PARIS — The battle for fashion capital supremacy has turned into a race for the environment — and Paris, naturally, is going all-out.
With consumers ratcheting up the pressure — seen in the climate marches that swept cities around the world last week, even spilling over into the weekend in Paris — a convergence of diverse players is backing efforts in the French capital to take a lead on sustainability issues.
This ranges from powerful luxury groups to buzzy new designers and includes industry federations, tech entrepreneurs and government officials — starting at the top ranks with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Paris got a head start on the battle for environmental credentials with a late August meeting at the presidential palace drawing together brands signing on to the Fashion Pact, a pledge to work toward environmental goals like phasing out single-use plastics and reducing greenhouse emissions. In the crowd of tanned executives cutting short their summer recess to gather around Macron — and the cause — were Chanel’s Bruno Pavlovsky; Pablo Isla of Zara-owner Inditex; Ermenegildo Zegna; Cailing Ding of Shandong Ruyi, which owns Bally and Sandro, and the leader of the pact’s pack, François-Henri Pinault of Kering.
A month later, with efforts coalescing around the French capital, the city is facing a flurry of eco-focused events this show season.
Kering kicked off the race for green with the announcement Monday, first reported exclusively by WWD, that it’s going fully carbon neutral, pledging to offset its greenhouse gas emissions — throwing the spotlight back on the French capital the day after Pinault received the Visionary Award at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards ceremony in Milan.
Start-up campus Station F — also key to propping up the city’s status as a galvanizing force for change — will be the site of the Circular Fashion Summit on Sept. 28, billed as the first collective action summit for fashion.
The speaker roster spans executives from corporations including Adidas, IBM and Kering, as well as people from tech start-ups, textile companies, sustainability consultancies, fashion schools, European officials and even fashion week organizers from other European capitals.
“We see that the government in France is more active in sustainability and we see that this is a really good thing for us — and that we can really work collectively,” noted Eliana Kuo, who set up the summit along with fellow Lablaco founder Lorenzo Albrighi.
“There was London, Berlin — there were a lot of choices, but Paris really nailed it for us for these reasons,” added Albrighi.
The pair founded their start-up — which they moved from Milan to Station F last year — to address the industry’s waste problem by setting up a platform for giving away used clothing using blockchain technology.
The summit grew out of an idea from professor Carina Hopper of the ESMOD ISEM Fashion Business School, who suggested bringing a group of students to Station F for a talk; the planning stage kicked off early in the summer and quickly swelled into a larger event. On the agenda are panel discussions about technology, sustainability and commitments to specific goals, like providing upcycled sneakers made from plastic in the ocean to kids from Afghanistan and for people to circulate 100,000 products through blockchain.
“Sharing with each other is the highest level of sustainability,” said Albrighi.
Tapping into the flow of fashion showgoers in Paris this week, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton will be presenting its so-called “life” program that seeks to improve the environmental performance of its brands, with a series of roundtable discussions entitled “Future Life Paris” on Sept. 25. The event will be presided over by the luxury group’s managing director Toni Belloni and communications head Antoine Arnault, with chief executive officer and chairman Bernard Arnault in attendance.
“We’re living through two revolutions — technical innovations and sustainable development, which all actors need to undertake and which constitute an absolute necessity,” Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, told journalists in a briefing before fashion week kicked off.
“A lot of people are saying a lot of things about this subject,” he said.
“Young brands, emerging brands — I’m thinking of Spencer Phipps, for example — are of course, very motivated, there’s a generational effect,” said Morand, referring to a finalist for the LVMH prize.
The federation is drawing up a guide on terms for fashion and sustainable development and organizing a meeting of the main actors of Paris Fashion Week to improve the ecological performance of the events.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo earlier this year sponsored the “Paris Good Fashion” initiative to make the city the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024, the year it hosts the Olympic Games.
“We have a very strong leadership that’s espousing those values and I think it brings a lot of activity to Paris,” noted Daniel Lalonde, ceo of SMCP, the group that owns Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot. The Canadian executive, who has worked in the French luxury industry for years, said, “That has a lot to do with it, with Macron and his teams, they’re talking a lot about the right things — they’re leading on a global basis, they’re attracting famous people in Paris saying a lot of the right things…I think we have a very strong leadership that’s espousing these values.”