Have you ever wondered how the fashion industry will navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing (and increasingly demanding) world? During Fashion Revolution week, a global testimony to unethical industry practices, six students, including myself, had a go at having this question answered by organising a panel discussion at HEC. Because, really, how better to fight for a cause than to bring it home?
Fashion Revolution was founded following the catastrophic event at Rana Plaza in 2013, where a factory hosted by many international brands collapsed on its workers. This tragedy spent over 1000 lives. Every year, people across the globe host events during the anniversary of this event, demanding for industry and consumer change. Whilst Paris as a city is actively involved in Fashion Revolution, this was the first time HEC students had, as a cohort, responded to this call.
The panel discussion ended with a poetically accurate offering of thanks; a cotton bouquet in the place of flowers, for each panellist. In making this gesture, I was invited to reflect on how unusual this event was in the HEC calendar. In turn, I invited members of the team to reflect on the themes and the success of the event, by sharing their own insights with you.
- Mathilde Treis, as the driving force behind this event, why was an event like this needed at HEC?
Our motivations behind organizing a Fashion Revolution event on the HEC campus are manifold. This event was primarily organised for the students of HEC. It is imperative to bring the message of Fashion Revolution across to the international student body represented at HEC as we have the opportunity to shape the world of tomorrow as consumers and as leaders. Further, we wanted HEC to be part of a global movement calling for greater transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry. With its global reach and its close ties to the fashion and luxury industry, we believe that the university of HEC should also be included in the discourse around the ethics of this industry.
The organisation of the event went very smoothly with high interest from the university as well as the industry. The positive and engaged responses from all speakers to whom we reached out encouraged us in our belief that such an event is needed at HEC.
- As you played a crucial role in underwriting the discussion themes, Anna Öhrling, what did each panellist bring to the discussion?
Our hugely varied and prestigious group of panellists all brought something special to the table and to the discussion. Uriel Karsenti, CEO and Founder of Maison Standards, told the room about the need to always marry unwavering quality and design, with policies of transparency and ethics. Christine Goulay from Kering opened up about the difficulties faced by the big companies on shifting focus to become more sustainable and ethical, but ultimately how this is the ONLY option for the way forward. Philippe Berlan from La Redoute spoke earnestly about issues of traceability in the fashion industry and how companies need to invest in education and cooperation with farmers. Alexia Tronel of Atelier Bartavelle shared her story of step by step innovation and progress, and her dream of clothes with long life cycles. Each panellist had their own story to share but they also all admitted to sharing many of the same issues and challenges in their fight for more ethical and sustainable fashion.
- Silvana Vargas Toscano, you personally held a big responsibility to bring onboard the HEC community and secure the valuable support of the SnO centre. What was the best part of hosting this event?
It was amazing to grasp the huge excitement and growing interest around the topic of sustainable fashion. We had the opportunity to reach out to a very diverse pool of field experts who were eager from the start to participate in the panel and share their knowledge and experience with the students. Also, it was remarkable to see the amount and the variety of people who came to the event. Attendees actively listened to the discussion and effectively engaged with the panelists by raising very relevant questions during the Q&A session.
- There was a very diverse audience, of nearly 100 attendees, thanks to the promotional efforts you undertook, Juleah Aiken. Why do you think future students should keep running an event during Fashion Revolution week?
Fashion revolution is a movement that has been gaining momentum and it is really cultivating change, hence it cannot afford to lose any speed. HEC’s involvement adds to that momentum. Not only is it highly educational listening to the panel, getting to make connections in the industry helps students like us strive towards more sustainable career goals. These students will be the business leaders of tomorrow’s world, and even if they don’t apply these tools towards fashion, they can use them to make a better future.
I too would fully encourage the continuation of this event and add to Juleah’s comments that the insightful and thought-provoking discourse provided by five industry specialists on the Future of Fashion, deserve to be prolonged and explored deeper. The best way to keep this discussion going is by retaining a presence of Fashion Revolution at HEC campus, and particularly by participating in Fashion Revolution week, in any creative capacity!
We had much support from the SnO centre to set up the cocktail for the event, and positive responses from all panellists. The whole team is extremely energised by the culmination of our work and we would love to pass our resources on to the next generation of HEC Fashion Revolutionaries!