Interview: Tamsin Lejeune of Ethical Fashion Forum

"Tamsin LeJeune has a vision to transform the fashion industry with style, elegance and grace."

I had a moment to catch up with the fascinating and groundbreaking leader of the Ethical Fashion movement, Tamsin LeJeune, at her beautiful new Mayfair offices one recent afternoon. A personal icon of mine I learned that as CEO of the Ethical Fashion Forum, Ms. Lejeune has built network of over 200,000 people in 133 countries - that has earned her UK's most engaged woman in Fashion and Retail. 

Interview by: Patrick Duffy

Your roots are in architecture, how and why did you transition into ethical fashion? 

I loved the creative element of architecture, however what has driven me from a very young age is the opportunity (and the privilege) of being able to work for change, in particular to make a difference for communities where there is little hope of exit from a cycle of poverty. I think the existence of street children is the ultimate indicator of how (little) advanced our society and our system is.  I cannot bear or tolerate such pain and poverty in a world of great wealth, which delivers so much material value through industry. We have the capability, as a society, to end the phenomenon of street children tomorrow, and yet such an achievement is barely conceivable - our global political system has no mechanism to achieve it. Industry offers the chance to achieve more immediate wins - I’ve seen what business, done well, can do to change lives. It became clear to me that architecture could not be a vehicle for this sort of change, while fashion can and is. I funded the foundation of a fair trade fashion brand, sourcing from Bangladesh , through my income as an architect, and then transitioned to a full time focus on the launch and growth of the Ethical Fashion Forum , when it became clear that the impact of such an organisation could be multiple times what I could achieve through a single fashion brand. 

MySource is an incredible visionary concept, where did the idea come from?

Mysource - www.mysource.io - builds on ten years of work through the Ethical Fashion Forum, and 4 years of running our platform for the industry at www.ethicalfashionforum.com. The concept came from daily seeking solutions to the challenges faced by our members all over the world, as well as much learning over the years of what works (and what does not!) 

Who can use it? And what for? 

Mysource is designed as a tool to help fashion entrepreneurs and professionals to build and grow successful fashion businesses that drive value for those in their supply chains. Running a fashion brand is hard  - there is so much to get right, and Mysource helps its members get their products right, build efficient supply chains, and connect with buyers. Once on the platform, there are incentives for working in a more sustainable way, through increased search rankings, more profile, and better buyer connections. Our goal is to make it more profitable for fashion businesses to work in a fair and sustainable way. Check out the 3 minute video on www.mysource.io for a snapshot view of how Mysource will operate. 

Transforming an industry isn't easy, What kinds of challenges are you facing currently? 

Firstly , awareness - of what sustainability means, why it is important, and how businesses can engage, remains incredibly low amongst fashion professionals. Secondly, it is easy for professionals an businesses to pass the responsibility on to another part of the supply chain. However, we see far more opportunities than challenges. The fashion industry has the potential to drive massive change, and set a precedent for other industries. Momentum is building as thousands of fashion professionals seek a different way of doing business. Now is the time for a catalyst like Mysource to prove that fashion business can be a force for good. 

What are the biggest challenges you see designers brands having having when wanting to become ethical / sustainable? 

For established brands it can be difficult to "change the direction of the juggernaut” - they are operating within a system that has been built over years within which all KPI’s are based on commercial targets and trying to set social or environmental goals is often perceived as in conflict. A short term view prevails - there is more immediate profit to be made through irresponsible practices, even though , unchecked, these will shrink profits for our entire industry in the long run. 

For small businesses that seek to integrate sustainability with their business model, we sometimes find the opposite is true- focusing on sustainability over product and market challenges marketability of the end product. 

What do you want for the future of MySource? 

We want sustainable and ethical best practice in the fashion industry to become the status quo. We want to prove this can be done, starting with fashion, and then expand into other industries and do the same. 

Do you have a personal icon? 

We’re moving into an era of great women leaders. I’m Scottish and Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland is an inspiration - strong, charismatic and a great speaker. Additionally I’m a growing fan of Elon Musk for his single minded determination, his mission and his self belief in the face of criticism. 

How do you navigate the decisions about what's ethical and what's not? 

We’re not alone in tackling this challenge. Mysource founding partners include incredible organisations like he Fairtrade Foundation, the Global Organic Textile Standard, and Sedex. These and other organisations have made it their mission to build robust ethical and sustainability standards, and we rely upon their expertise.  We see Mysource as a platform that will empower its users to navigate these decisions - our job is to offer access to the information they need to do this. 

Who would you like to attend your weekly lunches? 

Now that we are based at the heart of Mayfair, our weekly lunches are gaining renown. We welcome fashion industry leaders around our table - from pioneering small businesses to industry icons - to share ideas at the cutting edge of the most exciting movement in the fashion industry.

For more information on Tamsin and Ethical Fashion From - CLICK HERE

Chris Marta