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Hand of Fashion: A Speaker Series on Fashion and Ethics Week 1

Last Monday kicked off the Ethical Fashion Initiative and the Fashion Institute of Technology speaker series on ethical fashion. The first week was all about sustainability and founder of EFI Simone Cipriani, who is spearheading this series, excited the attendees with his wit, charm and passion.

We were able to attend Monday's night discussion with Marie - Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, from Kering about Sustainability and Fashion. Kering is one of the leaders when it comes to corporate social responsibility in the luxury sector. 

Daveu shared what sustainability means to Kering which is smart business, everyone's business, a necessity and inherent to quality; all great points that make an impact in the fashion industry.  Four themes that Kering focuses on is humanity, ecology, leadership and creativity; this is very evident in their efforts to phase out PVC, source organic cotton and partner with London College of Fashion's Centre for Sustainable Fashion to educate and engage the next generation of designers on how to tackle sustainability.

One of the many take aways from the presentation was that Marie-Claire keep reiterating that sharing innovative practices are important to better improve business and the environment. Gucci, one of Kering's brands, developed an innovative process that uses a tanning agent free of heavy metals. This agent is not patented and Kering shares the information so that other brands can adapt this practice. Chairman of Kering, Francois-Henri Pinauit's vision says it best "Sustainable business is smart business, for sustainability is both a business and a leadership opportunity."

On Thursday night we continued with Nina Almeida Braga, Director at Instituto E, an OSCIP (Civil Society Organization of Public Interest) in Brazil. The institute states from their website that they believe that sharing information is the first step towards achieving sustainable human development. Ms. Braga shared a wealth of information about the Institute and how their 'e-brigade' (environmental activist movement) movement takes action according to the six ideal “e”s: earth, environment, energy, education, empowerment and economics. Braga illustrated in depth how Instituto E is achieving the six ideals by how the materials they are developing are providing opportunities to the rural population of the country which helps to prevent increasing population and poverty in the major cities. Their e-ayiti project involves turning trash into treasures. They make fashion accessories out of reused materials. Instituto E works with indigenous people to provide resources, opportunities and education.

One of the fascinating aspects of the presentation was the textiles that Instituto E develops. Their use of organic cottons, silks, amazon jute and pirarucu (a large fish found in the amazon) makes such an impact on the environment and the economy. One of the brands that started to use these materials is Osklen (founder Oskar Metsavaht of Osklen will be at the next talks on November 9th).

A couple of points we learned last week:

  • sustainable business is smart business
  • share best practices
  • sustainability is a social responsibility
  • give respect and proper royalties when working with artisans 
  • embrace innovation
  • luxury and sustainability go hand and hand

To learn more about EFI, Kering and Instituto E please visit their websites. Also if you are in the New York City area please go to FIT's website to view the schedule of the series and join in on the discussions. 

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