When Fay and I launched The Tote Project in 2014, it was challenging to find sustainable fashion brands to shop from, but thankfully, in this information age, word travels fast. Now, only four short years later, consumers are educated and demanding transparency; they don't want the clothes they wear to come at a deadly cost for people or the planet. The shift in demand has never been more clear to me than last month at REMODE -- a 2-day conference focused on sustainability in the fashion industry. This innovative, inaugural gathering tackled the topic from every angle - manufacturing, supply chains, finance, technology and marketing. My, how things have changed. Not too long ago I'd notice eyes glazing over when (and if!) ethical fashion was ever brought up, so I can't take it for granted that I got to spend 48 hours focusing on making an ethical impact in the fashion industry with some of the world's biggest brands and thought leaders. Not to mention, I had the privilege of making new friends from all over the world who share my mission of taking ethical fashion from a niche to a norm.
People typically attend conferences for two main reasons: to learn and to network. Both came naturally at REMODE thanks to how it was facilitated and the earnestness of everyone involved. Pretty impressive for a first time event. I used the custom REMODE app to network ahead of time -- I was asked to enter my areas of interest and professional goals, and got matched up with potential connections that I could swipe right or left on. Tinder took off after I was already married, so this whole swiping thing was a bit of a novelty for me. It made networking a little more fun and helped me figure out who I wanted to schedule meetings with. This same technology also matched us for dinner the first night, and I had the most lovely evening mingling at Everson Royce Bar with old and new friends. Turns out AI can make pretty good predictions about who I'd hit it off with. We're living in the future guys.
As effortless as it was to network at REMODE, it was equally painless to soak up new information and learn. I was a unique attendee because I was there to both cover the event as press, and make connections for The Tote Project. On the social enterprise side of things, I really enjoyed learning from Soko CEO Joanne Calabrese about their strategy of using mobile phones to connect with the women who make their jewelry. Soko uses cell phones to send mobile payments and purchase orders...even instructional videos for new products! This is a system we would love to build at The Tote Project as we work with more and more artisans around the world. I also got great advice on making strategic partnerships that elevate our brand, and how to navigate relationships with large retail stores. There's nothing like getting advice from people who have been there.
From an editorial perspective, as a writer I really benefited from attending REMODE. I found fantastic #forgood brands to feature on my site (I'm looking at you Taylor + Thomas and Triarchy) and connected with people I've interviewed over the phone but never met in person before. One of the very first articles I ever wrote was about VEERAH shoes, and I actually squealed when I saw their CEO Stacey Chang walking ahead of me. It was lovely to finally meet her and discuss what's next for their impressive vegan shoe company. Spoiler alert -- they're working on a line of stylish flats! Yay! I also loved hearing from heavy hitters like Allbirds, Everlane, MAISON DE MODE, alice + olivia and Whitney Port.
For me, the perfect way to sum up the conference is with a story from the closing ceremony. As my friend and Mochni founder Antonia Böhlke and I walked through the crowd looking for glasses of champagne, this beautiful indigo patterned jacket caught my eye. The person wearing it had her back to me, so I grabbed the arm of the coat and still admiring the design asked, "This is SUCH a stunning piece, where did you get this?" A voice answered, "It's from my collection." I looked up and discovered that I randomly grabbed Rosario Dawson. I prefer to leave celebrities alone and let them have their privacy, so I felt a little awkward, and tried to recover by asking her more about the jacket. She surprised Antonia and I by giving us both huge hugs and warmly telling us about her sustainable brand Studio One Eighty Nine. More to come on their stunning West Africa x NYC designs sometime soon.
I share this to say that at REMODE there was no pretense of separation between speakers and attendees. Everyone ate together, sat together and chatted with each other. They made everyone feel equal, because we are all in this ethical fashion journey together, and we can only make a difference together, if we all do our part.
REMODE 2019 has already been announced and is taking place on October 29-30th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Save the date and keep an eye out for discounted early-bird tickets! Here are three subjects I'd love to learn about next year:
1.) Microplastics -- It would be great to have Patagonia, Everlane and a marine biologist in conversation. Let's hear from all sides on this debated, crucial issue. I think microplastics will be the biggest topic to address in sustainable fashion next year, especially after this study was released this week.
2.) Garment workers -- I'd love to hear from a whole panel of union members, sewers, pattern makers etc. Let's meet the people who make our clothes here in Los Angeles!
3.) Give back brands - I'd specifically love to hear from a successful brand on which giving strategies were effective and which weren't. How can we replicate the effective strategies?
What would you love to learn about at REMODE 2019? Let me know in the comments below! See you there xx