People in the fashion industry have found sustainable solutions in their fightback against fast fashion, but they face the social and economic context in educating consumers or producing with less impact for the environment.
Mitichi Preda, the president of Feeric Fashion Week, Landiana Yolo, its vice-president and Julie Ianc, the production manager decided to go on a road trip on the continental coast of Europe.
The journey included 13 countries and 80 cities. 31 people answered to their questions and they selected the most relevant informations to share the story of a mutual struggle in being more sustainable but more than this in educating consumers to choose wisely.
In Bratislava, Prague and Ljubljana designers and showrooms are facing the problem of economy. In order to produce more sustainable independent designers have bigger costs and showrooms commission increase the final price to the market. With lower salaries, consumers prefer to buy fast fashion and if they care for the environment, they choose second hand. Zuzana Cala from Drobne showroom is pointing this habit of the market but still she finds the balance between art, fashion and sustainability choosing designers that are recycling materials while Virvar, another showroom in Bratislava matched the perfect market to sell. In Prague the amount of tourists contributes in showroom sales but designers like Filip Nguyen struggles to educate local market to consume less and wisely. Slovenia has a very small population. Only 2 million people are living in Slovenia and about 10% are in the capital city of Ljubljana where Julia Kaia Hrovat is focusing her strategy on craft, local heritage and stories.
Berlin is a particular city where the creativity and borderless imagination of designers meets conservativism and efficiency of the market. Anne Kirchhoff creates unisex patterns and produces from fabric leftovers in an efficient way but also with a modernist touch. Studio 183 Berlin is one of the most famous showrooms for fashionistas and tourists know about it. Their selection is very strict and they do not accept designers that make seasonal collection. Katrina Ryback, the owner explains that she is looking for designers that produce one-size items, genderless and unique. She is not using the word sustainability but more traceability.
In the middle of luxury fashion market, Inès Bensalah is keeping her artist side creating unique items in Monte Carlo. She is part of sustainable projects created by the Royal House and even if she is young, she is thinking to her children’s future.
Situation is changing for good in Belgium and Netherlands. The market is into consuming wisely so local fashion is doing well if there is a sustainable approach. In Amsterdam, Tess Van Zalinge exhibits museum her last bridal collection entirely made from recycled dresses, at Fashion For Good. She talks about the need of reviving craftsmanship and to translate to new generation the old acknowledges about how to create and produce clothes. Her collection is an amazing piece of art. Belgium has some of the greatest fashion schools in the world and Bram Jespers from Ghent School of Arts invited us to discover the universe of a different education. Their purpose is to give to world creative individuals that can discover themselves and that can contribute to the well-being of communities.
Helder and Facon Jacmin are both small brands in Antwerp. Ramona Stoica from Antwerp is already working with Pinatex and organic fabrics while Ségolène Jacmin and her sister focused the activity of Facon Jacmin on denim upcycling and craftsmanship.
In Brussels, Alain Mukendi is producing snickers, and he only works bespoke pieces in a context where the factories closed and buying fabrics is not easy. He adapted his techniques and he makes the patterns on a computer so he can use any fabric from leather to textile. Marie Souflet from Ireene pushed the boundaries even more as she is not only using very good quality fabrics, leftovers from big brands, but she is creating the design to fit the length and shape of the fabric. Catalina Jitaru is searching for smart fabrics and she managed to find in Portugal.
In Portugal, Moda Lisboa, the organization behind Lisbon Fashion Week, supports designers and creates opportunities for them to sell local and international. Constanca Entrudo is one of the designers that developed due to the support of Moda Lisboa and due to her internships, she is now producing her own fabrics. While in Lisbon the sustainable fashion is on a good way in Porto we found Hugo Veiga, a designer that is very honest and direct in exposing the real problems of the industry. He names Lefties and Zara in his speech but he does not blame fast fashion brand entirely. He talks about the system who educates consumers to want the next thing, and due to lack of education, they buy. The chances for an independent designer to survive are low in this context and he mention the huge struggle to reach as lower as bearable in order to sell but still to eat.
Spain is having IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) one of the best fashion school in the world where sustainability is included in all aspects and modules of education. Andrea Marchesi supports the pressure on companies to make things instead of declaring it and gives us some examples of how IED educates its students. Although Eñaut Barruetaña is a young graduated designer and he mentions the importance of fast fashion saying it was born there in Spain. He also says it is very difficult to educate consumers as you are nobody and you do not have a name. Javier Soria from Visori admits that Spanish market is not that much into sustainability and Juan Boleco, specialized in flamenco fashion is telling about the particularity of fashion in all the south of Spain. Even the flamenco dresses are changed every year by consumers he is finding solution to reduce waste and to work with organic fabrics.
Constance Fournier is also working on a niche in Loire Valley in France and she is focused in proximity. Her work does not include any industrial machines. Her atelier in Veretz, Tourane is creating bespoke bridal dresses with lace and fabrics made there in the region and the costumers are coming there for a whole experience.
In Venice, we met Tessiture Bevilacqua, on the Grand Canal and Alberto Bevilacqua invited us in the velvet factory to see the looms producing only few centimeters of velvet from organic silk every day. In addition, he is mentioning the silk monopoly hold by China.
One of the most shocking stories is from Aatise, Bordeaux a small sustainable brand and Heide Baumann is telling us how the company she was working for as a buyer threw away 80000pieces in one day and specifically indicates that if you are not able to sell clothes without promotion than there is a problem.
Peter Žiak and Lucia Žiak Roháčováz are representing Atelier Luz from Bratislava and they talk about how important the support of the local market is for designers to become more sustainable while Raul Molino is doing fashion from another perspective and he did not even relate his work to market or trends. On the other side, BIAAF Bilbao is the organization to support young designers to integrate their businesses in the economy and the system is a slow one but very efficient and the help for the young designers is huge as they are partners with so many organizations and have the support of international fashion press.
The concept of sustainability in fashion is less adopted by the market in all Eastern Europe, although designers are interested in approaching it as the fashion industry is one of the worst ranked worldwide considering pollution and it was the fourth big pollutant industry in EU in 2017 according to European Environment Agency. The consumption of textiles in EU occurs in other regions of the world, where the production is mostly concentrated – 85 % of the primary raw materials use, 92 % of the water use, 93 % of the land use and 76 % of the greenhouse gas emissions. 1.7 million Europeans work in fashion industry but the real problem is the average consume of 26 kg of textiles per person per year due to clothes price fallen relative to inflation.
The European Environment Agency says that reducing the environmental and climate pressures and impacts from textiles production and consumption — while maintaining economic and social benefits — will need a systemic change towards circularity. Doing so will require wide-scale implementation of circular business models supported by effective policies addressing materials and design, production and distribution, use and reuse, collection and recycling. This includes product policies such as green public procurement, eco-design, extended producer responsibility, labelling and standards.
The interviews for the film were shot before COVID 19 situation, which terribly affected fashion industry, but what we will include in the film is an update of how people we met adapted very fast to this new situation and how they survived and boosted online. This is the right moment to understand how important is for the fashion industry to become more sustainable. People in this film they are all very creative and they can mix their talent and acknowledges in order to reduce pollution. However, it also depends on us, the consumers, to understand the effect of our actions and to start to choose wisely and to consume responsible.
The idea was to produce this documentary by gathering information that could help independent designers or for the ones willing to be part of fashion industry. But, because of COVID-19 we understand how much needed is to show to a larger audience how people in the industry are struggling to be more efficient in reducing their impact on the environment and how should we contribute to this fightback.
As the President of Feeric Fashion Week, considered by Vogue Italy, the greatest project in Balkans I saw how difficult for designers coming from all around the world to produce and sell sustainable items or to be competitive with fast-fashion or the biggest corporations. Many of them produce consciously for local markets but lower volumes means higher costs, and the costs increase if you want to work with Eco fabrics or not using chemical and industrial procedures. The result is a higher price for the consumer that, because of the education, prefers to buy items signed by brands, at the same prices. I understood this is happening frequently in Eastern Europe, South America and partly in Central Europe because young designers are showcasing collection in our project, so I wanted to understand how the system works in most of the powerful countries in Western Europe and how do players from independent fashion managed to become more sustainable and still competitive.– MITICHI PREDA, PRESIDENT OF FEERIC FASHION WEEK
During the journey, we met and interviewed designers, showroom owners, factories owners, organizations and universities representatives and we asked them question regarding inspiration, craftsmanship, education, sustainability and design. We found out a mutual concerning about the education of the market about consuming. As in Netherlands, Belgium, France consumers are more aware about the impact of their decisions, the rest of the countries are confronting the same difficulties in approaching a more sustainable way for their activities. Their statements and lines are creating a story about problems and solutions, about actions and results, but also are describing each people with their particularities. I extracted some very strong lines and statements that are emotional and that make people to wonder.
It is a rollercoaster approach. While some of the protagonists are happy they found the right way, others are raising different problems. One is saying, “one day, the company I was searching for throw away 80000 pieces” while other says, “I think people realize they buy too much”.
I wanted to show the fashion industry as it is now during the big fashion weeks so I shoot images of the street style in Milan and Paris and you can see people wearing expensive items, and everything is about glamour, about high standards, image, status etc. Media is presenting this as high level so markets aspire to this. However, everything is hectic and dangerous for our future. We need to go back a little to the essence of individuals connected to this planet. Therefore, I connected this entire context to stories about traditions, consciousness, education and stories about wisdom of leaving in harmony with the closest ones and with the environment.
Words by Mitichi Preda, President of Feeric Fashion Week + Founder of MITICHI Productions