Vogue Education Presents: Rachel Kan

Rachel Kan

The Condé Nast College was delighted to welcome Rachel Kan, founder of Circular Earth and the Ecosystem Incubator, to speak at our weekly industry speaker program, Vogue Education Presents. MA Fashion Journalism and Editorial Direction student, Trista Bowser reports. 


About Rachel Kan


Rachel Kan, a fashion circularity specialist, TedX speaker, and the founder of both Circular Earth and the Ecosystem Incubator, has been in the industry for over 25 years. Circular Earth was founded in 2020 to bring consulting and coaching within the fashion industry. Their main goal is to open up the eyes of these businesses to show them how they can be more sustainable. Kan wanted to expand her resources, thus the Ecosystem Incubator was born. This gave fashion professionals who are interested in sustainability a safe space to get together and brainstorm ways to improve their businesses.


Previously Kan has worked in roles including; Designer, Design Manager, and Sustainability Consultant, which gives her the advantage of delivering various perspectives to result in excellent problem solving skills. Bringing her background to the table with her in order to achieve a greener future is what she is passionate about. As of now, her career focuses on collaborating with various fashion brands to revolutionize their businesses towards “sustainability with integrity.”  


Even though Kan has started two companies and has lots of experience under her belt, she doesn’t like to refer to herself as a CEO, rather an Ecosystem Architect. 


It’s about facilitating collaborative change together” – Rachel Kan


Rachel Kan Industry Talk


Kan began her industry talk at the Condé Nast College by taking us through her sustainability journey, noting that it started whilst working as a designer and travelling to various countries such as China, India, and Turkey to see the production stages for the company she was employed with at the time. There, her eyes were opened and forever changed. 


It was very overwhelming for her to see tremendous amounts of harm that fashion production was doing to the environment. After seeing the planet get harmed for years from the industry, Kan decided to start her companies to contribute by educating and collaborating with various businesses.


After being in the industry for many years, Kan has realised that her field does not support sustainability as a whole, especially when it comes to smaller businesses. The Ecosystem Incubator brings in many different variables across the supply chain. It is challenging as a private consultant to make a difference, but when a group of them can come together, that’s where the real magic happens. 


Co-creating spaces and resources to learn and achieve sustainability is what was needed to happen to aid the planet from the constant destruction due to fashion.


Sustainable Fashion Production Going Forward


Going forward, we need to start thinking about what is wrong and questioning our methods in all stages of production. Ask the hard questions like how can we work to create a larger solution overall?


Her analogy is that the ecosystem is like a forest. A forest cannot just be one tree, there needs to be a group of them. They start to share nutrients (i.e. intelligence, connections, money, co-creation, etc.). With this, their nutrients (ideas) start to blossom into beautiful fruits. That is exactly what the fashion industry needs to do in order to achieve great things.


The Future of Sustainability Q&A with Rachel Kan


Have you felt as if sustainable fashion has been an inviting industry?


 “Absolutely. Everyone is open to collaboration. Everyone (generally) helps each other. I’ve consulted with some brands from the very start of their business.  And sometimes it’s about collecting collaborative advantages for each other. It doesn’t always have to be a money tree advantage for them either.”

What was the biggest challenge in your career?


“Generally, I think it’s the economic downfall that’s been the hardest thing. The fashion industry really goes with this and the markets. It’s not your fault if this happens to you and your career, you just have to get up and get back into it.”


Because of the economic downfall and recession, have you seen companies push back on sustainability to protect themselves?


“I’ve seen more of an interest in it (sustainability) because they know they have to build it for a future. They might not be writing it right now, but they are asking the questions.”


By Trista Bowser, MA Fashion Journalism & Editorial Direction student