A conversation on sustainable fashion with Chris Blackwood, European Marketing Leader GORE-TEX Consumer Fabrics, and Marie Mawe, Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement Director, Gore Fabrics Division.
Photo of Chris Blackwood
Heading towards a more sustainable future is a big task - one we all need to take seriously. Thoughtful actions in our daily lives are necessary. We need to focus on doing more with less impact on the environment. However, above all, it means that businesses will need to have a rethink.
At Gore, we focus on innovation with purpose and do our best to try to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Sustainability is increasingly at the heart of that innovation, as we continue to strive for longevity in our products.
Sustainable vs fast fashion
I bet you’ve already heard a lot of talk about sustainable fashion. It’s about making the fashion industry environmentally friendly and rethinking the whole supply chain from the very first raw material to the final collection in the stores. It’s also about fair working conditions.
“We all need to understand the problems associated with rising consumption habits and, in particular, with the waste that unsold fast fashion generates”, explains Marie Måwe, Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement Director at Gore.
Photo of Marie Måwe
Is the machine broken?
The drive to produce fast fashion so that we can buy cheap clothes has an incredibly high price: its impact on our planet. Pollution of the environment and the exploitation of workers are constants throughout the entire supply chain. So, how can we solve this problem?
Marie points out that, “The core of the problem is the speed and sheer volume of products. We need to become more mindful of how we produce and consume. We need to buy less, buy better and use things for longer. We need to treat products and resources as valuables, not as disposables.”
“As a company and as individuals, we are committed to achieving a positive economic and societal impact while being environmentally and socially responsible,” says Chris Blackwood, who has been with Gore for 20 years and leads the European Marketing Team for GORE-TEX Consumer Fabrics.
Our approach at Gore is to focus on innovation and create products that last.
“As a material innovator, Gore has a great responsibility”, Marie says. “We work with over 300 consumer brands. If the GORE-TEX brand comes up with an invention, for instance the new GORE-TEX fabric that has a lower environmental footprint while maintaining its durable performance, that will have implications for the entire market.
A commitment to responsible performance inspires the development of GORE-TEX product technologies and offers new levels of functional, durable performance and sustainability. All new GORE-TEX products are rigorously tested to ensure a long-lasting product life.
“Keeping products in use longer saves all the environmental resources needed to produce new products. This is therefore the most important thing we can do both as consumers and as an industry,” Marie adds.
Longevity throughout the entire life cycle of a product is key
Chris Blackwood’s day-to-day work focuses on how to communicate the themes of responsible performance and sustainability in Gore’s marketing communications. “There has been a significant change in the willingness of consumers, brands and retailers to actually engage with the topic of washing, caring and repairing products seeing as this is the key to prolonging the life of a product.“
Chris goes on to explain that, “From a marketing perspective our focus is on ensuring that the consumer starts to see what we do behind the scenes. The GORE-TEX brand is not only a performance brand but also a sustainable brand that has all the credentials and is driven by science.”
Science is a huge part of any innovation. Gore is currently working on more than 50 projects focusing on environmental sustainability and more than 60 relating to maintaining and improving human well-being. Our focus on sustainability is an expression of our promise — Together, improving life — our long-established values, culture and principles, and our commitment to our Associates, customers and communities.
What are Gore’s main challenges and how might they be solved?
As Marie puts it, ”We all face multiple challenges and we all need workable solutions to have a sustainable future. In my opinion, we need collaboration. Nobody has the answer to everything. We need to see a collaborative effort, pre-competitive collaboration in different areas of innovation. We need to share our knowledge and make sure that, together, we improve our businesses as quickly as possible.
We are members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. We are members of the European Outdoor Group, the Outdoor Industry Association and Fashion For Good, which is another collaborative effort to find innovative solutions for sustainability. I think that all of these collaborative platforms provide important meeting grounds to discuss these topics. We are already seeing a great exchange of views and ideas. Beyond that, Gore itself is a big platform, where there’s always an opportunity to create something.”
“I'd like to quote the working title from our campaign last year ‘Our work is never done’. It's not like we deliver ePE, the new innovative membrane in our new GORE-TEX products, and then we're done. We're always asking: How can we be better?”
Chris points out that, “The recent introduction of GORE-TEX products with the ePE membrane is not the only step we are taking towards addressing the challenges ahead. It is part of our journey continuing looking at how we can be better, whether that be offering more recycled or solution dyed textiles, or by introducing complementary technologies that offer a better overall footprint?”
Guaranteed to Keep You Dry
The GORE-TEX brand has always focused on longevity. The fact that our Guaranteed to Keep You Dry promise was introduced in 1989 provides proof of this.
When you purchase a new GORE-TEX product with the "GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY" promise on the hangtag, we offer you a special guarantee. “The guarantee covers waterproof, windproof and breathable performance over the useful life of the product,” Chris explains. “Your apparel needs the same level of attention as your equipment.”
For the love of the environment: GORE-TEX apparel must always be fit for use
According to Chris, “This means that the product is optimized to cater for the intended use. Everything in the entire chain, from the choice of fabrics and membranes to the completion of the finished garment, is unique and based on the specific end-use needs of the product. And that's where I think Gore really stands apart from other products out there.”
That does not only benefit the individual use of a product, but also helps to ensure that products last longer, as they are made for a special activity.
Marie continues by explaining that, “It has been a great challenge to produce products with a lower environmental footprint without compromising on functionality. That’s why we are so incredibly proud that innovation, science and testing has helped us reach that goal.”
“We have to start moving towards a more mindful consumption, a more conscious way of buying and producing clothes. The single most important factor in reducing the environmental footprint is to wear things for as long as possible.” - MARIE MÅWE, Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement Director
As Marie puts it, as a consumer, you should buy things that you absolutely love, things that meet your needs in terms of function, fit and aesthetics - in short, something you feel comfy in, look great in now and will do in several years. “That’s the absolutely best thing you can do for sustainability.”
“I totally agree with Marie”, says Chris. “To add to that, something that can be revived through washing and, better still, be repaired, is the most sensible choice.”