Fashion is big business. The number of garments produced globally exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014 (McKinsey 2016). Meanwhile it’s estimated that the global garment and textile industries employ between 60 million to 75 million people worldwide (Fashion United).

But fashion has a dark side. It’s the second dirtiest industry in the world, next to big oil, with the garment manufacturing accounting for 20% of global industrial water pollution (World Resources Institute 2017). Child labour, low wages and poor working conditions are just a few of the many problems with the industry.

But how can fashion be a force for good? This was one of the themes discussed last week at an event co-hosted by Womanity and its partner Industree Foundation – a social business working to improve market access and skills for thousands of female artisans, mainly in India.

The event, called Good Fashion, was also co-hosted by IG Advisors,Not My Style and Freedom Fund. It brought together movers and shakers from the fashion and non-profit sector to discuss the power that fashion can have in creating social impact. The event also gave Industree an opportunity to showcase their work as leaders in this space.

SDGs and fashion
Over 30 people attended the evening’s event with representatives from business, banks, and philanthropy. The discussion centred around the SDGs. Can the fashion industry help us achieve the ambitious goals set out in 2015, that so many of us are working towards?
Industree set out its position clearly. Yes – the apparel, textile and lifestyle sectors have huge potential to contribute towards meeting these goals. Industree works extensively in apparel and lifestyle value chains, which have great potential to herald in the supply chains of the future: ones that will have positive social and environmental footprints. Its initiative, Mission Creative Million, is a step towards meeting the SDGs through interventions specifically in these sectors.
It was great to see so many people from such diverse backgrounds in one room talking about this. The SDGs offer many opportunities for all types of stakeholders from all sectors to adopt sustainable materials and business practices, promote responsible production and consumption, and uplift vulnerable individuals and communities.

WomenChangeMakers: Supporting Social Enterprises
Womanity has been working with Industree since 2013 when it was selected as a WomenChangeMaker, a programme that identifies, supports, and connects leading social entrepreneurs and their organisations working to improve lives of women. Womanity provided Industree with flexible core and organisational support as well as mentoring and expertise to help them grow, expand and scale-up their impact.
A key part of this support was a detailed needs assessment to identify Industree’s strengths and establish where assistance would be most useful.  This led to the development of an expansion strategy with support from external partners including PWC Strategy&, Mercuri Urval and Accenture.
At the event, Rafia Qureshi, Executive Director of Womanity Foundation. said: “We have been supporting Industree for over 5 years now. Flexible and core support is vital – and we need more donors to support local organisations in this way”.

Personal reflection
As the event was brought to a close, we were asked to reflect on something that we learnt during the evening, or to consider one change we would make either at work, or in our personal lives. It’s made me really think about the choices I make regarding the clothes I buy and the fashion houses I support. I also learnt a lot about how technology can be a great tool for shifting power back to the hands of consumers, as demonstrated by apps like Not My Style.
I was also struck by the optimism and can-do attitude in the room, as well as the power that’s generated when good people come together. It’s clear that fashion has a role to play in helping us achieve sustainable development, and it was inspiring to see the collective determination to make it happen.
Find out more about Industree