Towards a Zero Waste Industry

Beyond Green is the annual symposium on the future of fashion organised by the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) and since two years together with Circle Economy. It uses the collective power of students and industry players to tackle critical issues throughout the fashion system. New and established minds come together and push the boundaries of what we know, and realise what we dare to imagine.


Since 2005 AMFI has hosted Beyond Green, for students and teachers to discuss the latest issues in sustainability with specific regard to how the fashion industry operates. Speakers with diverse fields of expertise from across the world continue to challenge us to adapt to changes we all are facing.


The theme of today’s event was ‘Towards a Zero Waste Industry’ (a topic already discussed in 2009 that then went by the name “Zero Waste Fashion’). Pioneering brands and innovators, as well as promising students, debated the latest developments in the field of circular fashion, from game-changing material recovery technologies to innovative closed-loop business models,  what does a zero waste fashion industry look like?


The day started with an opening by AMFI director Souraya Bouwmans-Sarraf and Circle-Economy CEO Andy Ridley. Souraya emphasis on how students are the future, and that by changing the curriculum the green treat for the future is created. The first talk of the morning was held by Gwen Cunningham, who works for AMFI as well as Circle-Economy. “Waste is a form of a failed relationship between a product and consumer. We should redesign this relationship. ” Gwen says. She also pointed out that we use resources more then we can replenish them. If we would, we would need 3 earths.


Next up was Isaac Nichelson (Chief of Sustainability Recover), who said that the first step to a circular path is mechanical textile recycling. According to him there is a need for more industry collaboration. Collective focus, clear goals and global initiatives, instead of just saying things have to change. Isaac was followed up by Cyndi Rhoades, founder & CEO of Worn Again. She told about how her company stepped away from upcycling. This method turned out not to solve waste. The method only extended the lifecycle of a product, while the production cost more than creating a new product. She now emphasis on the need of working with blends and the influence the government can have, by giving tax breaks to companies that work towards sustainability. The closing speech was giving by dr. Kate Goldsworthy. Kate is doing research in the area of textiles and has a main focus on materials. “Materials can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed.” She talked about how products are fleeting and materials last forever. According to her we therefore have to make clothes last longer.


After the break AMFI alumni Tamara Koch and Zil Vostalova gave a presentation about virtual prototyping. Not only is this a visually more attractive design process, the designer can also work more accurate, more cost effective, more in charge of the process and last but not least, there is no waste. Tamara and Zil were followed by Jessie Kroon, founder of A New Zero. Jessie gave examples on how you can incorporate a more sustainable way of living into your own live. Like bringing your own bag to the grocery store, not use plastic bottles anymore, etc. The morning was closed by Travis, a fourth year AMFI student who gave a speech full of humour about ‘Hello Goodbuy”. This new online community wants to “forge a new path to being true conscious consumers.” They came up with the “Closet Mass Index”, making you question your own wardrobe. Hello Goodbuy proves that you can transmit a serious message by at the same time making people laugh.


In the afternoon expert-led workshops on company-specific challenges took place for the next generation of motivated fashion professionals and seasoned industry pros. The next steps will be taken in uncovering and designing new, innovative solutions to the age-old challenge of waste and the future of fashion.


Article written by Carly Hubregtse