On Wednesday, Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey and Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum CEO, gathered more than 30 fashion industry insiders, including Catarina Midby of H&M, the Telegraph’s Hilary Alexander, and designer Roland Mouret at the Houses of Parliament in London. The agenda? How to scale sustainable fashion so it becomes less of a niche product and more of the status quo. Despite the sea change in consumer attitudes in recent years, it’s an issue the industry continues to struggle with, and one that Lejeune says she hopes that the launch of her organization’s online “Mysource” platform (formerly known as the “Source”) will soon address. Ecouterre caught up with Lejeune to talk about the rebranded initiative, how she thinks Mysource can supply the tools fashion professionals need to “do business better,” and why collaboration and transparency are key to building successful brands.

What sparked the decision to rebrand the Source?

With the URL www.ethicalfashionforum.com, professionals and businesses come to Source primarily because they’re already interested in building their supply chains in an ethical way or they’re already doing it.

While we’re making great progress working with these businesses, they only represent a very small percentage of the fashion industry. Mintel estimates that less than 1 percent of the fashion industry is dedicated to ethical and sustainable product. And, it is the businesses that are least engaged with sustainability—and least likely to visit www.ethicalfashionforum.com—that are having the most negative impact on the people behind their products—and the environment.

It was clear to us that if we wanted to achieve real change in this industry, scale up our impact, and deliver best for our members, we needed to create a fundamental tool, relevant to all fashion professionals and businesses.

“Mysource is primarily a tool to help anyone, based anywhere, to access the right resources and connections.”

Mysource is primarily a tool to help anyone, based anywhere, to access the right resources and connections to build and grow a successful fashion business, whether or not they are interested in sustainability.

Once on the platform, businesses with higher ethical and sustainability standards benefit from higher search rankings, more connections with buyers, and a greater profile on the site.

Rather than working only with the small sector of the industry that is already dedicated to sustainable practices, we’re able to incentivize and reward best practice by all fashion professionals and support them on the way through training and resources dedicated to their needs.

As well as rebranding, we’re streamlining our current services, so that we can deliver better solutions to more fashion people.

“When users log in to their dashboard, they are matched with information and connections in line with their needs.

Through our work with the Source platform, we’ve found that our users get the best experience when we help to match them directly with the things that they’re looking for—a connection, a market report, or a piece of training—saving them hours of searching and helping move their business forward in the right way.

However, we are a small team and this bespoke, personal approach is expensive and time-consuming.

The new platform, Mysource, is designed to do all of this automatically using a powerful matching algorithm. When users log in to their dashboard, they are matched with information and connections in line with their needs.

They get a curated experience, saving time on searching and sifting through to find exactly what they need. That’s why we’re calling it Mysource.

Mysource, Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum, eco-fashion tools, eco-fashion websites, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Crowdcube, U.K., United Kingdom

How has the ethical fashion market changed since you began the original Source? What are today’s biggest challenges?

I’ve seen a lot change in the past 10 years of working in fashion and sustainability. I’ve witnessed extraordinary fashion pioneers doing incredible things, driving forward better practices across the industry, in businesses large and small. Initiatives like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Higgs Index have engaged more large fashion businesses with sustainability, in a more meaningful way, than ever before.

Most notably, I’ve seen a major shift in fashion education. In 10 years, sustainability had gone from being a concept students are interested in—and given very little support around‚to becoming near the top of the agenda for fashion course leaders, and increasingly integrated with fashion course curricula.

“Across the industry, sustainability is still perceived as a cost, rather than a commercial opportunity.”

This is having an important impact on fashion business. Graduates employed in large fashion businesses are asking questions, and those who are setting up fashion businesses are choosing to integrate sustainability at the heart of their business models.

However, when it comes to integrating a triple-bottom-line approach to fashion business—an approach that considers social and environmental alongside financial goals—all our work confirms that this is still a minority pursuit. Awareness—beyond those in corporate-social-responsibility positions—remains low.

Across the industry, sustainability is still perceived as a cost, rather than a commercial opportunity. For many, sustainability is not seen as enough of a contributor to commercial business success.

Yes, there is evidence that sustainable practices increase customer loyalty and improve brand profile; and that more sustainable practices can in fact reduce costs. But there can also be many upfront costs, like certification, training, and policy building.

Our goal with Mysource is to turn this on its head. Mysource will make sustainability profitable, create a peer network that will reward increased awareness, and reward best practices.

CONTINUE READING: DISRUPTING AN INDUSTRY >

Mysource, Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum, eco-fashion tools, eco-fashion websites, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Crowdcube, U.K., United Kingdom

Photo by Kowtow

Whom does Mysource target? And what can people expect from it?

Mysource targets professionals across the fashion industry, from one end of the supply chain to the other, including brands, suppliers, retailers, entrepreneurs, large organisations, as well as students and colleges.

Users can expect a tailored experience though the site. Through their dashboard, and based on their specifications, they will be sent connections—buyers, suppliers, experts—and resources—market information, bite-size training on anything from sales to sourcing—that match their needs.

“Mysource users will be empowered to build sustainable supply chains based on their specifications.”

They will also benefit from a “Lookbook” app, helping them to showcase their products and services in the way buyers need to see them.

Finally, the site will include a benchmarking function. This will mean that users can see where their business, and others on the site, stand against social, environmental, and quality benchmarks.

They will be empowered to build sustainable supply chains. They will be able to gain more profile for good practices, and they will be able to see which businesses are trending in anything from organic-cotton sourcing to worker empowerment.

Users can join the site free of charge, then upgrade to access premium training and resources, and better connection functionality.

Mysource, Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum, eco-fashion tools, eco-fashion websites, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Crowdcube, U.K., United Kingdom

Photo by Jacobs Well

Tell us more about the Match.com-like algorithm you’re employing.

The Mysource matching function will be powered by a sophisticated algorithm that will analyze user data and then recommend companies, products, and content that meet their needs.

User preferences and profiles are matched depending on who they are and what they are looking for.

“A sophisticated algorithm will analyze user data and then recommend companies, products, and content that meet their needs.”

Individual users will create a personal profile. Each time they visit the site, they will be prompted to enter more information using a visual, game-ified process—no long forms!

The algorithm will take their user data, combined with their Mysource user history—for example, which articles they’ve read, key words they’re searching, and so on—to match them with inspiring industry insight, promising business partners, and the right products or services for them.

As the platform grows and more user history is collected and stored, the matching algorithm will be able to make even more sophisticated recommendations, including identifying knowledge gaps for the individual or organization they work for.

Mysource, Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum, eco-fashion tools, eco-fashion websites, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Crowdcube, U.K., United Kingdom

Why are you using Crowdcube to crowdsource investors?

Through our work with the Ethical Fashion Forum and Source, we have built a global network, reaching over 220,000 people in 141 countries, including college networks. Many of these are leaders and pioneers when it comes to sustainability in the fashion industry.

We want to give the members of our network the opportunity to become shareholders and benefit from our projected growth. On the basis of meeting our targets, we are projecting excellent returns for investors.

“We want to give the members of our network the opportunity to become shareholders and benefit from our projected growth.”

Second, having owners who share our goals and understand the challenges we need to solve, is the best way to ensure the long term success of Mysource.

As part of our crowdfunding campaign, we are building a coalition of leaders who are supporting and backing Mysource, and championing sustainability in the fashion industry.

Supporters include model and entrepreneur Amber Valletta, senior and C-level executives from Vivienne Westwood, H&M, Whistles, and many other leading fashion businesses, from major retailers to large factories.

Mysource, Tamsin Lejeune, Ethical Fashion Forum, eco-fashion tools, eco-fashion websites, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Crowdcube, U.K., United Kingdom

Photo of Amber Valletta by Craig McDean for Master & Muse

How do you anticipate Mysource disrupting the fashion industry?

Our vision is a fashion industry in which sustainability is the standard, rather than the exception to it.

We anticipate that Mysource will become the go-to resource: the site to which anyone working in fashion will automatically turn to first because it offers them unmatched value, and helps them to achieve their goals.

“We aim to do for sourcing what LinkedIn has done for recruitment.”

We aim to do for sourcing what LinkedIn has done for recruitment. No other platform offers fashion people all the tools they need to build successful businesses, in one place, while remaining affordable, accessible, and relevant to both smaller and larger industry players.

The exciting part is that Mysource will create a level playing field in which social and environmental best practice becomes a commercial opportunity for all its users.

We believe that Mysource will transform the way fashion business is done, increasing sustainability across the supply chain, driving forward fair practices, and reversing the environmental impact of our industry.

+ Mysource on Crowdcube

+ Mysource