Auction houses found themselves in the center of the sustainability conversation without necessarily intending to. Before eco-conscious consumption was trending, bidding resale purveyors saw the importance and treasure in art, collectibles, jewelry, and fashion.
Today, the S-word is on the tip of the tongue in the luxury sector, and upcycling and pre-owned goods are as in demand as their new counterparts for their provenance and low environmental impact. To kick off a residency in a Soho gallery, Hindman Auctions, in conjunction with MFA Boston, hosted a chat led by its director of museum services Timothy Long with Another Tomorrow co-founder and CEO Vanessa Barboni Hallik focused on sustainability.
Barboni Hallik founded Another Tomorrow as a clothing retail outsider. Speaking to guests, she described an unusual path to becoming a fashion CEO after a successful but unimpassioned finance career at Morgan Stanley, focused on emerging markets and trading derivatives. She took a leap of faith while on sabbatical in 2016. She launched Another Tomorrow in 2020 following a personal journey to live more sustainably where fashion was concerned, initially pledging only to wear pre-owned clothing. A shoe purchase from The RealReal exposed the pitfalls of that approach and struck an epiphany.
“They took three weeks to arrive from Australia, and they didn’t fit,” she recalled, thinking there must be a better solution.
Barboni Hallik views fashion and the textiles created to make them as an “agricultural product” (excluding plastic or lab-created fibers).
“The problems endemic to food production are the same with fashion,” she said, noting waste issues.
“Fashion is a 2.5 trillion dollar industry globally. Half of clothing sold ends up in landfill within a year. Eighty percent of the other half sits in closets unworn,” she added.
AnotherTomorrow was created to acknowledge consumers can make better choices with a systems-based approach to fashion that pays attention to the environmental, animal, and human welfare.
A digital ID in the form of a QR code on each garment traces its lifecycle and provides pertinent information on its production. The latter, according to a company release, “provides the consumer with supply chain transparency inclusive of location certification, specific sustainability practices for each supplier, and activation and verification for Another Tomorrow’s Authenticated Resale program.”
Finding materials meant Barboni Hallik and her partners needed to source wool from mulesing-free farms that treat the animals ethically and humanely or sourcing premium cotton processed in a Global Organic Textile Standard-certified (GOTS) Italian mill. Beyond GOTS production standards, which promote healthy soils, ecosystems, and working conditions, the mill also recycles 100% of its cotton waste and applies a 100% biodegradable plant-based compound obtained from potato starch to the cotton yarn, according to the release.
The modern luxury label recently introduced The Foundation, a 34-piece wardrobe essentials concept meant to be supplemented rather than rehauled yearly with a campaign featuring Carolyn Murphy.
“Each season is not reinventing your wardrobe but just adding a few pieces to an existing foundation of garments. When things no longer serve, you can sell them back to us. Resell is better than donating it where it may end up in a landfill,” Barboni Hallik said, speaking to FashionNetwork.com at the event.
The process helps make Another Tomorrow circular from start to finish. So far, celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ava DuVernay, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Chastain, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Laura Dern have worn the line.
The price points hover in the designer range, thus highlighting an issue in fashion sustainability. Thus far, these exacting eco standards are more expensive to achieve. The CEO, who saw the fashion industry’s business model broken from an environmental and ethical point of view, thinks a reset of consumption and government regulation could help make responsibly sourced and made clothing an option at all income levels.
“Fashion is cheaper than it’s ever been. It’s a cultural shift around buying fewer things with better quality. Even just 50 years ago, people with lesser means were buying fewer pieces but investing in them. Of course, income inequality is radically different than it was then too, so we must address that too,” she said, adding further solutions, “If companies are incentivized to buyback programs that motivate them to make longer lasting products. They will get more ‘bites from the apple’ versus the fast fashion model. There is also regulatory producer responsibility creating bans around fast fashion in Europe. Economic incentives and regulation could help shift the entire industry’s foundation.”
The CEO added that solutions for textile recycling at the municipal level are needed for items that don’t have multiple lives, such as undergarments, socks, workout wear, or swimwear.
While the impassioned stance may not change the entire industry, the outsider perspective is refreshing. In the meantime, the CEO will continue to innovate the brand with new textiles, such as a seaweed-based fabric and fully compostable leather debuting in products next year. After two short-term retail spaces, one in the West Village and another in Rockefeller Center, Barboni Hallik noted Another Tomorrow is looking for a permanent retail space in Soho.
“Maybe this one will become available,” she quipped to Long.
While the space on Greene Street may be an auction gallery pop-up, Hindman Auctions has put down permanent roots in NYC, adding to its roster beyond its Chicago headquarters, such as Palm Beach, Denver, Washington D.C., Atlanta, San Diego, and Atlanta for a total of 16 locations. According to Long, sustainability has been at the core of the auction business.
Inside the Soho space was a preview of upcoming Hindman fall auction items, including a quartet of Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags. The loft-like location hosted a watch auction from the collection of Glen de Vries of around 150 watches the week prior from brands including Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Tiffany & Co., Omega, Breitling, Hublot, Cartier, Franck Muller, IWC, Panerai, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chanel, and more.
“The auction industry has led the sustainability charge as to what to do with material possessions. In the early days of auctions, it was discussed how to revitalize an item with antique value; there weren’t as many antique dealers then, so people knew to go to an auction. It was an identifying feature when it wasn’t trending. You are seeing more auction houses speak about the sustainability aspect in their marketing now,” said the museum director, fashion historian, and author.
Pairing up with MFA Boston via its Penny Vinik curator of fashion arts Theo Tyson and the museum’s philanthropic community was a creative approach of inviting folks in for an intimate opportunity to familiarize themselves with the auction process, the Hindman team and encouraging donations of their belongings while tying it to Another Tomorrow’s eco-friendly business.
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