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CONFERENCE REPORT

“Smart Conversation: Highlighting the integration of a new generation of responsible values in the fashion and textile industries”

An exceptional master-class brought together over 200 people last 15 September, as Première Vision, in the company of prestigious experts and industry professionals, initiated its first Smart Conversation dedicated to developing and integrating a new generation of values in the fashion and textile industries thanks to innovation and responsible creation.

The event also allowed Premiere Vision to present the initiatives it has implemented in this field, in the framework of Smart Creation Première Vision: A look back at an indisputably successful event, which is just the start of a series of initiatives by Première Vision dedicated to responsible creation and production.

Session “Smart Conversation: Highlighting the integration of a new generation of responsible values in the fashion and textile industries”.

Première Vision, Villepinte, 15 September 2015

Participants:

Philippe PASQUET, President of Première Vision
Caroline RUSH, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC)
Carlo CAPASA, Director of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI)
Chantal MALINGREY, Director of Marketing and Development, Première Vision

 

Mediator:

Giusy BETTONI, Founding President of CLASS consulting on sustainable innovation for textiles, fashion and design

The conference session was opened by Mr. Philippe Pasquet who reminded attendees of Première Vision’s mission as a historical, central actor of the fashion and textile industry. He introduced the conference theme and Première Vision’s response to the new environment of responsibility. The launch by Première Vision of the ‘Smart Creation’ and ‘Smart Conversations’ initiatives, implemented following international research conducted by a team of internal and external experts, is a first, shared step by the key international fashion institutions towards delivering these new values and a new business model to the market. Most of all, the new value of responsibility is crucial for the future of the fashion industry.

Chantal MALINGREY explained that, rather than being a new label or eco product initiative, the ‘Smart Creation’ program is destined to become a long-term, industry-wide strategy with the objective of providing the textile and fashion sector with these new values that are consumer-led: not only the demand for eco-friendly products also for greater respect for the social conditions in fashion manufacturing and production. Brands and big groups are already very active on these questions, with growing investments. Acting on a broader industry scale, Première Vision aims to provide information and increase transparency across all the actors present at Première Vision’s different fairs. This information is collected via a non-mandatory questionnaire called ‘Smart Facts’ that asks exhibitors to highlight the traceability of material sourcing, the transparency of production processes and broader corporate and social initiatives. At the time of the conference, 150 exhibitors had already responded and many more are expected to do so. The Première Vision mobile application lists the companies who have participated in the study. The full results will be released when available and will be communicated through specific communication tools.

Caroline RUSH explained the historical nature of the British Fashion Council’s commitment with notably the launch in 2006 of the Estethica platform with the aim of promoting sustainable fashion at both the heart of the London Fashion Week and in mainstream fashion. The BFC’s strategy of ‘Positive Fashion’ aims at embedding sustainable fashion across all project levels: business, education, digital/innovation, investment and reputation. The strategy working committee is composed of members from all sectors of the industry including high street retailers, such as Marks and Spencer. Instead of ‘reinventing the wheel’, the BFC seeks to adopt, share and promote best practices. Caroline Rush commented that in general, the difficulties lie in identifying companies that can stand up to the big players and deliver both a strong design vision along with values of sustainability. The BFC helps address these issues with a mentoring system that helps smaller companies develop their design focus whilst provide support for sourcing and compliance issues. A recent example is designer Christopher Raeburn, supported by the Estethica platform. In discussion with Giusy Bettoni, Caroline Rush explained that the BFC can best help the broader market by sharing and promoting best practice and also by identifying areas for improvement, for example in the implementation of sustainability rules.

Declaring that “the future is sustainable”, Carlo CAPASA made a strong claim for the essential character of responsibility in fashion. He quoted industry figures according to which, two years ago, 2% of buyers requested sustainable criteria; today, they are 30%. As a first step, the CNMI has brought together ten major Italian fashion brands (Gucci, Prada, Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, OTB, Loro Diana, Staff International, Versace) which are working together on a committee aimed at fixing common standards across the industry. The first subject is the use of chemicals in fabrics: a study of textile manufacturers in Italy has been conducted (results due in October 2015) and will be the basis of negotiations to create cross-industry standards. It is of note that many manufacturers have already taken steps to address these issues, for example, 27% of Première Vision exhibitors have a sustainable dimension. The CNMI’s next steps will be to address the issues of chemicals in the production process, the origins of fabrics and the social environment – factories, offices, boutiques. By working with big brands, the ambition is to set the example and create benchmarks for a virtuous circle that obliges other actors to impose the same standards.

After the panel presentations mediated by Giusy Bettoni, the audience was invited to ask questions to all speakers. The questions were pertinent and direct: how do these different industry initiatives fit in with existing actions (Greenpeace for example); have consumers reached a ‘tipping’ point between price and values; are these new values at risk from economic downturn; why are these initiatives only from a business perspective; can ‘responsibility’ really be applied to ‘fast fashion’; should the Première Vision initiative be tougher by imposing sustainability criteria on exhibitors.

In response to these questions, the different panel members gave frank replies: the institutions represented at the conference are committed to working with all other existing structures and initiatives but feel that a fashion-specific approach, coming from the heart of the industry, is necessary; that a new, sustainable business model and culture will take time to be adopted; that a business perspective means that new values can be implemented throughout the whole industry chain; that these values have already been present in the fashion sector for a long time, irrespective of economic downturn; that high street and fast fashion actors are in fact key levers for changing values and already involved in these industry initiatives (ex. Marks and Spencer in the UK); that the point of the Première Vision Smart Creation program is to support and encourage new values across the whole sector, not to single out individual actors.

Let’s be Smart !