­Zalando’s In Conversation Series: Phillip Lim on fashion’s sustainability gameplan in the face of adversity 

Sustainability is a top priority at Zalando. We believe it's important we have an ongoing conversation with our partners to exchange ideas and insights. Lena-Sophie Roeper, Zalando’s Buying Director for Premium & Luxury, talked to the Co-founder and Creative director of 3.1 Phillip Lim about how Coronavirus could change the fashion industry’s sustainability landscape.

There is an insane desire for what’s next, what’s fast, what’s new.
Let’s return to what’s good.”

Phillip Lim

Passionate and spiritual, Phillip Lim discusses the current state of sustainability and the overall fashion industry from three different angles:

Sustainability and Coronavirus 

  • No longer a luxury: Coronavirus is the black swan of 2020 - totally unexpected and disruptive on different levels. Could this adversity negatively affect fashion’s sustainability agenda? The answer is both yes and no, according to Lim. Big goals and initiatives might “slow down, but the pandemic has forced us to actually practice sustainability”, says Lim. Being sustainable is no longer a luxury, but a new way of life. Lim believes the human spirit is always adaptive, and that people can live well with less. 

  • Addressing the Why: While consumers are increasingly conscious about sustainability, their willingness to pay more for sustainable clothes is still an open question. To close the gap between attitude and behavior, Lim states that “one of the biggest components is consumer education on why they’re paying a fair price”.

3.1 Phillip Lim’s sustainability approach 

  • Sustainable balance as a philosophy: Lim made a distinction between sustainability and sustainable balance. “What we profess, the philosophy of 3.1 Phillip Lim, is sustainable balance...you always have to figure out ways to offset”, he said. Running a fashion business is unsustainable in itself, but we can make it better throughout the process, from creation, delivery, and even internal culture. One obvious example is working with natural, recycled, or biodegradable materials. 

  • Creative vs. sustainable: “Creativity alone is not sustainable. Sustainability is a value system. It’s a mindset. You use creativity as a tool to manifest this mindset”, said Lim.

The human side of the fashion business

  • High performance vs. wellbeing: It's not a secret that running a fashion house is very demanding - for both creative professionals and business executives. There is an increasing awareness within the industry about striking a better balance between high performance and wellbeing. For Lim, this is a big pillar of sustainability. The current pace of the industry is “literally breaking people down. We make bad choices because we are exhausted...It’s important that we produce less, and make everything as best as we can”. The current pandemic is a great opportunity for us to reassess and strike for a better balance.  

  • Changing the status quo: Lim believes in the importance of having the right mindset and changing the status quo. “There is an insane desire for what’s next, what’s new. Let’s return to what’s good”.

This interview is part of Zalando’s In Conversation Series. We talk with leading brands on the fashion industry’s most important topics, from sustainability to digital transformation and human wellbeing.