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31 Jan

Fashion Industry Trade Groups Issue ‘Threads’ for Regulators

Industry trade organizations need to send a signal to Washington.

On Monday, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Accessories Council, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Responsible Business Coalition revealed the Threads Sustainability and Social Responsibility Protocol. Together, 1000’s of fashion brands and organizations are represented by the groups.

Threads is designed to help policymakers developing “practical, workable and effective regulatory proposals,” per its mission statement. The principles include “T” for transparently developed and enforced, “H” for harmonization across jurisdictions and industries, “R” for realistic timelines, “E” for enforceable, “A” for adjustable, “D” for designed for achievement and “S” for science-based.

News of Threads follows a growing variety of regulatory attempts from “fashion czar” to “Fashion Act” to the “Fabric Act,” lots of which rose to the fore without consultation or advice from the AAFA or CFDA, because the organizations claimed.

Chelsea Murtha, director of sustainability on the AAFA, told WWD that Threads is supposed as a “rubric” for policymaking and that work on it began, in earnest, in March 2022.

“Threads is a framework for discussion about laws. It’s meant to facilitate collaboration and it’s us putting our stakes on the market and saying, ‘These are the things that we care about or that is how we’re going to evaluate policy.’ The [Threads] principles are derived from our conversations around policy where we’ve had concerns — and fundamentally, these are the concerns that we’ve identified,” she said. “That is speculated to each make it clear to our membership and set the framework for discussions inside our membership about how we’re responding to certain pieces of laws, but hopefully it also makes it clear to stakeholders why specific pieces of laws we don’t think work.”

There are a variety of pieces of laws that the organization opposes. In 2022, the AAFA put up greater than $725,000 to lobby against laws including the Fabric Act, Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act, Shop Secure Act of 2021 and Inform Consumers Act, amongst others, per D.C.-based nonprofit OpenSecrets.

A broader timeline for Threads engagement with regulators was not stated, but key issues like PFAs are on watch by the AAFA.

Many academics, too, are watchful and anxious over the state of sustainability in fashion. While Michelle Gabriel, director of profession services and strategic partnerships graduate program director for Sustainable Fashion at Glasgow Caledonian Recent York College, agreed with the “enforceable” and “science-based” components of Threads, she was critical of the remainder.

Gabriel claimed Threads is a “performative” gesture meant to “muddy the already chaotic waters of the style legislative conversation.” “It is supposed to signal to the industry and the greater public that they’re supportive of arguably urgently essential environmental and social laws but provided that it suits these seemingly reasonable guidelines, while behind the scenes actively [do] the destructive work of using their considerable funds for lobbying efforts against laws.”

Though she regards policy hurdles as not unique to fashion, she does query the “credibility,” in her words, of trade groups amid deepening regulatory discussions.

“The bills on the market today across the European Union and U.S. are aiming to shift systems behaviors. The style system hurts people and is destroying the planet,” Gabriel contended. “Do I feel every bill will achieve that lofty aim? No, but do I feel many are essential and integral first steps to a more dynamic, and multifaceted regulatory ecosystem — yes.”

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