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LONDON – We need fundamentally different business models for fashion moving forwards, former Marks & Spencer executive Mike Barry has told Apparel Insider in an exclusive interview for our forthcoming magazine. As sustainability director at the UK retailer, Barry led its ground-breaking Plan A initiative. Drawing on his experiences of Plan A, he suggested the early phases of that – including getting boardroom engagement and building partnerships – represented just 20 per cent of the change that businesses now need to be making to become sustainable in the new business landscape.

Moving forwards, he suggested the real challenge comes with the development of new business models and the acceleration of that process which, he suggests, “is happening at lightening pace.” Examples, he suggested, include the move towards clothing resale and how major brands incorporate that into their existing business models.

Barry also touched on the issue of greenwash which, he suggested, is “less mendacious” than in days gone by. “In the past, there was a degree of cynical greenwash – people basically not doing anything,” he told us. “The greenwash we are seeing how is more about the mistakes people make in that they don’t understand the enormity of what they around signing up to … it’s about a lack of understanding.”

Barry made the broader point that the issue now is all about “disruptive business models.” He suggested fashion can learn from sectors such as automotive where many manufacturers have been caught out by the speed of the shift to electric and are now in danger of missing the boat. In this context, he suggests, “apparel brands can greenwash and lie all they want but there comes a point where they are going to get exposed by the marketplace.”

Other topics covered in the full interview:

  • What Mike Barry did next after M&S
  • What he might have done differently in his time at M&S.
  • The challenges of the sustainability function in large corporates
  • The current fashion consumption model
  • And … much, much more

The complete interview will appear in the forthcoming issue of Apparel Insider magazine.

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