FashMash Pioneers – Our Takeaways

Robyn Hamilton shares her key takeaways from the latest FashMash Pioneers event, where she learnt about Google’s pioneering new project aiming to fix fashion’s environmental data gap.

Earlier this week, we attended the latest instalment of FashMash Pioneers at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London, to watch our Eco-Age contributor Rosanna Falconer, lead an engaging and candid conversation between her business partner Rachel Arthur, co-founder and chief innovation officer at innovation consultancy,  Current Global, and FashMash co-founder and head of luxury at Google, Maria McClay, who together make up the brilliant female duo behind Google’s pioneering project that they hope will fix fashion’s environmental data gap.

Here are our 4 key takeaways:

  • There is currently an enormous lack of real time data 
    • The industry often relies on historical data, which 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 fabric, you can’t make informed decisions. McClay realised Google were in a position help with this particular predicament, and can affect real change using a team that already existed – the Google Cloud team – who could use data analytics and machine learning 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, etc. Arthur made the insightful point during the discussion that just because you know where your materials come from, doesn’t mean you understand its impact, and 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 it can look into what partnerships can be made in those regions, with those farms, and those industries to make real and positive change 
  • There will be a prototype for the tool ready as soon as early 2020
    • Historically, Google have only ever announced a product, not a project. McClay explained that is different for two reasons: firstly, time is of the essence. We don’t want a tool that’s perfect in 10 years’ time when it’s too late. Secondly, because for this tool to be truly effective, it needs all voices, big and small, to have an input and help Google understand all the types of data that need to be mined in order to fill the gaps – ‘this has never been done before, so there will be gaps we don’t even know are gaps yet’.