Fashion Takes Action

The Profile: Fashion Takes Action’s Kelly Drennan


Creating something sustainable (pun intended) in the fashion community can be a bit tricky. But Kelly Drennan, Fashion Takes Action‘s founding executive director, has done just that. Ten years ago, Drennan and her team set out to shine a light on sustainability in fashion and a decade later, they are still at it.

This year saw the Design Forward prize (another of Drennan’s babies) hitting the big time—the prize was awarded once in 2005, but in 2017 there was a runway show and there will be a closing event at EDIT – the Expo for Design, Information & Technology on October 3rd, where they will officially crown a winner between Peggy Sue Collection, Triarchy and Omi Woods.

So I spoke with Drennan via email about her thoughts on this year’s event, where she sees Fashion Takes Action going in the future and her hopes for the Design Forward 2017 winner.

*How has the response been to Design Forward after the initial runway show?
The response has been fantastic! The designers who participated gained from the exposure and many in attendance left empowered about not only what sustainable fashion looks like (its not a hemp sack) but also where they can find it!

*What was it like getting sponsors on board for this prize?
Our prize sponsors are amazing. Every single one that we reached out to was immediately on board and wanting to support the winner of Canada’s Sustainable Fashion Award. We really believe that there is much more value to a designer than winning a cash prize, and so this award will really help them to take their business to the next level.

*How hard was it to narrow down the field of 10 to three? Why did the final three finalists stand out to you and the judges?
Thankfully I was not a part of that decision because it would have been far too difficult for me. The jury was instructed to score each designer with respect to overall design, sustainability initiatives and business acumen. We worked with the semi-finalists to prepare an info package for the jury from which they based their scores. I believe that the three finalists stood out because they struck the perfect balance in all three areas.


*How long have you wanted to do a prize of magnitude? What were some of the road blocks that you faced along the way and why do you think now was the time to launch this award?
Well, we first launched the award in 2010, and Vancouver based Nicole Bridger was our winner then. There was no event to celebrate her win, and so bringing back the award was very much about having the opportunity for the public to join us in celebration of the dedication and hard work of the many designers in Canada that have made some pretty amazing strides.

We would have liked to give a small cash award this year as well, but hopefully that is something we can add for next year as we plan to grow this (including having multiple categories). In terms of timing, I really feel like the timing is bang on. If only I had known that 10 years ago when I first started Fashion Takes Action. Ha! But thankfully me and my amazing team have not given up and it is just so rewarding to finally see our efforts coming to fruition, and for the industry and consumers alike to recognize that sustainable fashion is not only here to stay but is the future!

Drennan, left, with designer Evan Biddell, right

*What are your hopes for this year’s winner of the Design Forward prize?
I hope that the winner will reap the many benefits—from the media exposure through our two events, and in holding the title of Canada’s most Sustainable Fashion Designer. The experience provided to the winner by Testex is really invaluable as so many designers who are committed to ethical practices, only dream of touring facilities in China and to be positioned in Asia as a leader in the Canadian marketplace. I believe they will gain so much from our amazing jury of 10 industry experts, and from the collaboration with Shop Girls. Finally, we will be giving the winner a Special Presentation at our upcoming conference the World Ethical Apparel Roundtable (WEAR) where they will share their experience in China with our global audience.

*How did Design Forward become a part of EDIT? What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming EDIT conference?
FTA and the DX have been wanting to collaborate for years on an event, and when they approached us to be a part of EDIT, we jumped at the opportunity. We are so excited to be part of such a distinguished event that merges sustainability, design, technology and innovation.

*You created Fashion Takes Action 10 years ago. What are some of the biggest changes that you have seen in the industry over that time? What do you wish would change faster? What are the positive changes that you have seen?
The greatest change I have seen is the number of brands that are making progress – from the small designers we celebrate with our Award, through to multi national brands who attend WEAR. And by progress I mean supply chain transparency, ethical sourcing, sustainable and regenerative materials, and the circular economy. There is still a long way to go, but I think it is important to recognize progress over perfection. I hope that consumers will continue to demand more from this industry (which is the second largest polluter after big oil) and ask questions about where their clothes are made, how and by whom. I also would like to see governments doing more to support the garment workers that are so badly exploited.

To purchase tickets to the Design Forward event on October 3rd, click here

Feature image: A look from Peggy Sue Collection’s recent line

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  • Kelly September 23, 2017

    Thank you so much Michelle!!

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