Taryn Hipwell founder of Beyond the Label and EcoDivas hosts a second TEDxLA event, including an expert panel discussion following the screening of the documentary The True Cost
Sustainable fashion expert Taryn Hipwell imagines a world where people know the health, environmental and social costs of their purchases. When TEDxLA asked her to create a series of events and experiments to help people rethink their fashion choices, Hipwell—a producer, educator, and CEO of EcoDivas—co-founded Beyond the Label with Robin Shirley.
“Essentially it’s helping people to understand what’s really going on in the fashion industry, and giving them the opportunity to become conscious consumers,” she said at the second TEDxLA event, which took place at the Skirball Cultural Center. “I want to create more conscious consumers, because they’re the ones that are going to get the brands to make the biggest changes,” Hipwell told Planet Experts in an interview.
The event included a screening of the documentary The True Cost: “[A film] about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world, it asks us to consider, ‘who really pays the price for our clothing?”
Following the screening, Hipwell moderated a panel of experts, including Ann Wang, CEO and co-founder of online marketplace Enrou. Enrou works with different brands from third-world countries, Hipwell explained. For instance, they work with Article22, a company that makes jewelry that is upcycled from bomb scrap in Laos. “[They’re] literally de-bombing their community by making these necklaces,” Hipwell said.
Wang was joined by Katie Bond, member of Fair Trade LA, who is also the founder of The Peace Exchange, and Travis Heard, vice-president of finance and strategy at Outerknown, a sustainable menswear brand founded by world champion surfer, Kelly Slater.
“It started three years ago, with the question of ’What are we wearing, and where is it coming from?’ Those words were said by Kelly in our first meeting, and is something that really resonated with us,” said Heard about creating a sustainable and organic brand from scratch.
During the panel discussion, Hipwell asked the experts how much a T-shirt should cost. Heard explained that we should be paying $30 to $50 for a T-shirt. For some, that may sound expensive. Among the campaigns during the event was a T-shirt exchange program to demonstrate the healthy aspects of what a great T-shirt should be like.
“With TEDx we plan to do 10 social experiments,” Hipwell told us. “We have a goal to gift out 2,000 new and healthy T-shirts in exchange for a gently used T-shirt that people bring to us.” The T-shirts display a nutrition label and were designed in Virginia at Meta Wear Organic. The fully operational factory is built on sustainability, and run by Marci Zaroff (who Hipwell described as the it-girl in the sustainable fashion movement). Zaroff is an eco-lifestyle pioneer who coined the term ECOfashion® over 10 years ago.
“We’re all about farm to T,” said Zaroff, “We’re fully traceable from the farm to the finished T-shirt.” Meta Wear Organic is also the only producer in the world that is cradle-to-cradle certified, which means its textiles are essentially waste free.
When we asked her what she hopes to see happen in the next five years in the apparel industry, Zaroff said that in the past she would say that she would like the norm to become the alternative, and the alternative to become the norm—that sustainable fashion is not an add-on, it’s an imperative. Now, after doing this for over 20 years, Zaroff is seeing a tipping point.
“It is starting to become another part of the decision-making equation: How do we minimize impacts in fashion, and how do we create stylish, well-designed products, but not at the expense of the environment and social justice?” she said.
Hipwell also partnered with clothing recycling company I:collect. I:collect has clothing recycle bins in large stores like H&M, the Northface, Footlocker and Levis. “A lot of people feel very virtuous when they’re able to give to the Salvation Army, and places like that. And the ones who do know we’re really happy that they do that, However, the other side of that story is that only 20 percent of clothes actually get sold in the stores, and then 80 percent of it is often either made into rags or it can be recycled if it gets collected by I:collect. But typically it’s clothing that goes into the landfill,” Hipwell explained. “That’s why I:collect decided to place recycle bins in clothing stores where clothing can be reused for insulation in walls or padding under carpets.
Looking forward, in addition to overseeing the series of 10 TEDxLA events, Hipwell hopes to take the T-shirt exchange program to schools. She is also currently working on a project where she will repurpose tents from a popular music festival as a line of jackets.
For upcoming TEDxLA Beyond the Label events, and videos from past ones, visit labeyondthelabel.com. EcoDivas will also be posting interviews with people in attendance. Join in on the movement on social media with #makeshifthappen.