While government czars are traditionally not fashionable roles, a new idea for a fashion-focused czar is becoming de rigeur. Fast Company reporter Elizabeth Segran first posed the suggestion for a Biden-appointed “fashion czar” earlier this month, writing that the industry needs more coordinated regulation to deal with issues related to sustainability and humane labor.
Since publication, the idea has gained traction in stylish circles. Political consultant Hilary Jochmans crafted a letter on the subject, delivered this week to the White House and members of Congress. The letter features brand signees like Allbirds, Everlane, and Timberland along with the names of industry experts.
We spoke to Segran about why the idea of a fashion-focused appointee is catching on and the resume a future czar may need for the job:
What inspired this idea of having a defined, appointee role for the fashion industry?
I’ve been writing about sustainability in fashion for seven years now. I also write very frequently about the really terrible human rights violations that we continue to see in the fashion industry. These are complex, multifaceted issues, and lots of different organizations and brands are trying to act on these things, but all of the action is incremental. It just seemed to me that there was no larger coordinated action happening—that was really the missing ingredient in this entire issue in the fashion industry.
Historically, czars have been appointed by President during moments of crisis. The concept of a czar is just an extremely easy way to sort of explain what’s going on here, which is that there’s a crisis, the crisis needs to be resolved in a multifaceted way, and the government needs to be involved in it.
Why do you think this idea has resonated with so many in the fashion industry?
I think that I just articulated something that a lot of people have been thinking about for a long time, which is that the incremental change is just kind of getting old. The problem before us is just so enormous that we need big, ambitious action right now. One way to do that is for the government to pay attention and for the president to be aware of the issue.
I was trying to make the case that it won’t actually take that much for this to become something that creates bigger action. A lot of people who signed on [to the letter] are like me, in that we write about this stuff every day. It would sort of validate all of that work because it would be like they had laid the groundwork, and when bigger action begins to happen, they have all of the resources that they can then lend to helping solve the problem.
Is there anyone who you think would be a fit for this fashion czar role?
No, but several signatories have decided to create a task force or a working group to come up with a list of priorities if we were to have this dream thing happen. I think from there, they would start thinking about the kind of person who would be best at dealing with this. It’s a very specific kind of role and it would take a very specific set of skills.
Various people working in this working group have a lot of industry experience—they don’t have any experience in Washington. This would need to be somebody who is deeply familiar with—and has relationships with—members of Congress and with other powerful people in government, in order to try and push forward a sustainable and humane agenda for the fashion industry.