SUSS: Building a sustainable fashion community

Personal sustainability leadership opportunity

In January 2018, I started Sustainable Style Speak (SUSS) as a Facebook Group to connect with people interested in or working in the space of sustainable fashion. What started as a personal interest, soon became a community of brilliant people and a series of events, experiences and interactions that convinced me that I need to keep running this community and make it bigger and better in 2019. Through this blog, I will be sharing my journey of building this community –  the struggles, the achievements, the doubts and everything else in between.

But first, some context around why sustainable fashion is important – to the world and to me.

Fashion has a sustainability problem

Fashion, an industry that clothes billions and employs millions, is riddled with a myriad of social and environmental challenges that need our immediate attention. Clothes may seem harmless, but they’re not. It’s hard to believe that fashion is one of the most polluting and resource-intensive industries in the world Globally, over the last 15 years, there has been a 100% increase in clothes sale. While the industry is booming financially, its environmental impact is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The industry also  employs, in large numbers, women from low-income backgrounds who are vulnerable to exploitation and poor working conditions.

I started learning about this industry when I interned with a sustainability consultancy in 2013 working with an apparel manufacturer in India. The internship started right after the collapse of the Rana Plaza, a multi-story garment factory in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 people who were making clothes for some of the world’s biggest brands. I was shocked by this incident. How could something like this happen to people who were doing their jobs like many of us? Shaped by this incident and my internship, I’ve spent the last five years immersing myself in the world of sustainability, particularly in the fashion industry, first as a consultant and now by working in the apparel supply chain on workers’ well-being and sustainability.

This is why I started SUSS

My passion for sustainability, especially in the fashion industry, led me to start India’s first and only community and events platform dedicated to sustainable fashion – SUSS.  Through my work I realized that while there is a lot of negativity around the industry, there are also individuals and organizations who are actively driving positive change. And I wanted to bring them together, specifically in the Indian context. While SUSS started as a small online community bringing together brands, designers, consumers, industry professionals, students, writers, film-makers, and others — it now has over 500 members! In the last year, we’ve hosted four events , which through a combination of films, panel discussions, lighting talks, workshops, clothes swaps, and networking, allowed attendees to explore different facets of sustainable fashion each time.

SUSS 2019 and beyond

My co-founder and I did a brainstorming session in January to plan what we want to achieve with SUSS going forward and how we’re going to do it. This is my (and her!) personal opportunity to create a bigger impact and move the needle on sustainable fashion. We’ve decided to:

  • Make it meaningful: Make our events more meaningful and relevant to those who are working in the industry. This means curating them in a way that people always learn something and want to come again. Similarly, with our online community, we need to share valuable content, opportunities and ideas that will make SUSS a go-to destination for sustainable fashion.
  • Make it fun: For conscious individuals, we want to curate experiences like Do-it-yourself (DIY) parties and clothing swap fests. The idea is to get people interested in sustainability in a not-so-obvious and engaging way.
  • Make it sustainable: Yes, it needs to financially sustainable too! To continue scaling and running the community and events, we need to make SUSS financially viable. Is it a non-profit? Is it a social enterprise? Is it a business? We don’t know yet, but we will figure it out.
  • Make it accessible: Through social media, press articles and a blog, we want to make SUSS more accessible to a general audience, and get more people to join the movement.

To sum up, we need to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “SUSS: Building a sustainable fashion community”

  1. Hi, it is very impressive what you have achieved already with this community! I like very much how you think about taking this community forward over the next year and how you communicate your plans. I feel that one of the biggest decisions (and probably also one of the harder ones) is how to make the community sustainable as it grows and requires more effort to manage. Maybe Greenbuzz, a network for sustainability professionals here in Europe, could be some inspiration for you: http://www.greenbuzz.global/. They have a membership model but also as a non-member one can attend their events.
    I’m looking forward to follow how this community develops and learn more about it in the coming months.

    Like

  2. Fantastic initiative! A happy thought about the challenges of being meaningful and sustainable: you can draw on the whole network for ideas. The founders don’t have to carry the burden of designing the network alone. At your next event, you could try ‘open space technology’, a technique from the world of emergent change models. https://openspaceworld.org/wp2/what-is/
    It’s very simple: 1. open up the agenda so attendees can suggest the things they want to work on, 2. allow others to join in with the initiative they find most appealing 3. let those small groups self-organise and report back on what they plan to do.
    Simple, and scarily democratic! Very interested to hear about your experiences using this or any other method to define a meaningful scope of action for your network. Good luck!

    Like

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