Founder’s End of Year Letter

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for this year to be over so I can spend the holidays at home with my family and friends and not think about work for a while.  Everyone’s engine needs to shut down and chill.

The second pandemic year was not fun and hard to digest as too many of my close friends and family have suffered either health or business trauma. Stress for many has been excessive — factories have closed, infrastructure has been discombobulated and suppliers have been trying to keep confirmed deliveries and prices. Recently, we wanted to buy my mother-in-law an extra oxygen tank (the current one only runs for four hours at a time) but none are available in Houston. Can you imagine? No oxygen tanks available for people who need them? This new post-pandemic world is too complex and too bizarre to fully comprehend. These new supply chain impediments remind me of artery blockages — and we know how that story ends on the health front.

The finalization of the European Commission’s European Green Deal has come not a moment too soon. My New York apartment flooded twice this year — the second and third time of flooding in 21 years.  Seems there is more rain and fire lately, on top of ongoing droughts in many countries. Throw in the pandemic and it’s clear we are living in the midst of a perturbed earth. Last year, Houston, which is considered the American Mecca for energy, lost power completely for almost a week in some places. So no wonder many of us want to exit the year and flip the calendar to 2022 with hopes that the coming year will bring lots of good things into our lives replacing unpredictable Covid times.

I have an inexplicable feeling 2022 is shaping up to be a peaceful, kind, prelude to a post-pandemic (PP) 2023, when normalcy will return. And with that in mind, Kingpins has decided to have shows again in Amsterdam and New York — and perhaps Latin America and China — in 2022.  We obviously won’t quarantine in China for various three-week stints in order to produce a show, but maybe things will open up for visitors to China — if not next year, then certainly in PP2023.

We all need to congregate en masse from time to time to be inspired by a cacophony of information and ideas.  Zoom might be fine for data, analytics or meetings, but it has no role for creativity or inspiration. Our industry runs not just on data but on making beautiful things that are created with love and emotion. That’s why our shows are returning. In the future, we have to assume that COVID-19 will not ever fully go away, that there will always be someone who catches it again or is a carrier. We will ask for vaccination proof, which I believe will be the law, not just our idea. I’m not going to say whether one should vaccinate or not, as that’s a personal decision — just as eating fatty bacon sandwiches for the rest of your life is a personal decision.

The Green Deal will have implications for all of us in textiles as European laws will change.  Here’s something to chew on from a recent Fashion United story.

The Commission wants to extend the responsibility of textile companies and push them to offer reusable, durable and repairable products. Waste needs to be reduced and, where it cannot be avoided, recycled. The EU also aims to empower informed consumer choices while tackling ‘green washing’. “Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume with our planet,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, said. “I believe that the old growth model that is based on fossil fuels and pollution is out of date.”

Mills that want to sell to the EU will need to stop greenwashing just as the brands have to. Those that don’t should start saving for the penalties they will face. Think about the connection between “reusable” and “fossil fuels” and then consider how long non fully recyclable spandex will live in our jeans? Get ready for change. It’s coming!

A few weeks ago, Greenpeace came out with a new report after 10 years and found brands are doing a better job on detoxifying their production (please all stand and take a bow). The organization also recommended all of us (including businesses) reduce units and consumption. I’m not sure public companies have a plan to do that intentionally — although the pandemic gave all of us practice living with reduced sales and demand. It remains to be seen whether private equity funds, which own a big chunk of our industry, will abide by that morsel of Greenpeace advice.

Clearly, if you buy something you love and wear it non-stop and refrain from replacing it, you are doing the most environmental thing possible. Greenpeace is not wrong in their view, but I’m not sure that’s the reason Authentic Brands purchased so many brands or that Walmart or Target are having meetings in an effort to sell fewer units or raise prices.

Finally, I want to end this piece (and this year) on an upbeat note. The Guardian recently published a story about enzymes and their possible impact talking about bugs eating plastic. It just goes to show, we know very little about what the future holds, good or bad.  As one of my mentors said, “you know, the future might well be 10 times better than you originally thought!”

Happy Holidays everyone and see you in what we all hope will be a happy healthy new year

Andrew Olah 

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