January 2020 saw LCF Graduate Futures lead a topical conversation exploring how a brand’s engagement with ethics and their development of corporate social responsibility can buy them consumer loyalty. With collaborative working more important than ever in today’s chaotic economic climate, the debate brought together students, staff and industry guests to discuss how public engagement with ethical issues is developing in light of global social and political change.
Freelance Communications Manager and UAL Lecturer, Lynsey Fox chaired the event. The debate began with a starting panel introducing the pivotal points of the subject, and transitioned into a wider group discussion about what influenced consumers’ affinity with brands in the creative industry. Lynsey’s specialist knowledge of media and communications helped to structure the talk, as she navigated audience questions and panellist’s talking points. The starting debate panellists consisted of:
- Charlotte Turner - Head of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles with Eco-Age.
- Lisa Levinson - Head of Marketing and Communications for the Diamond Producers Association.
- Isabella Chan - Head of Diversity and Inclusion for University of the Arts London.
- Ann Marie Newton - Founder of Creative Orange Studio, a textile and innovation consultancy.
- Moin Roberts-Islam - Technology Development Manager with the Fashion Innovation Agency.
- Jaketerina Rogaten - Course Leader: MSc Applied Psychology of Fashion for London College of Fashion.
Ethical and sustainable practices are at the forefront of the industry, and the purchasing climate is changing. Major retailers like Next, M&S, Ted Baker, Primark and ASOS, are adjusting their company profiles to suit these priorities through the implementation of the government-backed sustainable clothing action plan, looking to reduce waste being sent to landfill, water use and carbon footprint by 15% in 2020. These social developments are creating new technologies, which are helping designers, and brands change the way they make, sell and show their collections.
Moin Roberts-Islam commented “Technology definitely is helping, hopefully for the better! Digital design is a big growth area in this respect. For example, if you’re designing a prototype digitally that looks and behaves like the final garment, you can make changes in real time and go straight to production, cutting out all that carbon footprint and time wasted from sampling, prototyping and design.” To Moin, this demonstration of how companies are successfully merging digital technologies with ethical practices means "the workforce is becoming more skilled and creative,
allowing for more productivity. Every time there’s a job being removed from the tradition garment making process due to technology, there is different one coming in to give new opportunities.
LCF MBA students attending the event agreed with this attitude on the growth of fashion technology and highlighted how “Fashion doesn’t follow industry; it follows technology and trends” and felt that
Within the fashion industry, we need to be more authentic about what is driving these changes.
Our panel chair, Lynsey Fox delved deeper into the struggle for authenticity in content and why a brand’s values are becoming increasingly important, “Customers are being much more loyal to brands, they’re actively engaging, they’re creating user generated content and interacting with brands in a way they never have before. However, this is also giving them so much more power.”
The conversation developed to show how adjustments and reinforcements to branding is helping companies’ meet the demands of consumers. Ultimately, people are increasingly looking at companies’ policies to guide their buying habits, creating an even bigger rift between the psychological ‘pleasure of purchasing’ and the ‘pain of buying’. Considering this knowledge, LCF MBA students thought that
As students of LCF we have the responsibility, when we are in the working environment, to keep having these conversations. Is the industry just talking about ethics and sustainability from a marketing perspective, or are they really embracing it in their businesses and investing in this change?