ModaLisboa Awake presented, once again, one of the main vehicles for dialogue and discussion of the Lisboa Fashion Week: the Fast Talks. Under the premise of waking up to a new way of operating in Fashion, we had the presence of three distinct personalities. Diana Verde Nieto, Jeanne de Kroon and Lisa Lang came to show us how we can drive change.
Jeanne de Kroon is a global ambassador for sustainable fashion, speaker on behalf of the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative, and founder of ZAZI brand. Its biggest mission: a genuine reconnection with Fashion. The brand is based in Berlin and its pieces tell the stories of the artisans who created them, as symbols of women's social and economic independence.
“When we close our eyes and think about our favorite piece of clothing, we remember something that has a story. This attachment and value that we have is the same thing that prevents us from throwing it away; and the true essence of sustainability lies in that feeling. It is not possible to create a sustainable piece, but rather something ethically responsible, because sustainability comes before a genuine connection with the outside world; which is why brands have to connect the stories of their pieces with their customers.”
Diana Verde Nieto has a degree in Global Leadership and Politics, but a greater sense of duty led her to found Positive Luxury, the company responsible for the Butterfly Mark, a label awarded to luxury brands committed to working towards sustainability in every way. After a rigorous (and successful) assessment that analyzes the companys from its foundations to its ethical code, Positive Luxury assigns the rights to a small butterfly-shaped brand, which when “clicked” allows the public to discover the foundations of these same businesses.
“Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, created what is the definition of sustainability: the power to meet current needs, without compromising the needs of future generations. Under this concept, we managed to make decision-making much simpler.”
Lisa Lang is an European Commission fashion, technology and entrepreneurship consultant. She is also behind companies like The PowerHouse, Elektro Couture, and OFundamentO, all of them focused on strengthening the relationship between Fashion and technology. For Lisa, sustainability can be found in countless ways: in reuse, in quality, in the functional character of clothes, or in understanding what has already been created; and technology proves to be a great ally in the search for more responsible and profound practices.
“Nothing can contain just one function, especially at a time when speed is an acquired comfort. We are currently enjoying new forms of mobility, we can go on vacation to space, have coffee in the desert, or have dinner on an iceberg. And what we choose to wear in times like these, will have to be versatile and adaptable.”
When asked about the optimism and enthusiasm felt in many corners of the industry, Diana believes that new generations of consumers (Millennials and GenZ) will have an unprecedented impact on the industry; we are talking about a consumer who has an active voice, who knows what he wants and who communicates his opinion on various social media channels. Power is on his side, and it will be a matter of time and continuous struggle, so that we can approach a more responsible system. Lisa emphasizes that it all comes down to realizing where true innovation comes from: digital and manufacturing companies are at the forefront of action; and for reasons to go deeper, the fashion industry continues to follow the same “instruction manual” 30 years ago, but disruption is imminent.
“And when that moment arrives, hopefully in 10 years, Moda will have to pay for licenses from technological companies, in order to position itself on the same level as other industries. Note the example of Farfetch, which is currently the “backbone” of giants like Chanel and Harrods; and all this for the simple reason that they were faster. Associations like these will be increasingly recurrent. Remember that the zip fastener was invented by an engineer, but introduced by a fashion designer."
For Jeanne, there is also a very human factor in the expansion of this optimism: “I believe that the change in the industry, also comes from a change in our hearts. Modern times are breaking pre-conceived ideas of how we should live; I remove this feeling from my own generation, which is looking for a purpose and connection with the world: whether it is the food we choose to consume, the clothes we wear, or the relationship created with the local farmer. It is a trip back to the heart, and Fashion has the power to facilitate these types of connections."
Governments reveal themselves as another key player in pushing for a more awake industry; either through the implementation of laws that defend our planet, or measures that protect workers, there is a duty here to practice. Despite not having high hopes for political actions, Diana points out the focus for companies, as recipients of great strength.
“People, Profit and Planet. When we bring these values together, and show what we are capable of beyond profit, we create power.”
For Lisa, on the other hand, it is crucial to believe in governments, because we are part of it. From her experience at the European Commission, she concludes that for an industry to be supported, it needs to first establish its definition. From a political perspective, a technological project brings together more chances of being financed, against a Design project; the disadvantages are this same lack of definition and the absence of a standard that is damaged because it is considered uniquely creative.
For this to stop being the rule, participation in changing the system is mandatory; only then will industries be able to share equally the opportunities available.
In an exercise of forecast for the future, it was concluded that for all purposes, change will happen and the conditions are more than favorable: consumption habits have evolved and technology is very present, not only in monitoring new habits, but also in the way we connect. More than ever. But we must not forget, that technology is a means, a tool that will have to obey what we humans (and designers) decide to make of it. And whatever that decision is, may it be a decision made with energy and passion; because the human touch is irreplaceable.
"People pay for convenience," Lisa reminds us. And it is for this same reason that experiences will be increasingly valued in relation to the possession of products; this trend allows a growing prominence of companies such as Rent The Runway, which leases clothing.”
On the other side, we have a growing concern and awareness for the mental health of the younger generations (the same ones who lead the future); social detachment is one of the consequences of technological advances on Millennials and GenZ, and it is up to older generations to give due emotional support that can be achieved through a Design capable of serving the society.
Finally, some advice to young fashion designers who seek to navigate sustainability in the best way: honor what we choose not to do, rethink with longevity in mind, collaborate, discover and ask questions. Many questions. Only then can we talk about change.