Retail in Asia

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with VF Corporation and Timberland®

Furthering its efforts on the sustainability front, VF Corporation, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, together with its Timberland® brand, joined hands with environmental charity Redress for the Redress Design Award 2020, to support the education and professional development of the industry’s next generation of sustainable fashion designers and champion the move toward a circular economy.

SEE ALSO : EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: VF Group and sustainability, a science-based target approach

Through the collaboration, VF and the Timberland® brand lend their experience and expertise in sustainability to support the education and professional development of the industry’s next generation of sustainable fashion designers and champion the move toward a circular economy.

Source: Timberland®

Celebrating the competition’s 10th anniversary, the Redress Design Award 2020 is the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition which works to educate emerging fashion designers from around the world about sustainable design concepts and techniques.

As consumer interest in sustainable apparel continues to rise, VF is challenging some of the industry’s most promising young talents to disrupt the status quo and drive circularity and sustainability across the industry.

While the Redress Design Award 2020 was held virtually this year on 3rd September, its impact has been seen worldwide. The 10 finalists were supported by an international judging panel that included VF’s Kevin Bailey and British fashion designer and Timberland® creative director Christopher Raeburn. The Menswear Category prize winner, Ngoc Ha Thu Le who is currently a fashion designer at Magenta Vintage in Hanoi, Vietnam, will collaborate with the Timberland® brand to develop a sustainable capsule collection for sale at retail. The release of the collection will coincide with the Chinese New Year 2022 and will be inspired by the Year of the Tiger.

3_Finalists virtually presented their collections to the international panel of judges
Source: VF Corporation

In the leadup to the Redress Design Award 2020 Grand Final, VF and the Timberland® brand hosted the “Made for Change Timberland® Challenge” in August. With guidance from VF and Timberland® subject matter experts, emerging designers competed to develop the most innovative and sustainable design concept for a range of iconic Timberland® products. Fashion designers Ruth Weerasinghe from Sri Lanka, Inhwa Jin from South Korea and Beatrice Bocconi from Italy were selected as winners of the challenge for their multi-purpose accessories concept that enhances product sustainability.

Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Mahmoud Salahy, Vice President and Managing Director, Timberland® Asia Pacific, and Anna Maria Rugarli, Sustainability and Responsibility, Senior Director, EMEA of VF Corporation, about sustainability.

Following VF’s vision on sustainability and circularity, Timberland® announced this September a bold goal for its products to have a net positive impact on nature by 2030. Its goal is for 100% of the company’s products to be designed for circularity, across footwear, apparel and accessories.

“At the heart of Timberland brand is the core belief that a greener future is a better future. For decades, we have taken pride in our longstanding commitment to a better product, stronger communities and a greener world,” said Mahmoud during the video interview.

Check out the full interview with Mahmoud Salahy, Vice President and Managing Director, Timberland® Asia Pacific, about the company’s sustainability efforts.

Anna Maria Rugarli, Sustainability and Responsibility, Senior Director, EMEA of VF Corporation, has also shared with Retail in Asia the company’s sustainability strategy.

RiA: How is VF adjusting its sustainability strategy at the light of COVID-19 crisis worldwide and in APAC specifically?

Anna Maria: We have focused on ensuring the health and safety of our employees and our communities as a top priority. We are also committing our time, expertise, and money to help support COVID-19 relief efforts around the world.

Despite the terrible human toll, the virus has actually provided us with a glimpse of how resilient the earth is when given a break from human impact. It has made us reflect how we conduct business more efficiently, source more effectively, and how to innovate to reach more consumers online.

Our company is about continual progress. We are proud of our achievements but know there is so much more we can do. Our Made for Change strategy, science-based targets, and our new sustainable materials vision outline our forward-looking priorities and provide us with a renewed focus to push ourselves harder and farther as we do our part to address some of our industry’s most challenging issues.

Source: VF Corporation

RiA: Is there any region ahead and/or behind of others in terms of sustainability?

Anna Maria: Although I think each region faces unique challenges, I do not think it would be fair to rank them against each other. As a global organization, we have a presence in many regions. We have overarching goals, however the roadmap to hitting our sustainability targets varies based on the operational imperatives in each region.

RiA: How do you balance sustainability goals in between group policy and brand strategies?

Anna Maria: I believe the best approach for managing sustainability goals is to set ambitious targets, but to ultimately let our people do what they do best – innovate and think creatively to meet their targets. At VF, it doesn’t matter if a great idea originates from a brand or the corporate level. All that matters is that it drives us toward a common goal – a more sustainable future.

RiA: Your brands have very special relationship with nature, so for your customers, how do you convey the message of being environmental responsible through your products? 

Anna Maria: Consumers and stakeholders are becoming increasingly conscious about sustainability and social responsibility efforts. People increasingly want to know where the products come from and how they are made. There is broad alignment at VF that we need to give the customer as much information as possible about the environmental responsibility of our products so they can feel confident when they are making purchasing decisions. That is why we take a transparent approach to traceability on a VF level with our traceability maps.

We have more than 40 products mapped publicly online, including our brands’ most iconic products, and we are working to have many more in the future. In addition, we have our Made for Change reports available on that list our goals, as well as where we are against those goals.

Source: VF Corporation

RiA: What are the main projects in place at VF Corp globally?

Anna Maria: Across VF Corporation is a commitment to be more than just an apparel and footwear company. We have a goal to positively impact the lives of one million people annually by 2025 and two million people annually by 2030.

As a sustainability leader within our industry, we have dozens of significant programs that not only focus on making our own products and operations more sustainable, but also improve the environmental footprint of our third-party suppliers and other business partners around the world.

To help us achieve our goal, we created our Worker and Community Development (WCD) program – a program that invests in worker’s most pressing needs across three focus areas: Water and Sanitation, Health and Nutrition, and Childcare and Education.

We know from experience that worker whose needs when met are happier and healthier, and in turn make better products. The vast majority of our WCD programs are implemented throughout the Asia region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Vietnam, and China.

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This effort is a great example of the virtuous cycle – doing well, by doing good. We constantly push ourselves to find ways to operate our business in even more responsible ways that positively impact people and our planet. And through our robust Sustainability & Responsibility programs (which are managed and measured with precision), we are leading the change our industry – and the world – needs.