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Ever Evolving Talks 2019: Blockchain, sustainability and Gen Z

By Huw Hughes

10 Nov 2019


Denim manufacturer Calik Denim was in Amsterdam at the end of October to host the second edition of its Ever Evolving Talks, an event bringing together fashion professionals, experts and fans to discuss the future of denim, with topics spanning transparency, blockchain, high-tech innovations and the Gen Z consumer.

Consumer trend expert Matt Britton kicked off the talks, speaking about the Millennial and Gen Z consumer and the importance of companies keeping up with their expectations. “Large companies are moving to cities to be closer to their consumers and the young consumers want to be the CEO of themselves,” he said. “Gen Z is everything Gen Y had and more, they are the most sophisticated consumer ever.”

Those generations are no longer interested in owning things, according to Britton. “Owning cars, music or clothing is nowhere near as appealing as accessing those things because this generation wants to be fleet of foot , they don’t like being tied down to something,” he said. This trend is reflected in the explosive growth of the sharing economy and the increasing shift towards an access over ownership model - a model that according to Britton “gives them choice, less overhead and more flexibility” while creating “tremendous growth margin profiles and recurring revenue” for companies.

Jessi Baker, founder and CEO of supply chain transparency platform Provenance, spoke about the potential of blockchain in revolutionising transparency across entire supply chains. “Fundamentally there is a lot of exploitation in opaque supply chains - we believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant,” she said. “It’s time to open up information about where products come from, who created them and from what.”

This is becoming increasingly important for younger generations who are playing an active role in the conversation surrounding climate change, according to Baker, who advised companies to make transparency a priority if they want to remain relevant. “Today we buy products on price function and often we are seeing that that’s not enough. Increasingly people are looking for more information on the impact behind the product and making sure it does align with their values,” she said. “We believe every product should come with accessible, trustworthy information about the origin, journey and impact.”

British fashion designers Priya Ahluwalia, Bethany Williams and Imogen Wright spoke about sustainable fashion and greenwashing, as well as what it’s like to be a female fashion designer in 2019. When discussing the increasing number of women in C-suite roles at fashion companies, the three agreed that progress is being made but not fast enough. “Everyone can find their own way to be strong and I think sometimes women aren’t shown as many examples of that,” said Wright. “But I think now that you see more female CEOs than you would in the past we’re starting to see progress, I think it is getting better.”

Discussing sustainability, the three touched on the issue of the topic becoming a buzz word in the fashion industry, and the importance - and sometimes struggle - of balancing quality design with responsible production, without sacrificing the former to fulfil the latter. “There are all these talks about sustainability but at the end of the day if the clothing isn’t desirable then there isn’t any point,” said Ahluwalia. “Hopefully good products and responsible sourcing don’t always have to be so niche. I think designing is like problem-solving, and to work with good materials in a positive way is part of that problem-solving.”

Photo: Jessi Baker, courtesy of Calik Denim