Updated: Jul 28, 2022
By Nynke Eggen
Even for an eternal optimist like myself, it’s difficult to imagine sustainability really taking hold in a city like New York. Dirty air and pollution, tall buildings occupied by very unsustainable companies and the obvious difference between the super rich and super poor are a few things that makes you realize that life here is different from Europe. But, as the optimist that I am, I set out to find evidence of the desire for sustainable change.
And I found it in the people that I met. I met an incredible journalist who is trying - and succeeding - to affect real systemic change in the industry by exposing which links in the system are failing. I met people from different industries that have their struggles with the status quo, but who have a real drive to navigate their industry and to find the arguments that persuade even the toughest of skeptics of the (economic and moral) benefits of sustainability. And I met people with the desire to have a greater sense of purpose in their professions, but don’t yet know how to achieve this. Who just need someone to plant the seed that will hopefully grow into a greater purpose for themselves, and their companies.
My purpose for this trip was - in addition to visiting one of my closest friends and enjoying the big apple - to take the opportunity to learn more about the attitude in NYC towards sustainability in the fashion industry, and towards the proposed New York Fashion Act. What I have learned is that here, even more so than in Europe, legislation speeds up change. The unfortunate contradiction is that legislation is usually slow to take affect - and brands know it. The proposed New York Fashion Act is a great signal, it is definitely making brands aware, but the urgency for sustainability needs to come from other areas as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New York City and it’s people. There is so much beauty, positivity, creativity and sustainable initiative to be found (as you can see on the pictures) - so much so that I do picture myself living there at some point. But the point that I am trying to make is that this visit has put things in renewed perspective for me. There is much to be done still if we want to create a global equitable and sustainable (fashion) industry. But I truly believe that this future is possible. Tighter legislation will help the transition, but I know a lot will come from people working in the different industries. And if we plant the seeds, people will grow them into ideas, actions and results.
This being said, if you are located in New York City or are working for a New York or US based fashion brand, and your company is (thinking about) working on sustainability, I would love to hear from you. One thing that was really apparent to me is that in NYC - same as in Europe - people are really open to connect and help each other to progress. With The Sustainability Club, I help brands with offices in the EU and office in the US to understand the different sustainability approaches, guidelines and legislation that are being adopted in Europe, to better the global organization as a whole. Feel free to drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and I am happy to help in any way that I can.