Town hall event explores fairer fashion at GCU New York

23 July 2014

GCU NY Vice-President Cara Smyth and the panel

GCU NY Vice-President Cara Smyth and the panel

Fresh perspectives on labour and supply chains in the fashion industry were explored at the latest Town Hall event at GCU New York.

Cara Chacon, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility at outdoor-clothing brand Patagonia, joined Kevin Cassidy, Communications and External Relations Officer at the UN’s International Labor Organisation, and Scott Mackinlay Hahn, Founding Partner of eco-luxe label Loomstate and Rogan, in the latest in the Fashion Sharing Progress series on Monday July 21.

The panel was moderated by fashion consultant and environmental campaigner Julie Gilhart.

The panel discussed transparency, collaboration, raising awareness of sustainable fashion, the future of the labour market and the challenges of monitoring conditions in factories producing their goods around the world.

Cara Chacon discussed how new technology introduced by Labor Link, a service that uses mobile phone surveys to collect information directly from factory and farm workers around the world, allows workers to speak openly about  working hours, child labour and safety conditions away from the shop floor.

She said: “You get good, real data that helps you understand the happiness level of the factory. It is a way of empowering the workers and helps us understand their needs. An interesting result was that our factory workers just needed raincoats in monsoon season so that when they got to work they weren’t soaking wet.”

Scott Mackinlay Hahn added that collaboration is essential to helping new firms build such ethical awareness into their business.

He said: “We want to measure how is their health, their nutrition, what’s the economy like? How you support them creates a conversation. As a small company it’s difficult to do that but by collaborating with other talented people, you’re changing the world.”

GCU New York Vice-President Cara Smyth said: “The apparel industry is at a tipping point as ethical and fair fashion have become more important to both brands and the end consumer. Our panellists are forerunners in this movement and we are delighted they shared their wealth of experience. It was a learning experience and call to action for all of us.”