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Raw Talent Podcast S4, Episode 6 with Sustainability and Raw Materials expert Kavita Dass

Kavita and I have known one another for nearly 10 years. In this episode of Raw Talent, Kavita gives us a snippet of her background growing up in the family tea garden in India and her journey into the fashion industry in the UK after studying History & Geography. She actually wanted to be a doctor but also loves textile design, which she also studied embarking on a fashion career in India where she became the Head of Creative for a leading exporter producing for US and European brands.

The journey of life brought her to London and her UK career in raw materials technology started at Jaeger and Aquascutum and evolved via Sara Lee Courtaulds, Dewhirst and M&S. During this time she began to hone her expertise in sustainability and shares with us some of the projects she worked on in these early days including PFC Free Water repellent finishes for women's outerwear at Dewhirst and denim projects at M&S focused on reducing water usage by experimenting with Ozone and Laser treatments which M&S pioneered at a point in time when water scarcity suddenly became centre front and cotton and denim needed sustainable solutions.

In 2015, before they moved their international design centre to Switzerland, Kavita joined Timberland as Materials Specialist in Innovation, Sustainability, Sourcing & Commercial Viability. Kavita explains that part of VF always had sustainability as a key performance indicator embedded within every role united by purpose as a common element that resonated across the team. She learned about recycled materials, sustainable exchange and was introduced to a lot of different elements.

In 2017, she joined ASOS and helped to build and launch their Responsible Sourcing Material Department, a role in which she formulated and implemented strategy leaving a blueprint which the business works to today. Kavita started in the fabric department and relays that the blue-sky thinking was there, they could see the goals but needed someone to carry out gap analysis and implement the findings. Kavita set to work on industry-aligned targets, with transparency being key. She says if you are trying to solve a problem, solve the biggest challenge first. The circularity principles she harnessed were drawn from Ellen McArthur principles and involved educating people inside and outside of the business.

Kavita also consults on sustainability projects to help businesses of all sizes including start-ups on their sustainability and circularity journey with special emphasis on Sustainability Roadmaps, Raw Material Sourcing, Circularity and Product Development. She says brands need help on where to start and the implementation piece has become a specialism. Her career started with fabric design and because of this, she has a birds-eye view of how everything works and the domino effect.

In between Timberland and ASOS, she signed up for the Cambridge sustainability leadership in business course mentored by amazing professors including Dr Wang who asked her to be an ambassador on the first closed-loop circularity film shown globally.

Sustainability is the buzzword of fashion at the moment and yet it is a movement that has been steadily evolving in the last 10 years. The fast forward button has been activated by the pandemic and climate crisis. So what are the important considerations for the next 3-5 years and how fast can we go in changing things at pace? Kavita says that we need to go as fast as we can. Recycling is key, reusing raw materials. Fuel based sources need to change. Creating circularity is the only way forward. There should not be waste.

It is an insightful conversation and I am sure we will look back in 5 years time having made giant leaps forward as the climate emergency prompts significant and immediate action. Evolution is in full swing.

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