Last Friday, Green Stilettos were at the United Nations Office in Geneva to speak at the conference “Forests for Fashion — Fashion for Forests” on the occasion of the International Day of Forests, 21 March.
Held under the creative direction of the Italian association Cittadell’arte – Fondazione Pistoletto and its Bio Ethical Fashion Trend (BEST), the conference brought together major actors involved, from forest managers to clothing producers and retailers, to foster the use of forest fibres in fashion.
For many people, the link between fashion and forests is not obvious. Although the first recorded use of forests by humans may well had been for clothing — remember the famous fig leaf? On a more serious note, around 5% of the world’s textiles are currently sources from forests — ranging from bamboo to viscose.
The new wood-based fibres like lyocell (better known by its brand name Tencel) are among the world’s most sustainable textiles, using far less water and energy in their production compared to cotton, polyester and even wool. But they are not yet sufficiently known, nor appreciated, by the fashion industry and the consumers, as we heard from Lorenz Wied, Chief of Marketing at Lenzing SA – the world’s leading producer of Tencel.
Speaking on a panel together with representatives of well-established fashion brands Gucci and ETAM as well as aspiring fashion designers the winner of VOGUE Italy’s talent competition Flavia LaRocca and Finnish brand Marita Huurinainen, I was asked to reflect on how we can make sustainable fashion more fashionable. To me, the answer lies in playing the image game through clever marketing and branding strategies which would make unsustainable fashion seem very last season.
And it seems that the fashion industry is opening up to this idea. Listening to the speakers such as Jane Reeve, CEO of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion, refer to sustainability as the source of the fashion industry’s innovation and competitiveness was truly heart-warming.
I also appreciated the comparison drawn by forest expert Kit Prins, who likened the current pressure on the fashion industry to clean up its act to the public outcry over tropical deforestation in the 1990s which prompted the forest sector to adopt more sustainable practices.
The event concluded with a fiery fashion dance show in the grand hall of the Palace of Nations – the seat of the United Nations in Geneva in the presence of diplomats and glitterati. And at that moment I thought that if the United Nations is ready to embrace sustainable fashion, there can be a brighter future for it in the making.
The author would like to thank the organizers, and in particular Paola Deda, Chief of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section in Geneva, for the invitation to present at the “Forests for Fashion — Fashion for Forests” conference.