€1m for ideas to 'close the fashion loop'

Sustainable fashion innovation gets €1m H&M fundingFive innovative ideas of how to close the fashion loop will share funding of €1 million (£726,000) as part of fashion retailer H&M’s first Global Change Award.

The award, launched on Tuesday (25 August), is looking for ‘great, disruptive ideas that can shape the future of how fashion is designed and produced, shipped, bought, used and recycled’ to contribute to a more sustainable fashion cycle.

According to H&M, circularity in fashion can be embraced in several ways including creating a circular supply chain with renewable or recyclable material, providing a sharing platform to drive up utilisation of products, extending product life through repairs, maintenance and donations, or offering product access rather than ownership, meaning it can be redistributed when finished with.

A jury made up of figures from the fashion industry specialising in design, publicity and sustainability will pick the five winning ideas, each receiving €100,000 (£73,000). The other half of the funding will then be distributed to the winners based on a public vote running for a week in February 2016.

In addition to the funding, the winners will have access to an ‘innovation accelerator’: a collaboration between consultancy Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. This, H&M says, will offer support and knowledge in making their ideas a reality, starting with a ‘boot camp’ at KTH Innovation, followed by a one-year training and coaching programme focusing on the circular economy with Accenture Strategy.

The award is being run by H&M’s Conscious Foundation, a branch of the Swedish fashion brand that aims to drive long-lasting positive change and improve living conditions by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas. Following the award, the foundation will not take any equity or intellectual property rights in the winning innovations.

Applications for the Global Change Award are now open, and will be received until 31 October. The five winning ideas will be revealed on 1 February 2016, prior to the week-long public vote, and the final funding totals will be announced at a ceremony in Stockholm on 10 February.

Sustainable fashion innovation gets €1m H&M fundingFashion industry looking to future trends to address sustainability

One of the award’s judges, Rebecca Earley, Professor in Sustainable Textile and Fashion Design and Director of the Textile Futures Research Centre at University of the Arts London, said: “The question for fashion is no longer ‘what is the new black?’ but rather ‘what innovative ideas can close the loop?’

“The Global Change Award is looking for ideas that will protect the earth’s natural resources, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Another judge, Vogue Italia Editor Franca Sozzani, added: "Today more than ever we have to look at protecting our natural resources: it's a fundamental commitment. It's even more than that for a company - it's a duty.

"Supporting innovation is vital. Innovation leads to possible solutions for a sustainable future."

Karl-Johan Persson, board member of the H&M Conscious Foundation and CEO of H&M, said:  “Ground-breaking, game-changing ideas can come from anywhere, so the challenge is open to anyone. Each year the Global Change Award aims to find the truly brave and bold ideas that make change.

“I’m also eager to see how the fashion industry as a whole will embrace the challenge of closing the loop.”

Sustainable fashion in the news

The sustainability of fashion has been in the news a lot this week, with H&M also announcing that it is to stock 16 new denim styles using cotton derived from used clothes brought back to its stores.

As part of the company’s Garment Collection Initiative, customers can bring unwanted clothes from any brand into stores for recycling. Since the start of the scheme in 2013, H&M says it has taken over 18,000 tonnes of used clothes back, and from September will be using material from them to create ranges of hoodies, jeans and shirts.

Sustainability campaigner Zero Waste Scotland has also started the search for two creative designers to fulfil a paid residency during which they will take used textiles and create fashion lines to promote the value of discarded clothing.

The role has been developed in partnership with the Salvation Army Trading Company, which receives around 30,000 tonnes of donated textiles each year at its charity shops and recycling banks throughout the UK.

Find out more about the H&M Conscious Foundation’s Global Change Award.

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