The hottest trend in fashion in the last 18 months has nothing to do with the latest It-bag or the must-have sandal seen on famous feet in Milan – it’s sustainability. In what is arguably the fashion industry’s most seismic shift since the advent of online shopping, brands and consumers are changing their behaviours to adapt to this brave new world.
Recognising the significance of this green revolution and the urgency required to implement its practices led Studio Graft to seek out a partnership with The Mills Fabrica. Based in both Hong Kong and London, The Mills Fabrica is a leading innovation platform that supports and accelerates start-ups revolutionising the techstyle (textiles and apparel) and agrifood industries for sustainability and social good. Joining forces with The Mills Fabrica will spark an exchange of ideas that will enable brands in the Studio Graft portfolio to better navigate the complex issues of sustainability, while simultaneously feeding real-life business lessons in the other direction.
“We feel we’re in a really good position because we can tap into the expertise of people at The Mills Fabrica while bringing knowledge of commerciality and marketing from our brands,” says Shaun Reynolds-Darwood, managing director at Studio Graft.
“We’re very aware that our clients are having conversations about sustainability so the timing of the partnership is serendipitous. We want to be educated so we can talk to our clients with the confidence and knowledge that we’re making the right decisions. It’s an exciting opportunity that makes sense for where Studio Graft is heading in the future.”
— Shaun Reynolds-Darwood, Managing Director
Studio Graft’s commercial director Gary Burnand agrees and shares Reynolds-Darwood’s excitement. “We love the world of fashion because it’s emotive and creative,” he says. “However, we need to be doing it in the right way, so to facilitate more people being on the right side of fashion is really exciting.”
So how will the partnership work? Reynolds-Darwood gives the example of Studio Graft’s client Valstar Milano, a luxury Italian menswear house founded in 1911 that’s famous for its Valstarino bomber jacket. “Valstar Milano is a brand that has the ability to pivot really quickly and try new things,” he says. “Within The Mills Fabrica’s ecosystem there are many innovators and start-ups, one of which for example makes packaging from seaweed. Wouldn’t it be cool to pack a Valstarino with that product and change the way they do things?”
Burnand believes The Mills Fabrica has a unique outlook on sustainability and how it relates to fashion. “They have the ears of the industry, from H&M Foundation to LVMH, and can talk in a common sense way,” he explains. “They’re speaking to incredible experts in the scientific world as well as some of the most powerful people in the clothing industry. The demand for clothing is only going to increase and we must find solutions, not only around recycling clothing but in sourcing raw materials in a more sustainable way and finding alternative thread. Generally speaking, the fashion industry is at stage one of learning about sustainability. Some people are concerned and educated and operating in an incredibly aware manner, others are in denial and doing nothing. The challenge is massive but The Mills Fabrica has the power to unite people and make a change.”
For Reynolds-Darwood, collaborating with The Mills Fabrica is evidence of a Studio Graft core pillar, which is to behave ethically with a moral obligation to future generations. “I have a young son and that changes how you look at the world because the decisions we make today affect their tomorrow,” he says. “At Studio Graft we’ve had many conversations about what we are trying to achieve ultimately. Now opportunities are coming along with brands that have the energy and desire to change their own worlds, and that’s so exciting. We’re going to learn something from The Mills Fabrica, digest it, and then pass it on to whoever wants to hear it. Hopefully we can make a difference.”