Mission partnered with the launch of a new sustainable pilot collection from COS called Restore.
By Sonia Kovacevic.
The narrative around sustainability is strengthening, and it is multi-faceted. It requires collaboration, community, education, and open dialogue. At the COS 5th Avenue store in New York City, Mission partnered with the brand to launch their “Restore” collection, a sustainable initiative pilot that sees 800 repurposed garments rolled out globally in collaboration with The Renewal Workshop, a company based in Oregon. The Renewal Workshop provide circular solutions for apparel and textile brands, past collaborations have been with The North Face, Outerknown and now COS. With approximately 15 million tons of used textile waste generated each year globally by the fashion industry, COS wanted to reinforce their values of commitment to quality, longevity, and product care, by reimagining the lifecycle of damaged garments. This initiative compliments COS’ journey towards circularity, and as part of the project, the Renewal Workshop will track the positive environmental impacts of the trial in hope for the potential of scaling-up this approach.
The event featured diverse experts and leaders in the realm of sustainability, Mission Magazine’s Editor In Chief and Founder, Karina Givargisoff spoke with Nopor Stuart, Head of Sustainability at COS, Abrima Erwiah, Co-Founder and President of Studio One Eighty-Nine, and Marie Geneviève Cyr, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Parsons School of Design + International Speaker & Creative Consultant.
The panel discussed various stakeholders’ responsibility in doing their part to change the fashion industry for the better and their role in moving towards circular and renewable fashion. Humanizing the process by decoupling the layers and understanding the story of the supply chain was an overarching theme, as well as the importance and sacredness of craftsmanship.
Through her travels to Ghana and working with various communities that have been passing down knowledge and skills for generations, Erwiah recognized the power of empowering, “Fashion can rise, and we can come together.” Here, her commitment to craftsmanship began, as she started very slowly from the bottom up, building a value chain and working with people along the chain, including farmers and weavers. With so many women, who are the foundation of these societies working in the sector, the process creates economic value and allows people to live with dignity. She says, “Designing for impact for the future is going all the way back to the source, [It is] thinking about where we came from, and designing for where we are going.”
Cyr reiterates this importance, shedding light on a partnership between Parsons, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization in 2016, which brought artisans from all over the world to share knowledge, show their crafts and co-create collections with the students. Reflecting on this time, Cyr holds back tears, and you feel how moving and impactful this experience was. “It’s completely changed the way they [students] do things, how they co-create. I think younger generations need to learn how to collaborate; we have to create collectives.” The egotistic star designer is not working anymore, and brands making a difference are imperative to the design system.
At COS, even before the brand launched in 2007, longevity and durability were embedded at the core of the brand. They place importance on craftsmanship, ensuring quality that will pass the test of time. Stuart brought with her to the event her well-loved strawberry-red coat that has been with her for 12 years. Never washed, the coat boasts boldly in her hands, proud to be COS. “It is the skill set of those who manufacture our garments; it is the technology, the finishing, all of those things that create that perfect garment.” In terms of sustainability, she shares in regards to pattern cutting, “Just by moving the seam, you can save centimeters on that cloth, and at COS we put a lot of focus on materials… So it makes sense not to let it go to waste.”
With consumer culture drastically shifting towards transparency, connecting this story of where your clothes come from, and the innovations and initiatives brands are taking, is an integral dialogue and necessary exchange of information between brand and customer. Mission’s founder had been a long term COS fan and supported Stuart’s statement, including the garments that have been staples in her wardrobe for years, including her own COS coat she arrived in, which is several years old and in still great condition. Givargisoff expressed throughout the evening, the immense educational value in having these conversations, especially as a loyal customer and offered insight into the accessibility of that knowledge. “It would be nice to have that education on the label. If the garment was made in Turkey, Bangladesh or China, to say ‘this is the factory it was made in.’ This would be such a great step.” As Erwiah fondly states, “I think people mean well, and everyone wants to participate. It’s the re-education.” And on all levels, initiating and requiring systematic change. With her students, Cyr observes their expectations of brands to take risks and have someone they can look up to; “The more we are doing in the industry, the more they can be inspired.”
Yet these things don’t happen overnight. Stuart shares, “It’s great for us to explore this and test new circular business models because, at the end of the day, the question is; how do we go from being a pilot to a way of working?” She continues with her team’s efforts of, “Systematically trying to get to where we are not needed. That’s the challenge; to get everyone on board”.
As the conscious community evolves and grows, the importance of dialogue is imperative for the continuation of shared knowledge. Stuart aptly states, “Have that conversation, don’t be scared of it.” It is these conversations that will allow collaborations and partnerships like this to thrive and maximize reach and impact in the realm of sustainable fashion.
The Restore collection will be available at the COS 5th Avenue store for the next two weeks. It includes 800 pieces damaged from their supply chain, mended and restored to life at a 30% reduced price point. The Renewal Workshop helps brands reduce negative environmental impacts and expand by adopting circular practices. As part of the partnership, the positive environmental impact of the trial will be recorded. This pilot supports COS’ ambition and journey to become ‘100% Circular and Renewable’. To learn more, head to cosstores.com
You can find the collection at the select COS stores: COS 505 5th Ave, New York, United States, COS Olympic Theatre, 313 West 8th St, LA, United States, COS 1200 Wisconsin Ave, Washington DC, United States, COS Oudegracht 163, Utrecht, The Netherlands, COS Friedrichstrasse 83, Berlin, Germany, COS Biblioteksgaten 3, Stockholm, Sweden, COS Østergade 33-35, 1100 København, Denmark, COS Wienstrasse 3, 80333 Munich, Germany, COS 18 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France.
Photos by: Maeghan Donohue