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Transforming sustainable fashion with Google

Google's head of luxury, Maria McClay, discusses how brands can make more responsible sourcing decisions through technology for FashMash Pioneers.

At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this year, FashMash co-founder, Rachel Arthur, announced a project she’s been working on with Google and in collaboration with Stella McCartney. This week we switched up our FashMash Pioneers format to speak with both Rachel and Google's head of luxury, Maria McClay, on exactly what they're building, why they're working with Stella McCartney and how other brands and industry players can get involved.

That initiative is focused on enabling a more sustainable fashion industry by building out a data analytics and machine learning tool powered by Google Cloud technology that will enable brands to make more responsible sourcing decisions.

Transformation is imperative across the fashion industry for the sake of both people and the planet. That’s why this project is focused on the raw materials stage of the supply chain, where information tends to be highly fragmented and with little transparency, yet where the majority of negative impact occurs. The aim is provide brands with greater visibility on different textiles, ultimately translating data into meaningful insights so the industry can take action.


In case you missed it, here are some of our key takeaways:


There is currently an enormous lack of real time data

The industry often relies on historical data that in some instances dates back as far as the early 2000s, and has been captured at a global level; but without knowing the regional impact of each material, you can’t make informed decisions. McClay realised Google were in a position to help with this particular predicament, and affect real change using a team that already existed - the Google Cloud team - who could use data analytics and machine leaning to stitch together data in such a way that real-time, measurable insights could be extracted.⁣⁣⁣⁣


If you can’t see it, you can’t measure it

The vision for this tool is to be able to provide granular insights on issues like air pollution, water consumption, soil impact and more. Arthur made the insightful point during the discussion that just because you know where your materials come from, doesn’t mean you understand their impact, so to fix this problem the two need to come hand-in-hand - traceability and measurability.⁣⁣⁣⁣


If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it

Once the tool has mapped the data, and the measurability of supply chains has been established, businesses will be able to make informed decisions, and be able to ask themselves "If I source in this region, what will the exact impact be" and then in turn look into what partnerships can be made in those regions, with those farms, and those industries to make real and positive change.


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