“To reward the businesses that are taking a leadership role - and encourage others to follow suit.” That, according to Tamsin Lejeune, is the goal of the CO Leadership Awards, an event designed to celebrate leaders and disruptors in the field of sustainable fashion. Lejeune is the CEO of Common Objective, a network that connects more than 10,000 professionals in the fashion, retail and textile industries to share knowledge and best sustainability practices, and this week it recognized ten businesses for putting sustainability at their core.
Awarded virtually in the spirit of sustainability, the winners of the inaugural awards included British luxury brands Stella McCartney and Christopher Raeburn, and Australian organic denim label Outland Denim, as well as Brazilian-based Osklen and British accessories brand Bottletop, whose co-founder Cameron Saul is a member of Carmen’s CoutureLab Coalition. The event also recognized those specifically championing artisan producers and local production facilities, including Indigenous, a US lifestyle brand that invests in over 1,000 Peruvian artisan workers by providing microfinance, and Ethical Apparel Africa, which is developing communities and enabling market access for African production. The other 2019 winners were The Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills, a Fairtrade organic cotton supplier, Mayamiko, a Made in Malawi urban youth brand that provides training for local garment workers, and Sonica Sarna Design, a high-end artisan producer for clients including sustainability-focused New York-based brand Mara Hoffman.
The winners were selected from a shortlist of 41 businesses by a panel of judges, including representatives from Vogue Australia, GQ, Farfetch, Vivienne Westwood, Roland Mouret, UN Conscious Fashion Campaign and Kering. They were chosen based on their ability to marry sustainability strategies with commerciality, and across key criteria including mission, business model, products and services, impact, sustainability roadmap and communication strategy.
Commenting on the awards, former chairman of the British Fashion Council Harold Tillman said that they are aimed at creating a milestone moment for fashion to champion innovators. Not only will the 10 brands be recognized for their contributions to sustainability, they will also be connected to like-minded businesses with “the right kind of sales, marketing and production channels to advance their strategies,” he went on to say. “They will become part of a community with a wealth of insight.”
In addition to the so-called CO10, 110 other businesses were also selected as the 2019 CO Leaders, including Aquafil, the creators of ECONYL regenerated nylon, socially-driven New York-based clothing brand behno, and luxe eco label Bav Tailor.
"It’s so exciting to see newcomers as well as established brands moving towards innovation and sustainability,” said the founder of the Fashion Revolution campaign Orsola De Castro. “The future requires that we rethink our fashion systems, and to see commitment and creativity in design and production is both thrilling and encouraging."