In this episode, Cory speaks with Amy Hall about her 28-year career with Eileen Fisher; social consciousness work including environmental sustainability, human rights, philanthropy and policy; her new consultancy Impactorum; fast fashion solutions; and what sustainability in fashion can look like.
We are covering the big picture of the apparel industry through our ongoing Impact of Fashion series in partnership with Dhana. Head over to the series page to learn more about the Rana Plaza disaster that brought the world’s attention to the abuse and danger garment workers face, conscious fashion, slow fashion, circular fashion, and how we can build sustainability and inclusivity into fashion.
In this episode, Cory speaks with Amy Hall about her 28-year career with Eileen Fisher; social consciousness work including environmental sustainability, human rights, philanthropy and policy; her new consultancy Impactorum; fast fashion solutions; and what sustainability in fashion can look like.
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Cory Ames 0:07
Hey y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation Podcast. Today very excited to welcome you to one of our first interviews as part of our impact of fashion series, where we're exploring the social, environmental and economic challenges facing the fashion industry. In partnership with our friends at Donna, and today, I'm very excited to be speaking with Amy Hall. And Amy has worked with or for the clothing designer Eileen Fisher, for nearly 30 years, where she launched their iconic social consciousness Department led the company through its B Corp certification, and played an instrumental role and shepherding the company's ambitious vision 2020 goals. Amy was previously the VP of social consciousness with Eileen Fisher. But now she splits her time between Eileen Fisher as a consultant. And now her own sustainability consultancy impact aura. And today I'm speaking with Amy about fast fashion, fashion, industry waste and consumption, and what sort of solutions exist right now, for a more sustainable future of fashion and apparel. A really wonderful conversation with Amy, I'm sure you'll enjoy it as I did myself. And if you want to keep up with the impact of fashion series, and as well our book in partnership with Donna to follow, then go ahead to grow ensemble.com backslash impact dash of Dash fashion where you can sign up to get notified whenever we release something new for this series, like these expert interviews or in depth blog posts, or more. Again, that's grow ensemble.com backslash impact dash of Dash fashion. Alright, show without further ado, here's Amy Hall from impact.
Well, Amy, I really appreciate you being here with me on the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, and specifically here for our series on the impact fashion. For folks who might not be familiar with you and your work. Could you briefly introduce yourself for us to get us caught up?
Amy Hall 2:47
Absolutely, I'd be happy to. And thanks for having me. I am Amy Hall, I have been with the company, the women's apparel company, Eileen Fisher for 28 years hard for me to say that actually, where I started and then developed and ran, what we ended up calling our social consciousness work over the years and most recently, I was the vice president of social consciousness, I'm now a consultant to the to the team and to the company around social consciousness efforts. And that encompasses environmental sustainability, human rights, or philanthropy or policy work, all that good stuff that the company is known for now.
Cory Ames 3:32
And the consultancy that you run now, would you mind sharing what that is? Exactly?
Amy Hall 3:38
Okay, yeah, about a year ago, I founded my own consulting firm called Impact forum. And it has settled into a place for individuals who are trying to have more impact in their work, usually around environmental or social issues, too, who need a thinking partner, somebody who helped to help them with their strategy with their, with their efforts to have more influence inside their companies, or who are looking to make a career change and get into this work. Those are the kinds of people I work with.
Cory Ames 4:09
Excellent. Well, and that I'd love to start, Amy, I guess what the maybe one of the most significant points, you mentioned there 28 years that you had been working with, with Eileen Fisher in the space of fashion. First off, I mean, like, what is that? Like? What does that feel like to be nearing three decades in the industry? How does that feel for you?
Amy Hall 4:33
Oh, my gosh, three decades I've never actually heard that phrase put together related to my work. I Well, first of all, it was never my plan. My intention to stay with any company this long. I originally went to the company thinking would be a nice two to four year stint, and then I'd be off to something else. And the amazing thing about Eileen Fisher is it is such a wonderful company to work for and there's so much opportunity for creativity, for innovation for what we like to describe as intrapreneurship. So it's kind of having that entrepreneurial spirit inside the company. And Eileen takes such great care of the employees and really cares about every single person's ability to flourish and thrive inside the company. And who can argue with that as a place to work. So that ended up being, you know, a huge part of why I stayed with the company for so long, because I just felt like, there were so many opportunities to contribute, and to grow personally there. So
Cory Ames 5:41
I mean, I think a lot of folks would agree with that, and make sense that the the two to four year estimation turned out to be a bit longer certainly makes sense. But with such time in the industry of fashion and and working with and alongside the folks at Eileen Fisher have largely thanks to you, you've kind of set the the definition for sustainability in the industry of fashion, I'd be curious if you could share with us a bit more as to that not necessarily what the definition might be, according to Eileen Fisher, as a company, but to you, you know, as an expert, what does sustainability in fashion look like? Now? Just because it's so broad? Not necessarily define? I'm curious to hear your thoughts
Amy Hall 6:27
on that. It's a really good question. I think the word sustainability continues to evolve and how we use it. As a society. And as an industry, I think when most people use the word sustainability or sustainable, related to fashion, they're talking about the lowest possible environmental impact, and the greatest amount of social value added are embedded into the product. So is that actually sustainability? I don't think so personally, because for me, sustainability implies something that can continue to, to live in balance, and continue to live on and balance with its surroundings. And if the apparel industry continues to do what it's doing now, we're not in balance with our surroundings and with the planet and is not sustainable. So I think the way we use the word sustainability is not actually in line with what I think sustainability means in, you know, the truest definition.
Cory Ames 7:29
It seems to be a bit of a balance between, you know, found this in conversations with folks spanning all different experience in different industries. There's some tension around the word sustainability and how it can be used, it's very commonly used. And so there's a tendency to want to kind of grasp it and make a good effort to define it for what it actually could and should look like. And then there's a tendency to want to move on to other definitions entirely, or kind of new words entirely, I'd be interested to hear Do you fall either way on that spectrum,
Amy Hall 8:06
both as a brand and out in the world, we are starting to see the word and use the word regenerative quite a lot these days, it started to come out as a popular word about two years ago with the realization that regenerative agricultural practices have can have a tremendous positive impact on the planet. And so this idea of regeneration, I think, to most people would imply or suggest that we are moving beyond just simply sustainable or maintaining, but actually replenishing and restoring the earth, and also, you know, human practices. That said, it's a little dicey, because I can't think of any company that's actually there yet. And so if any of us make claims that we are regenerative, I think that's that. So this issue of language is it's very dicey. I know somebody who is actually doing a long standing research project on these kinds of words, and how different industries use them words related to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. And I think, you know, it's, it is part of how we are as human beings, this idea of living language, language continues to evolve. And so we're experiencing it right now as we live and speak, you know, in the apparel industry, so who knows, in another few years, what the hot word will be.
Cory Ames 9:34
Right? It is that balance of like, meeting people where they're at, it seems if people are interested in this concept of sustainability, and it's perhaps more commonly used, you know, to encourage that and then, within that definition, maybe work to new ones are new evolutions of the language. But if you you could for us, you're mentioning what's currently happening in the apparel industry is something that isn't sustainable by any understanding have the word. Can you explain more about that to us? So we're kind of innocence on a shared ground?
Amy Hall 10:08
Right? Well, you know, to be truly sustainable, we would be only making what people need. And discarding those items at the end of their useful life in a way that doesn't negatively impact the planet. In other words, in a way that they're allows the product to decompose. Or even better to actually nourish the earth and maybe provide, you know, seed or, or nutrition for something new to grow. Obviously, we're not doing that we are making hundreds of times more clothing than than the planet needs. How many of us have closets full of clothing? To the point where when we're shopping, we can't remember oh, gosh, do I already have? How many? How many white tissue T shirts do I already have? Do I need another one? So this one a little bit different than the ones I already have? How many T shirts do we actually need? How many pairs of jeans? How many of anything do we really need? You know, there's seven days in a week, and many of us are constantly cleaning our clothes out, because we just don't have room for everything that we're accumulating. So where's that clothing going? Many of us will donate it to what we think is a good cause such as a goodwill, or, you know, a charity of that sort. And what do they do with it, they sort it, they sell some of it, but a vast majority of it gets offloaded to jobbers who will ship it off, or they'll break it down and turn it into insulation or stuffing for something. And there's just heaps and heaps of clothing in the landfill and textile waste. So we're just making more than than we possibly can use as a society. And it isn't one person's fault. It's not consumers fault. It's not the industry's fault. It's everybody's collective problem we are as consumers, we're always attracted by the shiny object, you know, something new, something different. And as companies, we're bound by that original, you know, that corporate manifesto to make as much money as possible, constantly growing, constantly adding and innovating. And this just doesn't work. That is not a recipe for balance, planetary balance or sustainability.
Cory Ames 12:21
I definitely would would agree. And I'm curious, you know, you mentioned there, of course, there's not really one area of accountability so much, and it's probably not too healthy to point fingers. But I'd be curious, in your opinion, what conditions maybe more so you mentioned a few there have created the current circumstance that we're in, in the the apparel industry?
Amy Hall 12:45
Well, I would say there a couple things. One is, if you think back to, I think it was around the 1950s when this idea of ready to wear started to really ramp up and and, you know, clothing, you could go into a store or not have to have things custom measured, custom made. But you could buy it off the rack, it would basically fit you. And once that started to happen, brands started to realize, oh, well, we have to keep offering something new for that person to come in. So then there were these, you know, monthly or seasonal updates to what they were putting out and it just became a snowball that that wouldn't stop right it got bigger and bigger and bigger. And then you amplify that with the way our economic system works. And companies needing to reflect quarterly profits on their, you know, bottom line for their shareholders. And so that doesn't help and the advent of plastic and nylon and and all materials that are dependent on non renewable resources such as oil, those while really easy to take care of it really great for a wicking moisture. If you're an athlete, they don't do really well when you throw them away. Because plastic in all its original forms. Most people would say most scientists would say all plastic that's ever been created to date is still with us on this planet. You just can't get rid of it. So there are so materials have become very problematic. And one might say oh well for example, I'm wearing a cotton button down shirt. That should be good that's made out of natural fibers. The problem is there's a little bit of spandex mixed in here in order to give it the kind of give a lot of blue jeans these days now have spandex all of our exercise where our underwear etc. Spend X is made out of a, you know, a non renewable resource. So what as soon as we blend anything like that into our natural fibers, it becomes nearly impossible to to discard or to upcycle responsibly. So it's a combination of materials and our economic system and this insatiable desire for money constant new that our consumer landscape has has presented to us that's making it worse.
Cory Ames 15:08
I think the term here that's become quite popular to describe that exact sensation, there's fast fashion, you know, if if folks might be familiar with that. And I'm wondering, then, in your opinion, Amy, do you feel like, because fashion is not alone as an industry in creating waste in one way or another, and not creating perhaps the social value that it could? Do you think there are there's something unique to the apparel industry in its relationship to consumption in ways that maybe other industries don't have? Like, are there unique challenges that we're facing in the industry of fashion?
Amy Hall 15:51
First of all, I think you're absolutely right there, every industry practically that you can imagine, especially consumer products, is at fault in some way. I look at my, my mobile phone, and I think about all the precious metals that were mined, to make this right, and our computers, etc. But what's perhaps different about fashion is that it's so inexpensive. And you know, it's possible to go down to your local store, whatever store it is, and buy a t shirt for five, eight $10 These days, is that the actual cost of that shirt? I would argue, no, because whenever something is very cheap, the cost has to come from somewhere. And in many cases, it's often from the labor. So if you, you know, are the kind of person who might like to shop sales, or might like to shop, other kinds of bargains, and then, you know, do what they'll call a haul these days, you know, there's a whole trend about hauling. So you come home with shopping bags full of clothing, and look how cheap I got this for? Well, where did that money actually come from? There's it's not cheap. It's not inexpensive to the person who made it, or perhaps to the, in the sense of how that how the original materials were sourced. So anyway, there's a cost that is hidden to consumers. And we forget about that. And it's just too easy to get this clothing for practically nothing. And I think that perhaps is unique to our industry.
Cory Ames 17:23
And I guess what, what is that relationship to say more about that particular point, the relationship between brands and consumers in the realms of consumption and waste? Like where do you see each are kind of falling on the spectrum of things right now and consumers and perhaps, you know, their perceptions of, of we waste in creating waste and over consuming, and their brand, the brands is understanding of the impact of their
Amy Hall 17:54
operations. I think that brands are beginning to understand the impact. Understanding is certainly the first step, it will take a long time for the for most of the brands, especially the bigger ones, to be able to turn their practices around, to the extent where real meaningful change happens. I'm just thinking, if I can come up with a good example, without naming a brand, you know, there are more and more, I would say bold and aggressive targets being set sustainability targets being set by brands. And I think that indicates that there's an awareness and an intention to to do the right thing. But until we collectively, actually pare down and pare back the volume of clothing we're making, I really don't see how we can actually make a dent in your impact
Cory Ames 18:57
collectively, into the volume of clothes that we're producing.
Amy Hall 19:02
Yeah, so we have to really ask ourselves, how much is too much? How big of a brand or company do I really need to be? Is it possible, even for me, as a brand to continue to grow exponentially? Most social scientists would say that's it's impossible to continue to grow exponentially. And so can we rethink how we approach what it means to dress consumers? And what it means to be a successful business? How are we measuring success? Is it only by you know, dollar, dollar figures? Can there be can there be other measures put in place? These are kind of big, philosophical questions that won't be answered anytime soon. But those are the kinds of things that we have to get into if we really want to see something change.
Cory Ames 19:52
And we'll, I mean, even a bit philosophical and might not be answered here. I'd love to explore them a bit more later on and conversation. But do you see that the the, his level of consumption or waste, as it relates to the industry is something that's in no need to name any names explicitly, but is it something that has happened from there's a lot of waste being created by a few very large players? Or is there a moderate in, you know, still a moderate amount of waste created by so many players in industries and brands? Or is there some sort of concentration? Or is it is it quite spread about or maybe both?
Amy Hall 20:36
No, I would say that as a purely, you know, broad generalization would be, the bigger the brand, and the cheaper the clothing, the more waste it's likely to generate, because they're making more stuff, they're selling more stuff, consumers are getting it and valuing it less. So they're likely holding on to it for less time, and throwing it away sooner than if they had spent more money on fewer items. And, and really treasured those items and took care of them. The way you would take care of a really nice pair of Gucci shoes or something, you know, you wouldn't just buy them and discard them in six months, you would hold on to them for probably your entire lifetime. So I feel like we've lost that, you know, when when our grandparents were young, and their parents and grandparents, people did buy, you know, just a few items, and they really treasured them. And they handed them down and they repair them and they made them last as long as possible. We've completely gone away from that as a society. I feel like that was nobody called it sustainability back then. But that was a very important aspect of sustainability that we've lost.
Cory Ames 21:47
Yeah, that sense of treasuring a few particular items. I mean, it for folks who are watching this on video, I mean, like my Patagonia sweater here, if, if anything happens to this, I'm excited to send it back to Patagonia for it to be repaired, you know, or re stitched, whatever needs to happen. I'm looking forward to getting it back. You know if anything ever happens to it at some point. But what do you think Amy has happened in the timespan of this pandemic pandemic has that shifted a sim maybe as an industry in fashion, focusing more on sustainability, less or somewhere in between?
Amy Hall 22:30
I have been this is purely anecdotal. But I feel like I have noticed more small entrepreneurial apparel businesses sprouting up that have the sustainability intention baked in to their brand right from the start. I think young people in particular today, but really everybody are becoming increasingly fed up with the status quo, and what has become kind of this, you know, moving sidewalk, something that you can't get off of, I can't think of the word
Cory Ames 23:02
Amy Hall 23:06
of clothing and fashion, and they're looking for a better way and the pandemic because so many people either lost their jobs or their their jobs were reduced, had the opportunity had the time to just dabble in something new, something that was more meaningful to them. And I just keep seeing, you know, new small brands popping up and what they're committing to from the beginning is really exciting, you know, quote, unquote, sustainable fibers, however, you want to define that low carbon impact living wages, values that a large company that may not have been committed to those values earlier on, it's really hard for large company to kind of turn, you know, shift its ways midstream, but to start smaller companies from the ground up, like that is really exciting. So I hope
Cory Ames 24:01
well, I'd be interested to get into that thread of hope a bit more here. I mean, we've talked about very vaguely in generally, you know, what, what are some of these qualities and characteristics and even like cultural shifts that need to take place for the industry, and as well, our relationship to fashion and our clothes to perhaps be more sustainable. I'm curious, where do you think there are some tipping points, perhaps some leverage points? I mean, for one, the entrepreneurial nature of these, these small apparel brands coming in? That's something very exciting. Where do you see, especially in the context of being hopeful, some of these points that you're you're very excited about in shifting the business of fashion or relationship too close to something that is truly more sustainable?
Amy Hall 24:53
Well, on the consumer level, I do see more, more websites, more sales. A media committed to educating people bringing people together around shared values. I've just seen a lot more of that sprouting up. And so I feel like there's, you know, there's a kind of a slow fashion movement starting to happen among consumers, younger consumers in particular, in terms of the industry, there's definitely there are definitely some home some commitments to made in the USA that are that are sprouting up. And that implies and suggests kind of the slow fashion movement, because made in the USA usually means smaller facilities, maybe even sort of artists artisanal efforts. And it often is combined with growing a fiber in the area. So kind of a regional approach, growing the fiber and knitting it or making it into something right there. There seemed to be more of that happening. There are also some more, you know, the rise of what I would describe as kind of made to order or On Demand efforts, both at the manufacturing level and at the direct to consumer level. So a couple of years ago, I wasn't so sure that that was a viable direction. But there's a lot happening in that space right now. So people are, are really thinking about how can I still get great clothes, fashionable, trendy clothes, but not contribute to this ocean of waste that we're seeing? And there's some really wonderful examples of that popping up these two.
Cory Ames 26:38
Could you say more about that, in particular, like why what what's changed in the last few years that has made the concept of on demand, purchasing and an acquisition or closed more viable?
Amy Hall 26:50
I mean, I think it's all this, it's just this rising awareness that we are running out of space on this planet, and we're running out of time, but general awareness, the consumer level of climate change, and the dangers of that presents us are really quite stark, and people are willing now to try anything to try to counteract what they see as perhaps inevitable in the next 10 or 2020 years. So, you know, there's a lot happening, do you want a couple of examples of what I've just learned about?
Cory Ames 27:25
That would be wonderful, please.
Amy Hall 27:28
Just actually, I think it was just yesterday, I discovered a brand new brand, it's only been out for less than a year. It's called Ron de veau. The French word Randy VO, the label. And it is a small, US based, and US designed and manufactured brand. That takes pre orders. So they'll have you know, a certain number of styles available. And they'll ask their customers ahead of time who wants each of these. And they'll just make enough for for those for those orders, which I think is really, really lovely. There's a manufacturer that is it's sort of a hub for brands like we don't use them, but it would be brands like Eileen Fisher or others, that that works with factories around the world. But that can deliver me to order also. And it's called nimbly. And I think the website is nimbly made.com. They're based in California, but they work on a global scale, to make Made to Order possible for brands that want to make to order so it doesn't just have to happen on the customer level. There's a menswear made to order custom custom made clothing called J Hilburn and Levi's makes custom jeans. And h&m is now playing around with this machine in one of its Swedish stores. That will take I think it's mostly polyester, I'm not positive, but knitted tops that you might bring into h&m that you no longer want to wear, and they'll deconstruct it, and mash it up and extrude new yarn and knit it into a new top for you within a matter of hours. So it's a new top made from your old clothing, which is really cool. Whether that can be you know, scaled, it has yet to be seen, but it's it's definitely an intriguing prototype. And when that I think a lot of us are watching.
Cory Ames 29:20
I think the mean what we believe and think about the concept of scale, perhaps on the entrepreneurial side or the business side of things need to shift a bit again, I touching back earlier, even to your point of how big is big enough for business, of course, the level of some brands, some of these multinational brands is completely different than a small fashion startup. But I'd be curious to hear Amy in your relationship perhaps if you're advising a small startup fashion brand with impact forum, where would you have them focus first in the concept of if they were wanting to to build a brand that was is truly sustainable from start to finish. Where is the greatest amount of waste in the process? In materials? You know, whatever it might be, where do you recommend that they start?
Amy Hall 30:12
So I think it's pretty universally known or accepted that the greatest impact, whether it's environmental or social, is in the product for sure. So I say this because one of my personal pet peeves has been over the years, brands that will focus on their packaging, or focus on their transportation. While important, it's not where the core, you know, meat have their impact is and so and of course, where the actual impact is, is also the hardest thing to change. So I understand why you know why brands might start elsewhere. But if you really want to get into it, you have to start with your with your product, and it starts with, where are the fibers of the materials coming from? If they're coming from a farm? What are the practices being used on that farm? Are the organic or the regenerative to use that word again? Do they contribute to restoring the ecosystem? How are they treating the animals if it's an animal derived fiber, like wool, or cashmere or something like that? And then what are the practices, what are the inputs along the way, so how much water is used on the farm level, but also, as it's being turned into the fibers being turned into yarn, and then fabric, there is dye, you know, that that is added along the way there are finishes. So each of these processes has has impacts that need to be addressed. But you know, start with one place, start with one fibers, one material, etc. and really focus and you know, you can't do everything, even a big brand can't do everything. So focus on maybe the biggest volume fiber and try to make a change there. And then once you've made that change, and you've been able to have that impact, think about the design, also, because waste happens in how a pattern is laid out how much waste is left at the edges, and think about end of use. So when that item is stopped being worn? Can it be? Will it How long will it last? Is there a second life, you know, possible for that item? And if not, can it be turned into something else? And ultimately, when it finally does go to the land, because it's going to get thrown away one day? Will that material be compostable? For me that's really important. So even if something is made out of a polyester that can get recycled and recycled and recycled, one day, it's going to wear out, it's going to end up in the landfill. And that polyester is still going to be sitting there 500 years later.
Cory Ames 32:48
Really taking accountability for the entire lifecycle of the product seems to be incredibly important to truly fall under this working definition of sustainability. In fashion. I'm wondering, what do you really hope to see from fashion brands moving forward, you provided some really exceptional examples of some of the on demand work kind of the custom made preorder work being done for looking at the industry of fashion and thinking about brands, you know, of like what what are some things that you are hoping to see in the future of fashion?
Amy Hall 33:27
Well, what I hope to see is probably not a realistic vision. I really hope that that we can get beyond this idea of bigger and more sales is better. That's a place to start. So you know, really breaking open our economic model and and rethinking just purely, you know, on what are we basing our business success. But after that, I really hope that we can get to a place where the materials we're using are truly, not only do they last a long time, but that they are able to be returned to the earth in a safe manner. And that all the people involved in all stages of the production are paid a living wage, a wage that allows them to have choices in their life, and not to be stuck to this machine for the rest of their lives because they don't have enough money to pursue education or to save for their child's education or anything like that. So you know, when we talk about sustainability, it includes the people. And I think that they often are forgotten. And they're not expendable, because they're the future of this planet. In fact, we're doing this work the sustainability work on behalf of people so that people have a future on this planet. We have to keep them safe, wherever they are.
Cory Ames 35:07
Hey y'all Cory here super quickly. Before we finish up today's chat with some rapid fire questions, I want to briefly tell you about our Better World Business Growth programs as it's our mission here at grow ensemble to promote and highlight the exceptional work of social entrepreneurs. We want to use these Better World Business Growth programs to do more of the same. So if you are a change maker or leader in this space of sustainable and socially responsible business, and you want to build an audience of customers and advocates around your brand and mission to help drive forward your purpose, profits, and ultimately sustainable and healthy business growth. And I want to invite you to head to grow ensembl.com backslash B WB to check out some of our free trainings and resources as well as our newest program, the roadmap builder program that we've just opened up a few slots for where our team does a complete audit on your online performance and ultimately uses that and your goals and objectives to build your complete growth and marketing strategy for the next six to 12 months. So again, that is grow ensemble.com backslash B WB to check out our Better World Business Growth programs. Alright, let's get back to the episode.
Well, Amy, even though you might think that vision of the future of fashion is a bit unrealistic, I have to maybe prod a little bit if we had a magic wand. And speaking specifically to at least what I feel is maybe the most daunting and kind of overwhelming section, which is breaking open the economic model for fashion as a business. I'd be curious to hear. How do you think that changes? Like where are the points for that, to really readjust? Is it you know, purely on the industry itself? You know, what, what accountability, responsibility can can consumers take, you know, as we purchase governments regulations, or what have you?
Amy Hall 37:22
Yeah, bingo. So I'm thinking it's a combination of economic change and policy. And until we really, you know, I hate to use that phrase, but it's true until we really level the playing field. So that, and we're asking all brands to meet certain stipulations. You know, right now, there's a big conversation around transparency, how can we not just ask brands to voluntarily disclose where their product is made? And a lot of the other attributes about their product, right now, it's all voluntary? What can we require brands to do? What can we require brands to do around the wages they're paying, or that they're responsible for ultimately, in the supply chain, you know, they may not be directly paying the wages into their suppliers, but they hold the money, you know, the purse strings, ultimately, what can we require brands to do around how they're sourcing their fibers and the materials. And if they're not sourcing materials that are considered to be the very best for this planet, then they should be responsible in some other way. They should pay for what we would describe as their ex those externalities. What will it cost the planet to take those fibers back? What will it cost to pay for the pollution that was embedded in the production of that fiber, etc, the chemistry. So I think that there are, you know, it's a bit of a carrot and a stick approach. reward companies that do really well have the companies that aren't performing and aren't living up to their agreement to, you know, to take up the slack and pay for it. That includes a rethinking of our agricultural system, because right now, there's no incentive for farmers, at least in this country. And I'd say in most countries around the world to shift to organic or regenerative practices, the all the, you know, the farming subsidies go to those big, big industrial farms that produce corn and soy and wheat. But what about the mom and pop farm that wants to make grow cotton or flax or raise, you know, humanely raised sheep for fur wool? So there should be a way to recognize the slow farming movement? I am not sure that that's a thing but I'm just saying slow farming, why not? Let's let's start using it and reintroduce that as the basis for the future of our of our clothing economy. I think that would be really worthwhile. Consumers do need to play a part we need to see On How To Break ourselves of this habit, it's kind of like going on a diet. You know, we have some discipline, I just talked the other day, I was talking to my 18 year old daughter, and she has, unfortunately, she likes to shop. And I just said to her the other day, you know, every time you go to the mall, or you look on the website for a new clothes, you know, new item, you are, you know, adding to your personal impact your environmental impact on this planet, you know, I know, but I don't have enough money to save to buy one really good thing, these things are so affordable, this her answer to me. So I understand the temptation. And maybe out in social media, on TV in the movies, we can start applauding people who are reusing and making their their wardrobes last a long time, if we start looking up to those kinds of celebrities, and looking down at the ones that are buying something new every every time they turn around, there might be able to be a shift a little bit of a shift in the culture, I don't know, it's just a thought.
Cory Ames 41:05
Well, I mean, I totally agree with you that there's so many working components here, you know, from what sort of regulation can be enacted to where there are some brands who might consider to kind of step out and lead on these these important issues in shifts in the the paradigm around clothing and fashion, as well, as you know, our own kind of level of consumer education that we, you know, can determine to do sometimes it feels like it's a lot of work, to understand, you know, one even buying this sweater to bring it up again, from Patagonia, there's so many different materials in it, you know, and to know the exact extent of their own impact, there is a balance of trusting some certifications or brands, you know, to see that they've done the due diligence for us. But from the consumer side, have you noticed, from your perspective, anything different among the demographics of folks who are on board with with this this movement of more sustainable fashion? Is it spread out across all generations or demographics? But where are you seeing the concentrations of folks who are most in alignment with this vision,
Amy Hall 42:14
I think that it is spread out for sure. There are certainly plenty of people of my generation, for example, who care a great deal but the statistics will tell us that it's the younger generations that are really a really kind of carrying the flag for for this change that we need to see happen. I was there's a website and Instagram personality that I like to check in with every so often it's called in, I don't know how to pronounce it, actually, it's Inspiro I am SPI roue. And it's a young woman who talks frankly and openly to her followers about why she's decided to to buy from this brand, or why she's decided never again to buy from this brand because of these different sustainability attributes that she's learning about. And I love her honesty, but my point about this is she has 50,000 followers, and she creates her own, you know, short videos and, and photographs, etc. And so she's sort of single handedly educating a kind of a new group or, you know, set of young people who are interested in in doing better with their consumerism. And I think she's just, you know, one example of many that are starting to really take hold. And that gives me a lot of hope.
Cory Ames 43:37
Well, I appreciate that. And it's quite significant, I guess, to acknowledge the impact of all these different like micro platforms that exist now, with social media, followings, YouTube channels, podcasts like this, and blogs, like so many people have access to a small, very significant sized microphone, you know, man, I think folks who find themselves in that position, you know, as we really like to hear it grow ensemble, it's important to accept, I guess, the, the opportunity that comes with that, that the great as well responsibility. So I think that's a very interesting phenomenon.
Amy Hall 44:16
You know, what I noticed recently, if you ever watched Shark Tank, over the years, I have noticed I don't watch it regularly. But every so often, I'll tune in and watch an episode here and there. And I noticed that the more recent episodes, the last couple of years, they have really started to applaud the entrepreneurs that come in with some kind of an interesting innovation that is in some way, quote, unquote, sustainable. You know, it used to be in the old days, how much money can you make, how much money will this make me if I invest in you, and now it's actually we don't need any more of those kinds of widgets because that is not sustainable. Or we don't need that kind of cupcake anymore because we don't need any more, you know, high fat calories out in our society. So they're actually thinking I think with a broader set of values than they used to, and I feel like that's, that's also an indicator. And that's a mainstream kind of, you know, TV show that we can take some cues from,
Cory Ames 45:14
certainly. And I think it's thinking about, like, what comes first, the chicken or the egg, you know, is that consumer trends or vice versa, just kind of an evolution of the consciousness of the area of business and entrepreneurship. I'm not sure exactly which one, but I'm excited for, you know, all of them to continue to move at an accelerating pace, in that direction. But, Amy, I really appreciate you taking the time with me here today. Before we wrap up mine if I ask you a couple quick questions. So first, I'm wondering, what's maybe another resource, be it a book, film or otherwise, that you might recommend to folks who listening would be interested to dive deeper into the topic of sustainability
Amy Hall 46:01
in fashion, sustainability and fashion. In particular, I have a book that I'm reading right now, sorry, while I walk away. It's called loves loved clothes last by orsola de Castro, she's a really wonderful spokesperson on on the topic of sustainable apparel. And it really talks about how important it is to keep our clothes as long as possible and to repair them and love them. And treasure them, as we said in the very beginning of this conversation. So I recommend this book.
Cory Ames 46:32
Hmm, lovely, well, and then maybe kind of picking up off that a little bit who you made mention of a few brands, but who are are maybe some individuals or other brands or organizations that you think are really kind of setting the standard for for the future of fashion and its relationship to more sustainable consumption that you think are are deserving of a plug here.
Amy Hall 46:57
Well, you know, you're wearing one right there, Patagonia, for sure. They always get the shout outs and we love Patagonia and Eileen Fisher. There are lots of smaller brands that are making a huge efforts, Mara Hoffman is one, they didn't start out with a sustainability commitment. And they have really done everything they can to turn their company around. All birds, I love all birds, I love reformation. There are a lot of innovators out there. So they're working on fiber innovation. So whether it's turning old, you know, post consumer clothing into new fiber, or post industrial fiber into new fiber. So there's ever new, there's manga materials weren't again, there are many, many, many innovators out there working on this on this effort. So too many to name here. And I think that in the next couple of years, we will start to see these products on the market. And it will give us as consumers many more options to be responsible.
Cory Ames 48:00
And well, we'll be looking forward to this very last one for you, Amy, what's maybe one last piece of parting advice that you might give to our listeners, folks who are active or aspiring social entrepreneurs and changemakers?
Amy Hall 48:17
Well, people who are aspiring social entrepreneurs, I would say, follow your heart, your heart knows what is right. And if you follow your heart, you will find a way to make a living and to do something that will benefit the planet or benefit human beings and you will be happier for it. And so will the rest of us. So that's my advice.
Cory Ames 48:43
Wonderful advice for us to end on. Amy, thank you so much for taking the time. We'll have everything linked up at the show post at girl ensemble.com Thank you.
Amy Hall 48:53
Thank you so much, Cory.
Cory Ames 48:55
Okay, that is a wrap another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast in the books. I hope you enjoyed it. As always your host your Cory Ames. I always really enjoy knowing that you're you're out there and listen to this episode engaging with the content, perhaps the folks that we featured doing this exceptional work in the world. If you enjoyed the show, and you haven't already, please leave us a review wherever it is that you get your podcasts and hit the subscribe button if you haven't already that really helps other folks like yourself discover the show. And lastly, if you have not yet sign up for the better world weekly newsletter this is our weekly discussion of building a better world with our global community of changemakers and innovators from all sectors in all walks of life. So go to grow ensemble.com backslash newsletter to get the next Better World weekly in your inbox. Alright y'all, we'll talk next time.
Founder, President, Advisor
Amy Hall offers over 25 years of sustainability and CSR (corporate social responsibility) experience. Frequently recognized as a sustainability pioneer, Amy launched and built EILEEN FISHER’s Social Consciousness practice, led the company through its B Corporation certification, and played an instrumental role in shepherding the company’s ambitious Vision2020 goals of reducing their carbon impact and switching to renewable materials. She is considered a leader in the global sustainable apparel and conscious business movements.
Throughout her career, Amy has coached numerous aspiring and established sustainability professionals, from recent college graduates to mid-career transitions. She has advised businesses small and large on impact strategy, circular economy, supply chain human rights, and sustainable workplace practices. Amy is also a sought-after public speaker and educator.
She currently splits her time between EILEEN FISHER and her sustainability consultancy, Impactorum LLC, where she hosts two webcasts: “Impact Matters” and “Careers With Impact.” In her spare time, she enjoys exploring New York’s Hudson Valley by kayak or on her self-built bamboo bicycle.