercharging change through funding” can put U.K. manufacturing at the forefront of systemic change and opportunities.
There is an “imperative” to act now if the United Kingdom plans to reach and exceed its pledge to halve its overall greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero no later than 2050, she said. Because the fashion industry is a “big part” of the problem, it must also be a “big part” of the solution. This means addressing not only how it designs, sources, produces, ships and markets product but also how it deals with the waste that currently goes to landfills.
“Imagine 10 years from now a city like Leeds, which has a rich history in manufacturing and textiles retaining its role as a key part of the fashion and textiles industry and an example of a circular city with reprocessing plants, energized highstreets with take-back schemes where product is broken down, re-spun and made to create new fabrics; a city with an inclusive and diverse workforce, with new skills and learning opportunities,” Phair said. “This isn’t a pipe dream—elements of this are already being seen around the world—we can bring this expertise together and make it a reality for the U.K.”
Nigel Lugg, chair of the U.K. Fashion and Textile Association, which is better known by its acronym, UKFT, said he looked forward to working with the industry to drive “change with far-reaching benefits for the whole U.K. fashion and textile supply chain.”
“This is a pivotal time for U.K. fashion and textiles,” he said. “In order to survive and grow, it is essential that the sector strengthens its sustainable competitiveness. It will mean a fundamental change and one that needs to be delivered at pace, and will call for new skills and new jobs. We are delighted that the U.K. government is recognizing the importance of our sector and the opportunities that exist.”
It’s been a banner week for sustainable fashion funding. Apparel Impact Institute president Lewis Perkins announced Wednesday a $250 million Fashion Climate Fund to identify, fund and scale verified solutions to decarbonize the fashion supply chain. Initial backers include H&M Group, Lululemon, the H&M Foundation and The Schmidt Family Foundation.
By bringing together the “power of big philanthropy” with corporate leadership, the fund will accelerate climate solutions that can drive 150 million tons of carbon dioxide reduction, Perkins said on stage at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen. The first-of-its-kind collaborative funding model could ultimately unlock an estimated $2 billion in blended capital, including debt and equity, to help the fashion sector meet its goal of halving carbon emissions by 2030, he added.
“This is only the beginning,” Perkins said. “Over the coming months, we will bring—and announce—more strategic lead partners working on decarbonization in the textile, apparel and footwear sectors’ supply together into one great community of practice with the necessary insights, knowledge and resources to get the job done.”
On Tuesday, fast-fashion e-tailer Shein announced a five-year $50 million extended producer responsibility (EPR) endowment that benefits communities impacted by textile waste. Its inaugural recipient is The Or Foundation, an environmental justice group that runs an apprentice program for transitioning women out of dangerous work that involves carrying bales of secondhand clothing on their heads. The money will also help incubate community businesses turning used textiles into new products and pilot fiber-to-fiber initiatives with Ghanaian manufacturers.
“While this is not a substitute for real EPR, Shein is acknowledging that their waste may be ending up in Kantamanto,” Liz Ricketts, the organization’s co-founder and director, said at the Global Fashion Summit. “This is where they don’t want it to end up, and they decided to trust the people who have been dealing with the problem for decades.’