sustainability, ethical fashion, Clare Press, Wardrobe Crisis

A new podcast centered on sustainability in fashion, called “Ethical Fashion,” launched Tuesday with the intent to showcase fashion’s full fabric of artisans around the world.

The show is produced by the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a program of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and is hosted by UN officer and head of EFI Simone Cipriani and journalist and “Wardrobe Crisis” podcast host Clare Press.

For the past 15 years, Cipriani has been working with the UN aiding developing countries in setting up their fashion supply chains, while Press recently shifted her focus full-time on creative long-form storytelling and podcasting.

“This podcast project is essentially just me and Simone talking to people in his network about positive change, and trying to get to the bottom of sustainability and humanitarian issues that we care about. It’s not a marketing exercise. It’s storytelling driven by both our passions. I think that comes through,” Press said.

Available on traditional streaming services including Spotify and iTunes, “Ethical Fashion” features interviews with a “diverse range” of stakeholders in fashion but also “change-makers from the public sector, from institutions and from other businesses,” according to Cipriani.

“This podcast is for anyone who is interested in the state of fashion today, as well as anyone who wants to hear great speakers talk about human rights, environmental justice and sustainable business in the new post-coronavirus world,” Cipriani added.

The series aims to open up a world of perspectives in ethical fashion for listeners — with the first episode looking at the future of fashion weeks, featuring remote interviews with fashion critic Suzy Menkes, African Fashion Fund’s founder Roberta Annan and Helsinki Fashion Week’s founder Evelyn Mora. Episode two takes guests to Paris in a conversation with Dutch trend forecaster and futurist Li Edelkoort.

Even the music on the podcast captures this sense of travel with artists like Said Assadi, which Cipriani said is “part of his beautiful work of music involving musicians from different origins, including the great Mamani Keita from Mali.”

Differentiating the program from the broader scope of her independent podcast “Wardrobe Crisis,” Press added: “With the ‘Ethical Fashion’ podcast, we’re really zeroing in on the world of the EFI: artisans, supply chains, fashion as a tool for economic empowerment, and the work of the UN.”

Prior to its launch this week, the podcast began pre-recording in Brussels last June, when EFI was launching musical artist Clara Bauer’s music and fashion performance “From Kabul to Bamako” during Refugee Week.

Cipriani is quick to lay the groundwork of the podcast — which was a year in the making — while highlighting his cohost’s strengths. “In the past 10 years, we’ve gained quite a lot of experience in setting up supply chains and working with artisans from marginalized communities. This is an opportunity to highlight some great projects and hot topics, through the lens of our friend Clare, who speaks the language of fashion.”

Through EFI, artisans in places like Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) and Kabul, Afghanistan, are connected to the international fashion market in a sustainable way, but as Cipriani said, the coronavirus pandemic has obviously reshaped the way his team operates on the ground.

“We are basically producers for important brands. To make this possible, in each project location we set up a social enterprise that acts as a coordination hub to organize production, carry out impact assessments and serve as an interface with buyers. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Getting this system to function requires a few years of co-managing the social enterprises on the ground, which are usually operating in very difficult locations. In terms of travel, it’s obviously very different now with COVID-19, and this makes putting out content such as our podcast even more relevant — we need to tell the stories from our community now more than ever,” stressed Cipriani.

Too, with human rights infringements recently covered in the media through the eyes of Bangladeshi garment manufacturers who are still in despair from canceled or suspended payments by Western brands, the case for authentic storytelling is urgent.

As for the “dramatic impact” the pandemic has had on EFI’s producer network, Cipriani cited a potential for dramatic cuts in orders for artisans later this year and temporary lags in product development processes. Some of the benefits include increased online trade and regionalization.

Despite a dip in listeners in March, podcasts are again on the rise in the U.S., according to May data from Podtrac. In another project, The New Fashion Initiative is launching its podcast “The New Fashion Podcast” with 18-year-old climate activist Sophia Kianni, who is key to organizations like Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion.