“Sustainable development is by now central to all business models” – Isabelle Lefort, co-founder Good Fashion

A journalist who spent five years working with Jacques Attali at Positive Planet, Isabelle Lefort created the Paris Good Fashion association –  which Première Vision is partnering with – in 2019 with an ambitious and exciting goal: to make Paris the capital of responsible fashion in 2024.

 

How did this project come about ?

Paris Good Fashion grew out of meeting Antoinette Guhl, then deputy in charge of the Social and Solidarity Economy and Circular Economy at Paris’s City Hall. She suggested that I think about how to engage the Paris fashion world in making  an ecological and social transition. This was in 2018. Kering was the only one communicating on this topic, though LVMH and some other groups had already begun working in this direction. With Laure du Pavillon, co-founder of the project, I agreed to undertake the mission on two conditions: that we create a politically independent association under France’s 1901 law, and that we bring all the players to the table. If we want to bring about systemic change, everyone has to participate. It’s important everyone can speak freely, we need to create collective intelligence and share best practices.

You’ve joined forces with some key partners, including the IFM and the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la mode. What is everyone’s role and how do you work together?

Since 2019 , we’ve brought together some 50 organizations that are now members of Paris Good Fashion. Each of them participates in one or even several working groups. For example, Andrée-Anne Lemieux, who is in charge of sustainable development at the IFM, has been working on drawing up a map of sustainable fashion in Paris and supporting young designers. Eyes on Talents has mobilized over 15,000 creative talents across the globe for two competitions, the Grand Prix for Photography & Sustainable Fashion and another one dedicated to Inclusive Design.

You’ve also forged an ambitious partnership with Première Vision. What are the outlines of this partnership?

We are thrilled about this partnership. We both share that same need to look ahead and take tangible action. We work together in several different think tanks – on animal welfare, Tech For Good, and support for young brands. We are also working together to examine the future of fashion events. What can we do to ensure the decorations are reusable? How can we make these events produce positive results in terms of business and jobs, while still respecting biodiversity? We are developing a very ambitious action plan in this area with Première Vision and other players.

These two years have enabled you to draw up an overview of various initiatives in terms of eco-responsibility. What’s your assessment?

Over the past year, we’ve seen a massive increase in awareness. Sustainable development is now central to all business models, and Paris is at the center of this thinking. It’s no coincidence that in 2019 we saw the birth in the capital of both Paris Good Fashion and, six months later,  the Fashion Pact. Paris is the epicenter of international fashion. It’s here, and nowhere else, that designers from all over the world decide to show their collections.

An important part of your project is raising public awareness. What are you doing in this area?

We have numerous initiatives underway. This 3 September we’re launching a major survey of the public together with Galeries Lafayette and a consortium of brands (Etam, Eram, Petit Bateau, WSN, etc.). There can’t be truly systemic change without consumer support. With Make.org, a civic tech company founded by Axel Dauchez, we’re going to analyze proposals from over 100,000 people on how to develop more responsible fashion. We’ll use the survey to enact even more concrete solutions. And to share virtuous experiences, we are taking action on two levels. We’ve uploaded a self-diagnosis drawn up by the Sidièse agency to our site, so each fashion house can evaluate its practices. And the twelve working groups we organize have only one aim, to assist in developing specific actions.

Tell us about the concrete ways you support fashion houses who want to start transforming their businesses.

Everything we develop is open source and shared on our site. We inform, we share, we suggest ideas. The self-diagnosis includes some 80 questions covering every step of the process. Have you created a product according to eco-design principles? How much of your turnover is generated by eco-design? Are you prioritizing short circuits and local suppliers?  Have you made your employees aware of eco-design and trained them in it? How do you communicate your sustainable development approach to your customers? And for each of these themes, we provide elements for further thought – for instance, advice and shared experiences.

The period we’ve just gone through has shaken everything up. What’s changed for Paris Good Fashion?

The current health crisis has strengthened our convictions – we need to go faster and we have to go further. How can we produce more equitably? How can we stop the waste? How much of the industry can be relocated to France? How can we re-industrialize certain sectors in France? We’re working on all these issues.

Fashion continues to evolve, as do consumer behaviors. How do you see consumer desire today?

The desire for meaning is growing more and more entrenched in a younger generation of consumers.

 In China, you can already see this in the stores, where customers interrogate salespeople about the origins and manufacturing methods of the items they’re buying. In this internet age, everyone is quite informed about harmful practices. And anyone who doesn’t comply with the rules can see their business disappear in a matter of months. But young people shouldn’t be mistaken for an ascetic sect. A desire to please, the need to get dressed, are an integral part of their lifestyle –  and ours! Aesthetics, a taste for beauty and a love of creation are fundamental impulses. Industry practices need to be revamped so we can enjoy fashion’s creativity without any guilt. To do this, the industry has to adopt a circular economy and give up over-consumption.

Does Paris Good Fashion also aim, in a more global way, to change mentalities?

Our role is to inform, not to impose. Today’s consumers are still struggling to figure out where to buy eco-responsible clothing. That’s why we decided to launch the Paris sustainable fashion map, with over 300 locations already listed. In 2021, we’ll expand our scope to the inner suburbs and then to outer Paris. And we are going to invite other capitals to do the same thing.

The movement you’re part of extends beyond our own borders. Are you developing ties with international projects?

We are in contact with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the Copenhagen Fashion Agenda, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva and the Association of Fashion Designers in Berlin. We’re all working in the same direction and talk to each other a lot. 

You have 4 years left to meet your challenge. What actions are you planning on strengthening?

Our association has a new board of directors, under the leadership of our president Sylvie Bénard. The industry’s leading representatives are involved: LVMH, Chanel, Richemont, Galeries Lafayette, Petit Bateau, Betak, Première Vision, WSN… The projects have been launched: the citizen consultation, the inclusive design award, the publication of our progress barometer.

And how would you define tomorrow’s fashion?

It has to be 200% creative and circular, with a positive impact for our planet and for humanity. Fashion is a part of beauty –  and fashion can also save the world. 

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