In this special coverage, Ragtrader unpacks the key insights and news from its Breakfast of Big Ideas event this week on June 26.

Both Mosaic Brands CEO Erica Berchtold and Alquemie Group CEO Scott Evans have shared concerns over the current push towards sustainability in the fashion market at Ragtrader’s Breakfast of Big Ideas on June 26 this week.

It comes days before Seamless launches to market on July 1, with 62 members signed up so far, and with no solidified plans to make it mandatory for all sellers of fashion in Australia in the near future. 

Speaking to an audience of over 250 industry delegates, Berchtold said being financially sustainable and environmentally sustainable go hand-in-hand.

“I am worried about a lot of the talk and the potential government mandates in that space,” Berchtold said. “Will customers pay for the sustainability agenda they say they have? Because if they won't, then that is a lot of cost pressure that's going to continue to be pushed onto retailers in an environment where there's already a lot of cost of doing business pressure. 

“I just think we need to get our head around that. How do you manage the environmental side as well as the financial side?”

Berchtold added that the steps we are taking so far in sustainability is amazing.

“It's the right thing to do to look after the environment and look after workers to ensure that we're making progress. But, as I said, there is also financial sustainability, and you can't afford to be the most sustainable business and go broke. 

“If customers aren't willing to pay for what they say they are interested in, then who funds that? How do you continue to make progress over perfection? Because no retailer is a not for profit. We've got to be able to pay our bills and to fund a further sustainability agenda. 

“So I think there's a balancing act. That's the climate at the moment.”

Beside Berchtold, Evans was nodding his head.

“Sustainability is a cost,” he said. “Back in the 90s, when I was in England, I worked in Marks & Spencers. And M&S had this massive shift where they moved from manufacturing in the United Kingdom to manufacturing in the Far East. And the whole country went against them for it.

“I do think sustainability is apt. Everybody talks about it, everybody understands the severity of it, but nobody wants to pay for it. I think that's hard to navigate.”

Evans added that there’s competition everywhere in the fashion market now.

“The world’s getting smaller as populations get bigger, we travel a lot more,” he said.

“We have a big focus in Alquemie that we're working on, which is how we're just making it easier and easier and easier. Because, we all know, the less I have to think about buying something, the more I want to buy it. The more I think about buying it, the more likely I walk away. 

“There's only a few reasons why we purchase. At the end of the day, it’s about what everybody's selling them through.”

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