For the past seven years the annual 1.618 Conferences Day in Paris brings together brands, entrepreneurs, NGOs and artists to share their thinking and to find solutions for a better world. This year’s theme was sustainable sourcing and responsible value chains. Of most interest to our K reporter was the session Fashion and innovation: sourcing new sustainable materials makes you unique and creative. She left feeling more hopeful than when she arrived.
Sustainability is not a concept: it’s now a reality believes Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering. She chose to quote François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, who says: “It is my conviction that sustainable business is smart business. It gives us an opportunity to create value while helping to make a better world.”
She then made an official announcement: “We have been working in collaboration with Worn Again [a start-up organisation] to bring to market a revolutionary innovation in clothing production and recycling: a method to extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles.”
This move will be shared and spread with competitors, explained Daveu, adding:
“A MORE EFFICIENT BUSINESS IS NOT AN OPTION BUT A NECESSITY TO STIMULATE INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY”.
She mentioned the example of how Gucci had developed a new method to reduce the environmental impact of tanning. By using an organic agent, the tanned leather and wastewater are free of metals at the end of the process.
In another sustainable move, about three years ago Gucci launched sunglasses made from Liquid Wood, a biodegradable, eco-friendly material that represents an alternative to plastic. She also cited PUMA’s line of shoes named Re-cut project which used recycled denim.
Simone Cipriani, head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative at the International Trade Centre (United Nations), urged people to get involved in the development of micro-companies in Africa. He stressed the important role of artisans: “We need to major on the impact of the industry on people”, he said to thunderous applause. His long-standing work with Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney is a good illustration. Since 2011, Stella McCartney has created a range of hand-made, recycled, canvas tote bags in collaboration with ETI. The programme goes beyond charity and fashion as it aims to generate economic independence for participating artisans. In a similar vein, founder of Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy (CLASS), Giusy Bettoni said, “We must innovate in a responsible way. We must understand that technology and being eco-friendly can help us”. CLASS is a multi-platform worldwide network that showcases exclusive fashion, textiles and materials created using smarter sustainable technology for designers. She added: “We are making a revolution, which is happening”. This was something Dilys Williams, director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, wholeheartedly agreed on as she places her faith in the new generation of fashion designers. Williams expressed a wish to see: “Designers expanding the possibilities of creation”. She focused on the importance of the young and more precisely the students she teaches.
Talkin’ ‘bout my generation
There are about 40 pupils in CSF, all highly motivated as the voice of change and innovation. Their goal is aesthetic, environmental, social and political. “They instinctively create responsible fashion”, explained Williams, giving the example of a student who created a T-shirt that shows new colours and texture each time you wash it. She made it clear that the new generation is the future of the fashion industry, bringing “novelty, surprise and new models of production with new raw materials that are more sustainable”. To one delegate, Misha Pinkhasov (joint author of Real Luxury: How Luxury Brands Can Create Value for the Long Term, Palgrave Macmillan), “it was clear that the discussion of sustainable luxury has finally moved on from creating feel-good initiatives to recognising the potential to create business value.”