woman working with textiles and materials

Changemakers: Phillipa Grogan

Phillipa Grogan is the Fashion and Textiles Senior Sustainability Strategist at Eco-Age, has a passion for (sustainable) fashion and is a fountain of knowledge on the subject.

Lori and Phillipa discussed how she got in to this area of sustainability, her inspirations, thoughts on the fashion and textiles industry and more. It's a thoughtful conversation and we encourage you to follow Phillipa for the latest industry thought pieces. 

What got you in to sustainability, materials and textiles?


I love pattern and colour so, so, so much. It's my favourite thing. I then went to do print design, which was really, really fun, but obviously quite chemical heavy and for me, a big red flag and sort of a big impetus for what caused me to investigate sustainability is that our print technician fell pregnant and wasn't actually allowed in the print lab because some of the chemicals can harm unborn foetuses. 

I was given the opportunity to intern in India at a block printing company. So I jetted off to India and became completely immersed in the vertical supply chain and social side of things and not just the environmental stuff. That sort of comes with the fashion industry as well.  I made really good friends with the Woman's cooperative there - they were doing things with upcycling cut offs into  toys for children. 

India really got under my skin and I heard that a lot of people anecdotally say that you don't just go once. So then, I went back a few times and also broadened my research to like Sri Lanka and Nepal as well and just sort of moved around the countries having fun along the way obviously.

Along the way I collected loads of fabrics so that I could do my own natural dye experiments when I got back to the UK. I don’t travel as much as I used to but now. I sort of get to travel in an inadvertent way through learning about other people's supply chains and trying to help them tighten things up to see how they can be more efficient, how they can reduce their negative impact and dial up their positive impacts  and make connections with other innovators, industry players and NGOs.


When it comes to common materials that we all know, what impact do they have?

So, synthetic fibres are made from many  fossil fuels - we often think that they're just made from oil, but they're also made from natural gas and coal as well. So, fossil fuel is basically the raw material. They’re obviously finite,so they're not gonna last forever. Then they sort of have to go through quite heavy chemical processing and use a lot of energy as well, which is obviously, again, fossil fuels largely. 

The extraction is impactful, the production is impactful. The way that you can design with them is also quite impactful because they're so cheap to produce. We don't account for the fact that we're using a non-renewable resource. 

Cotton can be produced really well but like most things, there's a good way and a bad way. Business models and clothes have been designed to produce as much as possible, as fast as possible and as cheap as possible, we need to ensure we are prioritise degrowth and circular business models where we can. 

Right now we are producing way more than what we need and that’s a problem. 

What you guys are doing is amazing. We know the issue of plastic in our oceans and the unsustainable actions of the fishing industry. Upcycling ghost nets into pet accessories that people can use forever. It’s an incredible innovation.


Can you tell us about how EU policies are playing in to fashion production right now?


Their slogan right now is ‘let’s make fast fashion outta fashion’ - they are paying particular regulatory attention to the way that textiles will be produced. They're also looking at how brands are communicating about them at point of sale and beyond. Essentially anti greenwashing laws and regulations. Additionally,they are harmonising extended producer responsibility schemes which would make companies physically and financially responsible for the waste that their operations generate.


How has technology changed in the textile industry and how is it helping shape the future of fashion? It is a very exciting time in textiles but it's also so weird how quickly the knowledge is changing. 

I remember when I first started work with you - , I remember writing captions being like, ‘This is amazing. All of these old bottles are getting turned into clothes, how great’.

But now we know that those bottles are made of food grade polyester, so they're really high quality and recycle better in their bottle state, much easier than clothing.

We should be investing in textiles - fibre to fibre recycling. The innovations are there, they just aren’t funded right now.


What green flags can consumers look out for when deciding on brands to engage with?

Transparency is one of the first things that I'd look for. I always imagine responsible business strategies as a wall made of loads of bricks and transparency is one. However,  if you only looked at transparency, you wouldn't have any shelter from this wall, would you? You'd just be sort of trying to snuggle under a single brick.

 For example, when some fast fashion brands are so transparent about where their things are produced and, and what they're doing, but that just means that they can name their suppliers. If they're transparent about their suppliers, that's a good thing, but they can't stop there.

I also think that it's nice to keep the brand and consumer relationship to extend beyond the point of purchase. There are opportunities to have, mend and repairs, for example, or provision of care instructions on the website so that the consumers can sort of elevate their own ability to care for the product.


What would your adivce be to anyone looking to get involved in sustainability?

I’d like to answer it in twofold. Learning and doing.

In terms of learning, I think LinkedIn's quite a good start building out a network of  people who are into sustainability. They might be happy for a short zoom call or chat. Surround yourself with people who are interested in sustainability and learn from each other. 

The internet can be an asset, there are lots of free webinars out there you can join. 

When it comes to doing, it can be overwhelming so find something that suits you. To talk about the industry that I'm obsessed about, obviously fashion, the very best thing that you can do as a consumer is to want what you already have and then buy less. Join in or start your own initiatives like clothes swaps or dinner clubs where you use local food from a farmer's market or something and sort of just really get to know what's on your own, in your own sort of immediate sphere.



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