On 23rd April, the first day of Fashion Revolution Week 2018, Bocconi was the stage for this important reflection, indispensable nowadays. Hosted by the Luxury Arts Club and the Ethical Club (both SDA Bocconi student’s associations), the “ETHICS IN FASHION – Through Traceability Revolution” aim was showing the evolution of traceability in the luxury and retail industry and what is the perspective for its future market. The event’s mediation oversaw by Francesca Romana Rinaldi, Director of the Master in Fashion Direction at Milano Fashion Institute, as well as a professor at Bocconi University and SDA Bocconi School of Management.
Francesca is the co-author of “The Responsible Fashion Company” (Greenleaf Publishing, 2014) and founder of the Bio-Fashion blog that helps to create awareness of sustainability in Fashion and Luxury sectors.
The first speaker was Marina Spadafora, Country Coordinator for Fashion Revolution in Italia. Currently collaborator and consulting for luxury fashion brands with brands like Prada, Miu Miu and Ferragamo on her portfolio, Marina brought numerous examples of how mass production and without consciousness influence the environment and our health.
“You can tell the color of the season by looking at the color of the rivers.” paraphrasing the fashion designer and activist Orsola de Castro, she explained how the toxic colors and the pesticides affect our skin and nature, giving the organic cotton as a solution for its natural colors and cultivation that has less water waste, bringing fewer diseases and avoiding the textile waste.
As country coordinator, Marina explained the Fashion Revolution week purpose and the #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES movement, citing also other initiatives like the campaign by Greenpeace that suggest a detox from fast fashion brands. More than political reasons, all those movements seek to establish self-awareness in a fashion bulimic society: we buy more than we can use, more than we really need and then, in a short time, we get rid of those pieces, often without even using them. Unlike to when the clothes cost 50€, we give more value and take care of it better.
The cloth excess of buying 10€ t-shirts paying 5€ for each one has a cost for behind that we do not realize because we are conditioned to live in society where it is better to have in a surplus than to surfing of lacking, without realizing that this “not lacking” serves only a few, at the cost of the inhuman work of many plus the misuse of natural resources at our disposal. To practice a conscious consumption and try to ponder the real need of that product is more than a fair trade; is good for you, for the people involved in the production chain and good for the natural environment.
According to Marina, the fashion industry is one of the biggest responsible for the environmental pollution, losing only for the first dirtiest, the petroleum sector. Using the reference to the petroleum sector, she claimed that the water is the next petroleum, which is ironic since the same in potable form has become extremally valuable and rare to be found naturally precisely because of the unbridled and mass consumption of our society.
As expected, the behavioral tendencies from the Millennials as well from the Z generation were debated. According to studies, they give more value to life in general (natural, animals and humans) as they search to enjoy it more than spend the entire life working for companies without purpose aligned to sustainability. These generations won’t follow the North American way of life, that consists of living to work. Quite the opposite, they work to live well, what is more closely associated with the European way of life.
As the future consumers and workers, the world market needs to pay attention to the Millennials and to the post-Millennials. Companies, to survive, must adapt their strategies and corporate social responsibility to these generations aims.
Backing to Fashion Revolution movement, some clothes companies had already realized that the transparency is the path. The #IMADEYOURCLOTHES has come to collaborate with the importance of valuing the worker and investing in sustainable fashion cycle, reusing the remains of the production, not only from the fashion industry but also food, beverage and many others.
As an example of conscious companies with a strong corporate social responsibility, Marina cited Salvatore Ferragamo who has used the waste from orange to produce a capsule collection. This initiative was reinforced by Veronica Tonini, Group Risk Management & Compliance Director & Sustainability Coordinator at Salvatore Ferragamo, and the second keynote speaker at the event.
Veronica claimed that sustainability is in Ferragamo DNA since always, but only started to be documented and analyzed in 2014 when the first report was made. In the beginning, it was only for corporate Salvatore Ferragamo SPA assays but as the company tries to keep a close relationship with its customers, they decided to expand the report’s scope to all possible stakeholders.
The report’s conclusion was the importance of showing to others how important is to invest in fashion sustainability. The analysis included a lot of not financial data, but information about the human capital/resource, utilities and waste from their production. With an all MADE IN ITALY ideology, Salvatore bets on authenticity tags to increase sales, being good for the company marketing as well for the planet.
Back in 2015, when weren’t laws, the brand was already doing reports and interventions at their productions and products. Salvatore Ferragamo’s supply chain starts with an audition with the subcontractor to check the product social eco audition. The audition serves to see if everything is correct and following their own supply sustainability.
After Veronica, we had Simone Colombo – head of corporate Sustainability at OVS SpA. He introduced the company’s plan to enhance the organic cotton production and has also answered questions about how is possible to maintain the lower price and be sustainable.
“It takes time to not be a Fast Fashion anymore.” affirmed Simone, but he believes that to change it, the company must establish a close relationship and working along with the suppliers to make sure that they are paying the employees the fair amount and give them the right work conditions. Other strategies would be partnerships with companies that share the same values and stop reporting only random and complicated data analysis that the consumer cannot perceive. Companies should disclosure clear information that allows the consumer to understand the supply chain, who they are and where they come from.
The information would be the key also in Daniel Tocca’s opinion, the fourth speaker present on the Ethics in Fashion event. Founder and CEO at Re-Bello, Daniel, following the guidance that “if you change nothing, nothing will ever change”, has created the brand with the aim of using innovation to combine sustainability and fashion. With other two co-founders, they research and development more than 20 innovative materials to clothing production, reaching over 300 shops in 15 different countries.
All the clothes from Re-Bello’s collections have a code that allows the client to track and search online all the information about the textile and its production. On the start-up website, you can find an explanation of the entire process and material used to produce that piece. For Daniel, perfection does not exist, but there is diplomacy that will help the fashion industry to change their old habits that are aggressive and has a high cost to the environment.
Aware of this social and environmental cost generated from the fashion sector, Matteo Ward (Bocconi University Alumni), our fifth speaker that afternoon, saw his life suddenly changed when he decided to launch WRAD – livable fashion brand. After years of selling clothes in the old fashion system, Matteo affirmed to have no idea of how it happened the success of his professional life transition; united with the WRAD team, they just started creating and people started to ask to them “how can I help to solve the fashion industry problems? How can I unite myself to change this obsolete system?”
For Matteo, it was important rediscovering traditions of the production process jointly with the reuse of the waste textile from other brands. He agrees with the other speakers: nowadays customers want to know how, who, where and why that piece was made. WRAD’s purpose is to bring positive changes to the industry, offering sustainable and affordable clothes, being more than just another green-brand, being “a call to action”.
Another brand that combines tradition, innovation with a cost of zero waste is the responsible fashion brand Zerobarracento, founded by Camilla Carrara. Camilla followed up Matteo and Daniel’s discourse, helping to reinforce the honest communication to create a connection between fashion and well-being. Zerobarracento cloths are all Made in Italy, aligning good quality design with no waste (0/100) or pollution at the piece cycle. Maintaining the pieces high quality is a challenge, pointed by Camilla and by the last event’s speaker, Francesca Angeloni, UL Business Development Manager Europe for Jewelry and Watches.
When the subject is the fashion industry, we rarely realize that accessories are also included in the sector. Child labor, psychological and sexual abuse along with so many deaths in the name of gold and diamonds exploration, are matters that have been disseminated through films and other channels of communication. According to Francesca, the new era of jewelry market seeks to change this inhuman and unsustainable cycle. As the new Millennials consumers search for companies that respect to human rights and that has on its DNA the transparency offering traceability, the jewelry industry has created many organizations to assure the correct application of the supply chain.
Technology helps sustainability once again and now is possible to trace the origin of the stones, to point from which mine it has come and is the supplier has a clean background. Francesca admits that still has a lot of work to do with the production cost and they try to keep the focus on the correct way united the technology and the process. For example, the use of blockchain to do payment transactions between the jewelry companies and the suppliers. It is a paperless method that allows you to maintain the traceability.
To close the event, Emanuele Bertoli – CEO at Berbrand – and Maurizio Sironi – leader of Reply Group Innovation Practice – gave their contribution in a panel discussion about blockchain and the future social community of conscious consumption. They pointed how digital identity helps to facilitate the relations and transactions, giving some examples as business cards with QR code and the wine bottle that has become unique with the tracking original system, avoiding the mass production, labels copies and wine fraud.
The future of traceability and digital identity is aligned with the seeking to switch the mass production into a circular industry in which the product life cycle lasts more than just one season. And the future market consumer wants to have all the pieces of information, so they can decide from where, how and when to buy it. It is not a company’s decision anymore. To survival, companies must have strong corporate social responsibility vision and put this in actions, investing in tech, innovative and sustainable companies and start-ups as means of finding and keep responsible ways of production.
For the new global market of production and consumption, there are no suppliers. All the stakeholders are partners because in this new market you must be able to convince, from the provider to the final consumer, that it is worth to join your vision and way of #slowproduction.
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