This year, Lexus has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for a sustainable business program: CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative. With an aim to inspire leadership, innovation, and change, the program has welcomed five finalists
to participate: Nicole Heim and Chelsea Healy for Cienne; Marcia Patmos for M.Patmos; Sue Stemp and Paud Roche for St. Roche; Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson for Studio One Eighty Nine; and Whitney Pozgay and Parker Argote for Whit.
Mentored by an advisory board of 20 industry leaders, the participants are given the opportunity to examine the environmental, social, and financial impacts of design and sustainability through business studies that highlight consumer consciousness, bespoke products, service innovations, and ethical methods. The designers are also eligible for a significant award, the $80,000 Lexus Grand Prize, which will be given to the brand with the most viable blueprint for a business plan based on vision, impact, and strategy.
To learn more about this program, Whitewall spoke with Greg Kitzens, the general manager of U.S. marketing at Lexus.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about the Fashion* Initiative—your partnership program with CFDA that focuses on sustainable development, working with five selected brands.
GREG KITZENS: The CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative is deeply important to Lexus because it reflects the core values of our brand. For the last eight years, Lexus and the CFDA have built a strong partnership centered on values of environmental and social responsibility and how these elements are important in the fashion industry. The goal of the Fashion* Initiative is to inspire thought leadership, facilitate the implementation of innovative business
practices, and activate meaningful and positive change within American fashion.
WW: This summer, the participant with the most impactful strategic blueprint for a positive future will receive the Lexus Grand Prize of $80,000. Who is it? What is Lexus looking for when choosing this recipient?
GK: While we are not able to divulge who the winner is quite yet, we look for designers that are passionate about their brands and are rooted in strong sustainable values that really show the designers’ commitment to creating beautiful pieces in an ethical way.
WW: Through this program, led by an expert team, participants will learn how to navigate fashion’s supply chain, and how to make informed, strategic designs while valuing people and the planet, and creating profit holistically. How are these principles being taught?
GK: The Fashion* Initiative encompasses education, mentorship, collaboration, and community. Designers participating in the Fashion* Initiative had the opportunity to partake in a series of sustainability-focused workshops with experts in the field, a trip to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, and to engage and problem-solve through education via a live case study, with MBA team support, led by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business through the “Sustainability for Competitive Advantage” course.
WW: What is Lexus currently doing to become more sustainable or reduce its footprint?
GK: Lexus is the number-one manufacturer of luxury hybrids and holds 40 percent of the U.S. luxury hybrid market. Our main goal is a vehicle that is exceptionally lean in its use of raw materials, its fuel, and its impact on the environment. We work hard to support our hybrid lineup, and recently announced the “Fast as h” campaign, a new national marketing campaign that showcases the full hybrid lineup’s impressive performance and new lower pricing.
WW: As an ongoing effort, what types of initiatives or brands does Lexus look to partner with creatively?
GK: We are consistently looking for new and innovative ways to curate cultural partnerships with a dynamic of community innovators and influencers, encompassing everything from installations and performances to talks and lectures.