I am so excited and honored to announce I will be speaking on a panel at SXSW entitled Sustainability and Ethics in Fashion Technology alongside 3 other incredible women. If you will be attending please stop by the panel, reach out, and say hello!
If you don’t know what SXSW is, take a minute to google it. It is attended by over 400,000 people and is notorious for helping to launch up and coming creatives into the mainstream. Household names like twitter, foursquare, John Mayer, Kid Cudi, James Blunt, Ellie Goulding, and even Amy Winehouse all got their start on the SXSW stage.
This years speakers include Mark Cuban, Dr. Fei-Fei Li (chief scientist at Google cloud), Alex Rodriguez (former New York Yankee, and one of the greatest players in the history of baseball), Keith Urban, Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan, and Requiem for a Dream), Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins, and Mayor of London - Sadiq Khan… so we will be in good company.
Thanks to Facebook, love it or hate it, shared adolescent acquaintances are never really forgotten. I noticed Mia Merrill, fellow Rye High Class of '05 graduate, had been posting about her company The Candid Entrepreneur, a platform that explores the opinions of industry innovators and leaders. Despite not having seen each other since high school, over 10 years ago, I decided to reach out, because as most of you know, I have A LOT to say about the fashion industry and I liked what she was doing. We met, caught up, and started working on our SXSW application that evening.
Despite marked advancements and increased access to "friendlier fashion," consumers remain in the dark about the manufacturing process. In short, not much has changed in the fashion supply chain over the decades. This panel will discuss the continued harsh realities of overseas manufacturing and spotlight the innovators and entrepreneurs who are dedicating their efforts to reinventing the fashion industry and are revolutionizing sustainability within the industry.
The panel will be lead and moderated by Mia Merrill of the Candid Entrepreneur. Expert industry speakers will include Dr. Carmen Hijosa of Pinatex, Amanda Parkes of NYC Fashion Tech, and me, Melanie DiSalvo.
Melanie DiSalvo began her fashion career in product development after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Textile Development and Marketing program. DiSalvo has spent much of her career in fabric mills and clothing factories overseas, managing supply chains and developing performance and price based products for customers, including Eileen Fisher, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, AG Jeans, Walmart, Target, Macy's, Hunter Boot, Alex Mills by Alex Drexler, Nili Lotan, and others. DiSalvo focuses specifically on the intersection of fashion and manufacturing in third world countries, which she uses to foster partnerships with American brands and overseas suppliers. After being exposed to the harsh realities of overseas manufacturing, DiSalvo founded the ethical and sustainable clothing line, virtue + vice, and independently consults with start-ups and other brands to help create more environmentally friendly supply chains.
Originally from Spain, Dr. Hijosa has a track record in the design and manufacturing of leather goods, selling through her own company and supplying key retail outlets such as Harrods and Liberties in London. While working in the Philippines as a consultant to the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines in the ‘90s, Dr Hijosa became aware of the qualities of pineapple leaf fibres and began to explore possible ways to develop a new textile material that could be used as an alternative to leather and petroleum-based textiles.
As written in the Huffington Post, it took around 7 years to develop, what is now Pinatex. A strong and sustainable textile, that can be used in everything from bags to furniture. Even shoe companies like Puma and Camper have made prototypes with the textile. What started as an alternative to leather, have become its own product.
Carmen believes that there is a place for Pinatex in the world, right between leather and petroleum based textiles.
Dr. Amanda Parkes is a fashion technologist with over 12 years of experience in wearable technology, interaction design, smart materials and fashion innovation. She is the Chief Innovation Officer of FTL Ventures, a hybrid investment fund, agency and experimental lab focused on the future of sustainable and interactive fashion. Her perspective focuses on combining smart textiles, wearable tech, fiber science, material science, and nanotechnology with the strategic development issues around building hybrid fashion-technology businesses. She is the former Chief of Technology and Research at Manufacture NY and the Founder of Skinteractive Studio, a fashion tech studio working with startups including Thesis Couture, Dropel Fabrics, Kenzen, Mycoworks and Wonderwoof, and with past clients including Google, Intel, and Ringly. As an academic, she is appointed as a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Media Lab and an Adjunct Professor in the Columbia University Department of Architecture. She received a PhD & M.S. in Tangible Media from the MIT Media Lab and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (Product Design) and a B.A. in Art History from Stanford University. She is an international speaker & lecturer including TED, DLD, CES, PSFK, the World Economic Forum and the New York Times International Luxury Conference; her design work has been awarded in forums including the ID Magazine Annual Design Review, the Prix Ars Electronica, and the D&AD Awards. She was named to the Business of Fashion 500 People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry List, Vanity Fair’s 8 Wildest Women of Silicon Valley and as one of Alleywatch’s 10 Most Influential People in Fashion Technology. Outside the lab she likes to surf, scuba, sew, and amass exquisite shoes.
Mia Merrill graduated from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and received her Masters from Columbia University, with a concentration in Social Enterprise Administration. By nature of living in NYC, Mia was exposed to a variety of entrepreneurs - everything from bodega owners to million dollar tech start-ups - and was lucky enough to get involved with Interplay Ventures upon graduating from her masters program. As Director of Talent at Interplay, Mia saw first hand what it takes to be a founder. Upon being recruited by the Co-Founder and CEO of Nomad Financial, Jonathan Gass, to lead their People and Culture Operation, the two teamed up to create a platform for industry disrupters and leaders; the Candid Entrepreneur. An avid conversationalist, Mia enjoys meeting people from different walks of life and motivating audiences to join forces on behalf of the greater good.