Eco-friendly design

Beyond Fibers

Author: Kesi Gibson | Date: March 1, 2020
Category: Sustainable Fashion

It took me a while to realize that my reaction to the word “fundamental” is actually a pet peeve. I developed this peeve on my desk at Goldman Sachs, on my first day on the job. I can still remember going to the dictionary to make sure it still had the same meaning.  I also remember earnestly asking my VP something like…..  “if so many things are “fundamental” then there must be a fundamental problem with the use of the word fundamental…no? ..  and many fundamental references could be fundamentally flawed.. right?”  Needless to say, it became “a thing” between us, to the point where we started predicting how many times someone would say fundamental in a day. These days I have the same twitch in my brain when someone uses the word sustainable or sustainability more than a couple times in a conversation.

A big part of the problem with the sustainable fashion movement is the lack of authenticity – by brand marketers who make sweeping claims about their sustainability practices, and impossible future commitments. Many get stuck on raw materials, which is the least evolved element in the whole continuum. It is the least evolved, simply because raw material substitutes to the majority of fibers used to express fashion historically do not yet have workable “sustainable” substitutes with statistically significant track records.  Further, in the context of the fashion business, fabric choice is not made in isolation. There are many things to consider including:  the quantity of the product being produced, the product design, the product look / feel and consumer aptitude etc. One of reason polyester is such a widely used fiber compared to, for example organic cotton, is that organic cotton requires high minimums for designs and printed patterns. If the collection is seasonal, the dominant question becomes how much fabric will be required to sufficiently express the collection versus what fabric to use.

That said below are two basic distinctions to consider when it comes to making an impact based on fabric choices:

  • Natural fibers (fibers from plants or animals) are better for the environment than synthetic fibers. Examples of natural fibers / materials include organic cotton, linen, silk, wool, flax, leather.
  • Synthetic fibers ( man-made fibers) are produced from chemical compounds known as polymers. Examples of synthetic fibers / materials include nylon, polyester, spandex, acrylic and rayon.

At Club Debut, we like to take a big picture view, and we are playing the long game. Our internal score card looks over a decade, with check in points every eighteen months and every ninety days respectively, for component achievements. Our business, revenue and operation models emphasize the belief that in order for sustainable fashion to achieve mainstream status, brands that aspire to sustainability need to look beyond fabric. In fact, our conviction is that addressing sustainability means address all aspects of the value chain; and the fashion value chain is expansive. We want to be as explicit as possible and we hope our audience will hear us when we say that we are not trying to do it all. From our point of view, it is not possible to do it all and do it all well sustainably, in today’s context. That said I do believe that this decade will redefine the way we experience fashion, with sustainable fashion at the helm.

I “formally” entered the fashion world with my human centered fashion company KYU BY KESI, and a vision to change the world through fashion. Over the years, I came to the realization that in order to do this well, I would have to take a platform approach. With Club Debut, and by becoming an independent factory owner, I am in a better position to make the impact I’ve set out to make in various channels of the fashion industry. By anchoring the Club Debut Atelier in a creative ecosystem, I am also in a better position to directly make a difference in the world of the creative professionals in the fashion value chain. I have made it our mission to use Club Debut as a platform “for better.”

We work with both designers and consumer brands alike, that are keen on expressing core sustainability objectives in their brand ethos. We have often found that many, (be it independent designers like Boitel Couture for example, or consumer products companies like Unilever) struggle to define what this means to their brand.  It will take a while for any fashion brand or consumer brand to be 100% sustainable, by our definition. Awareness of where the brand stands today is key to defining where the sustainability journey begins. In fact, a focus on just one or two discrete areas is enough to set the brand’s sustainability train in motion.

For Club Debut, “Sustainable by Design” is more than just a tag line. Crafted with intention, it is in a nutshell how we endeavor to express everything that we do; and we endeavor to do everything really well. As with all big topics, the most effective way to address sustainable fashion, is to start small. I also believe that like most things, impact resonates stronger if it can be quantified. Thus, we have adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to benchmark our efforts. In 2020 – 2021, we are particularly focused on nine of the seventeen goals. We believe at a minimum by having a framework to reference we can remove some of the innocuity from the expression of our approach. Already this has had the effect of  allowing us to converge and sharpen our focus, to address the topic authentically, and to establish a base line for meaningful conversation and client engagement.

If you would like to learn more about Club Debut please do not hesitate to reach out to us. If you are a family office, foundation, angel investor, with an interest in investing in the creative industries please email us.


Kesi Gibson
Author: Kesi Gibson