In the recently concluded Global Fashion Summit: Boston Edition 2023, we reflected on the theme ‘Ambition to Action’ to spearhead the transition to a net-positive fashion industry. In the ‘Unpacking Policy’ session, we pulled back the curtain on how policy is evolving in the US, with a focus on the regional exchange between Europe. As rising pressure is placed on policy implementation, we explored the questions at the crux of the conversation: how is fashion regulation shaping up – and what might be missing?
Explore some of the takeaways from the session below.
The fashion industry has transitioned from being a relatively unregulated sector to facing a growing wave of policy initiatives. The shift from voluntary actions to legal obligations has the potential to drive systemic transformation and create a more equitable playing field for all industry players. However, the success of fashion policy hinges on recognising and normalising the challenges unique to the industry. This acknowledgement is essential to ensure that policymakers and stakeholders exercise patience and offer support during this transitional phase.
Fashion policy should extend beyond climate initiatives. It must encompass labour rights, fair wages, and transparent sustainability communication. Policies should not happen at the margins but really get to the heart of the areas of impact, working in partnership with all stakeholders impacted. This is paramount when we discuss the scope, purpose, execution, and impact of legislation. Incentives like the ones granted to other sectors like renewable energies or transport can also drive circular practices within the industry.
GFA’s Fashion CEO Agenda 2023 outlines the most pressing issues and the biggest opportunities for environmental and social impact. Download the publication here.
Fashion sustainability must centre on inclusivity and environmental justice. Voices of historically marginalised communities — such as those of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples — should be central in decision-making. An ethnographic approach can offer valuable insights into these communities’ specific challenges. Our strategies along the path to a net-positive industry must prioritise solutions that are rooted in inclusive dialogue.
Rather than thinking of federal legislation as the “A team” and state legislation as the “B team,” it is important to understand that the states will lead the way by gathering the right people in the room — and hopefully creating coalitions that exist beyond policy getting passed in the states.
The fashion industry grapples with tracking legislation at federal and state levels, exacerbated by a shortage of industry professionals educated in public affairs. Policymakers must invest in understanding the intricacies of fashion and bridge the expertise gap. This also emphasises the need for industry and advocacy input in policymaking.
The US is not far behind the EU in legislation — while the EU is ahead in the thinking, the US is more advanced in “bill language” emphasised Maxine Bédat. Also, fashion has a global reach, and policy developments will take shape depending on specific legislative processes. As fashion’s legislative landscape rapidly evolves, we must account for these differences while pushing for harmonisation and collaboration.
The ‘Unpacking Policy’ session highlights the power and necessity of collaborative discourse on the path to a net-positive fashion industry. Convening stakeholder groups across areas of diverse expertise will strengthen our collective mission to translate fashion’s global impact into a force for good.