The Business of Fashion Podcast
A Crash Course on The BoF Sustainability Index

A Crash Course on The BoF Sustainability Index

April 2, 2021

BoF’s London editor Sarah Kent and editor-in-chief Imran Amed delve into The BoF Sustainability Index, measuring fashion’s progress towards avoiding catastrophic climate change and achieving broader social imperatives by 2030.

Fashion’s negative impact on people and the planet is in focus like never before. Pressure to change is coming from investors, consumers, regulators and even inside big brands themselves. Companies are responding with high-profile commitments to do better. But are they actually making a difference?

In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, London editor Sarah Kent and editor-in-chief Imran Amed discuss The BoF Sustainability Index, an in-depth analysis of how 15 of fashion’s largest companies measure up on sustainability.

  • The fashion industry has an important role to play in tackling global sustainability challenges, both because of its impact and its influence. “Fashion often flies under the radar,” explains Kent. “[But] it has power to really change people’s views and behaviours and drive a shift that other industries cannot so easily engage in.”

  • Overall, BoF’s analysis found that the big companies’ commitments are outpacing action. “Some [companies] are leading the pack and some are just getting started, but overall things are not changing fast enough.”

  • While the pandemic remains an immediate crisis for the industry, the climate crisis is increasingly in focus ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference due to take place in Glasgow later this year. “I think what is pretty well established now is the direction of travel that is needed,” says Kent. “What we need to start seeing is the strategies that are going to get us there. Where are the investments going to be made?”

 

Related Articles:

Sustainability: What Brands Are Prioritising in 2021

The Waste Opportunity: How Fashion Could Turn Trash to Treasure

Fashion’s Long Road to Transparency

 

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Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in Fashion

Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in Fashion

March 26, 2021

BoF’s Imran Amed talks with Michelle Lee, Susanna Lau and Phillip Lim about the intersectional issues and structural barriers at the core of Anti-Asian hate, and how the fashion professionals can be better allies.

The Year That Changed the World

The Year That Changed the World

March 19, 2021

A year after coronavirus lockdowns swept the world, BoF’s Imran Amed looks back at a period of sweeping change in conversation with leading voices from inside and outside fashion.

Racism and Inequality Are Stitched Into the Garments We Wear

Racism and Inequality Are Stitched Into the Garments We Wear

February 12, 2021

This week, Doug Stephens speaks with Kalkidan Legesse and Robert Hoppenheim about the imperative for fashion to take responsibility for the people it impacts.

 

The pandemic’s economic impact is radically changing the retail landscape, but for fashion, the fallout is not just financial. The crisis has amplified anger over racial injustice and financial inequality among consumers and employees, redoubling pressure on brands to adjust their operations to serve both shareholders and the greater good. Increasingly, companies must respond to demands for change from outside the boardroom.

In this week’s podcast, retail columnist Doug Stephens discusses how the fashion industry must address the systemic inequality and racism buried in its supply chain with the co-founder of UK-based ethical brand and retailer Sancho’s, Kalkidan Legesse, and the founder of brand strategy and communications advisory Kindustry, Robert Hoppenheim.

 

External clips courtesy of BBC, NBC Latino,  and CGTN. 

 

Related Articles:

Retailers Pledged Action on Diversity. Delivery Is Proving More Elusive.

Op-Ed | Fashion Brands Must Treat Garment Workers as Employees

The BoF Podcast: Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

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Dissecting the Rise, Fall and Future of Topshop

Dissecting the Rise, Fall and Future of Topshop

February 5, 2021

A new era for Topshop is about to begin. On Monday, digital fashion retailer Asos purchased the high-street label, along with sister brands Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT, for £295 million ($403 million). The deal ended months of speculation about Topshop’s future after parent Arcadia Group fell into administration last November, as BoF senior editorial associate Tamison O’Connor reported in a BoF Professional article breaking down why Asos needs Topshop.

“It’s been very sad for me to see them go through what they’ve been through in the last few months,” retail veteran and former Topshop brand director Jane Shepherdson told BoF editor-in-chief Imran Amed on this week’s podcast.

Shepherdson discusses her time at Topshop when it was at the height of its success, the internal and external forces that caused the brand’s demise, before O’Connor weighs in on what the future might hold for the brand under Asos’ ownership.

  • Topshop’s decline was a long-time coming, Shepherdson said, reflecting on her time at the brand. She joined Arcadia as a young graduate and worked her way up the ranks as a buyer, spearheading Topshop’s transformation into a fashion destination. But she left the company in 2006 as Philip Green, who bought Arcadia Group in 2002, became more involved in the business. “He was an asset stripper, more than anything else. He bought businesses, and then sold them again,” she said. “My philosophy was that you would make sure that you designed and bought something that was so amazing that no one would be able to resist it.”

 

  • Asos’ ambition to capitalise on the newly acquired Arcadia brands and customer databases will depend on establishing a strong and independent identities for Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT on the Asos platform, O’Connor said.

 

  • O’Connor goes on to explain how the British high street’s transformation into a largely online market has been accelerated by the pandemic, having brought long-struggling British retailers like Debenhams and Arcadia Group to their knees.

     

 

Related Articles:

Why Asos Needs Topshop

Why Digital Fashion Companies Are Buying Up Tired Brands

The Rise and Fall of Topshop: What Went Wrong

 

 

 

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Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

January 14, 2021

Speaking with Imran Amed, the Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large shares her thoughts on the controversially ‘familiar’ image of the vice president-elect, and explains where it sits within the wider political climate of the United States as it is due to enter a new chapter.

When the cover of American Vogue’s February issue leaked on Saturday, January 9, a flurry of controversy ensued. Many took to social media to deride the image of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, lensed by Tyler Mitchell, for its casual styling, unflattering lighting and lack of gravitas. The criticism focused on the argument that the portrait lacked the stately deference they believed such a political figure — not least the first Black, South Asian female vice-president — should command.Among those to share their thoughts was Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large who penned a column on January 11 in which she said “the cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect… It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation.” Givhan, who became the first fashion writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2006, sat down with Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, to further discuss the cover’s significance and the wider tumultuous landscape of US politics. 
  • Debating Harris’ portrait is about more than just a critique of the technicalities and production value of a fashion glossy. Its release comes at a time of political division and fraught race relations, just days after a violent right-wing mob stormed Washington D.C.’s Capitol building, an event incited by President Trump, who now faces a second impeachment for his involvement in the incident. “The last few years have been an exhausting, emotionally draining time,” said Givhan. “I was very surprised that [the cover] became such an issue. I was really stunned that people were so exercised about it. When you think about it, it’s [like] pain from a thousand papercuts, and this was the 1001st papercut.”
  • The informality of the image chosen for the print cover carries greater historical significance and weight. Vogue and Anna Wintour defended it as an extension of the Biden-Harris campaign’s platform of accessibility, which Givhan described as a “legitimate” point of view. But, she said, “I think that the upset is rooted not so much in the current moment but its history. Throughout history, Black women in particular were not given the kind of respect that white women were. People had this familiarity with Black women that was not about friendship and equality but was condescending. Understanding the complicated nature of that would give one pause in presenting the first female vice president — a Black woman — in that way.”
  • While the alternative digital cover image, which depicts Harris in a more presidential light and formal style, offers some reprieve, this print issue has significance as a cultural souvenir (“you can’t give a screengrab to your grandchildren,” said Givhan), and there is no real opportunity for a do-over. “There’s no way to make people happy,” said Givhan, adding that it’s important to instead listen to criticism and “recognise where things went astray” in allowing this misstep to happen. “You just have to do better the next time, and the time after that and the time after that.”

External clips courtesy of Good Morning America and ABC7 News

 

Related Articles:
Anna Wintour Speaks on VP Cover Controversy, Amazon and Diversity Efforts
The Risks and Rewards of Dressing American Politicians 

 
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Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

January 12, 2021
It’s hard to imagine running a successful brand in 2021 without advertising on Instagram, buying search ads on Google or selling on Amazon. At BoF VOICES, H&M’s Christopher Wylie and venture capitalist Roger McNamee talked about why that’s probably not a good thing — and how the industry can reduce its reliance on tech giants.
 
Before the pandemic, social media and e-commerce giants like Facebook and Amazon were ascendant. The physical isolation caused by the ongoing global health crisis has only consolidated their power. Nevertheless, fashion brands can’t rely on a handful of Silicon Valley firms to run their businesses, venture capitalist Roger McNamee said at BoF’s VOICES.
 
In an interview with Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of Facebook user data during the 2016 election, McNamee outlined how big tech has touched off a “cascading series of catastrophes going from the online world into the real world.”
In fashion, Facebook, Amazon and Google have inserted themselves between brands and their customers. Though they offer unparalleled marketing and commerce capabilities, McNamee noted their clients pay a steep price in the long run by ceding control of such crucial elements of their businesses. But all is not lost.
 
“The fashion industry has a superpower,” he said. “You’re actually connected to culture, so people care what you have to say. You have to recognise as an industry that these guys are changing the rules and you have to fight back.”
 
 
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How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

January 5, 2021

Leading health experts Sarah Jones and Noel Brewer discuss how successfully controlling the pandemic is a question of culture as well as science at BoF VOICES 2020.

 

The development of working Covid-19 vaccines in a matter of months is a remarkable feat of the pandemic. The biggest challenge in successfully bringing them to market may be cultural rather than scientific.Whether populations trust public health officials and accept widespread vaccination programmes will determine how the world emerges from the pandemic, said Noel Brewer, professor of health behaviour at the University of North Carolina in conversation at BoF VOICES.Already substantial differences in cultural norms have had a significant influence on how successfully countries have responded to the health crisis, as Sarah Jones, creator of the corporate mental health programme Mental Health Intelligence, explained. Jones has contributed to the largest open-access study that has been conducted on behaviour related to Covid-19 health.Among its findings: There is no global consensus about the value of social distancing measures. Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland have few people who report always wearing a mask, while other countries report a high percentage of people who say they always wear masks. In Asia, social norms around mask-wearing mean that citizens are more likely to voluntarily wear them, while in Europe, people are less likely to wear a mask unless they are legally obligated to do so. The diverging mask-wearing behaviour has led to lopsided progress in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, and extends to how people feel about taking the vaccine. Brewer said that this is where public health officials and government leaders have a responsibility to encourage their citizens to practice social distancing and receive a vaccination. The goal: To emerge from the crisis together.

 

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Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

December 17, 2020

This summer’s protests forced fashion to examine its longstanding issues with racial discrimination at every level. At BoF VOICES, Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson laid out how to turn the industry’s new awareness into meaningful action.

In 2020, the fashion industry reckoned with its history — and present — of racial discrimination. Companies promised to address the lack of Black voices on their creative teams and in the C-suite, as well as toxic internal cultures.But visibility is only the first step. Now is the time to “translate caring into action,” Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson said at BoF’s VOICES.The most important change the industry can make, he said, is to stop talking about race in a passive voice. It’s not that Black people are less likely to get hired in the fashion industry — rather, the fashion industry excludes Black people.Inclusivity measures such as mentorship and creating career pipelines for Black employees are inadequate, he went on to say. Too much effort is focused on “fixing” individuals, without addressing the system that created barriers to advancement in the first place.“When we talk about vulnerable communities, we spend our time trying to fix those people,” Robinson said. “When we talk about systems and structures, we spend our time trying to fix those systems and those structures.”

 

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A Covid Survivor’s Story

A Covid Survivor’s Story

December 15, 2020

When Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou, editor-in-chief of 10, returned home after a whirlwind month zipping between shows in fashion’s capitals last March, she thought she’d come down with a case of the “fashion month flu.” What came next changed her perspective on both the industry and her life. 

 

Beating Covid-19 was a battle as draining mentally as it was physically, 10 magazine editor Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou told BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks during BoF VOICES 2020. “It’s not just a physical assault on your body, it’s a mental assault as well,” she said. Neophitou-Apostolou contracted the disease and was admitted to hospital just after fashion month in March. She’s still recovering. The experience had made her  reconsider both how she lives her own life (being “COVID-safe,” she said, is her top priority) and the way the fashion industry operates. “It was a big wake-up call… we have to all of us contribute to things to change them.”

 

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