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Getting ready for Sustainable Luxury Forum 2015!

I hope to see you in Geneva on February 5th at the Sustainable Luxury Forum 2015 at Maison de la Paix - S 7 to join our Lab on "Next Generation Business: Crafting a New Enterprise DNA Fit for the Future"
Here are the great speakers I will meet during the panel: Marcello PALAZZI, CEO Europe, B-Corporation Labs (Netherlands), Benoit GREINDL, CEO, Montagne Alternative (Switzerland), Nicoletta IACOBACCI, Ambassador for Switzerland, Singularity University, (Switzerland).

Prepare for a deep dive into emerging business designs and models that are disrupting industries whilst raising customer value and contribute to well-being, such as the ‘circular economy’ approach, exponential organisation, sharing economy, ’shared value, true value, the ‘B Corps’ and others . This workshop will explore a dozen innovative models, their origins, mechanics and competitive consequences for the luxury sector!


Interview published by "The Montreal Fashion Society"

Here is an extract of the interview just published by The Montreal Fashion Society.

What’s the difference between sustainable fashion and responsible fashion?
Sustainable fashion refers to the relation with two stakeholders: environment and society.
Responsible fashion refers to all the different stakeholders and contexts (including environment and society). Other contexts are added to fashion which characterise the sector itself: media; artistic, cultural and territorial; regulatory and institutional; and ethical value.

Do you think responsible fashion can only exist in bigger financially at ease companies?
On the contrary, it could be much easier for small-medium companies to implement a 360° responsibility. Transparency and traceability, for instance, could be implemented faster with a local manufacturing and knowing very well each single supplier. The more stretched is the supply chain, the longer it will take.
The link with the local territory is much stronger if the company has just one headquarter in the same territory and long term contracts and agreements with the same people.

What would be the impact of applying sustainable fashion guidelines in the industry on costs if retailers, buyers, customers and suppliers applied them?
The good thing of responsibility is that it is a journey and not a final objective. This implies that the responsibility practices can be modular, incremental and customized. For example the costs of making the stores more eco-sustainable could go from low, by renewing the lighting with led lamps, to higher, by acquiring a LEED certification. Same thing can be done in each activity of the value chain.

Do you think sustainable fashion starts with customers. Why?
Customers play an important role in the activation of the virtuous cycle of responsibility. Nowadays they are increasingly interested in scrutinising—and having detailed information about— the entire production chain. However, it is equally true that it is not often possible to find out everything about a product’s history, origin and manufacturing techniques. In the vicious circle, without a clearly developed demand, companies in the textile & apparel sector choose not to invest in innovation; buyers, in turn, do not attend fairs dedicated to sustainable fashion and shops do not devote space to these products.

As mentioned in your book, responsibility for companies is often seen as a public relations tool, can you give us concrete examples of its benefits?
If companies are able to go from step 1, responsibility=PR tool to the final step, responsibility=source of competitive advantage, several benefits will be obtained: improvement of risk management; greater capacity to attract human capital; improvement of the business climate and of employee performance; increase in efficiency and optimisation of costs; increase in capacity to attract financial resources; reinforcing brand value.
A best practice I would like to mention is Brunello Cucinelli, an Italian luxury clothing company that applied the responsibility guidelines since it was founded.
In the beautiful context of verdant Umbria, Brunello Cucinelli creates quality products with a shrewd use of natural materials, with the involvement of sensitive, motivated and properly rewarded collaborators in the production process, with an image that seems at one with the historic urban settlement of an ancient civilisation, and with an intact and enchanting landscape, the medieval village of Solomeo (see Chapter 8 of the book).
Among the most important factors that increased the market value of the company during the public listing we can find its humanistic philosophy. Ethical and humanistic entrepreneurial model places people at the centre of the production process. It encourages the creativity of each worker and simultaneously develops within them a sense of profound participation in the group’s success and goals. This commitment is shared at all levels of the company and in external relations with “façonisti” and with clients around the globe, creating a strong level of loyalty and trust towards the company.

You mention in the book that the definitions of “eco-friendly”, “ethical”, “sustainable”, “responsible” fashion and similar are often used improperly and indistinctly. What are the biggest misconceptions about responsible fashion?
This is not just about bamboo and hemp clothing. It is not just about having a conscience. The big potential here is related to the creation of shared value, as some scholars would say, or as I prefer to put it: integrating ethics and aesthetics across the value chain. Indeed, working towards more responsible fashion means trying to answer the specific needs of a wide range of stakeholders: environment, society, workers, consumers, art, culture, territory, media, institutions. It is all interconnected. This is what gives responsible fashion so much potential.


Interview published on Sustainable Today

Happy New Year to everyone! Here is the first interview on sustainable fashion in 2015, just published on Sustainable Today.

Italian Author Tackles Sustainablity Issues in Fashion 

By Cat Kolonko
After reading, researching and writing about the fashion industry for sometime, an Italian author and blogger determined that it was lacking a managerial model for building and maintaining sustainability in fashion.
The Responsible Fashion Company written by Francesca Romana Rinaldi and Salvo Testa attempts to provide a new way of managing a company that incorporates sustainability and responsibility not just for the owners and employees but also for everyone involved from the beginning of the creation process to product consumption and beyond. The new model presented in the book is based on ethics, aesthetics and economic efficiency. These are the three variables that fashion companies need to manage better now and well into the future, explained Rinaldi in a recent telephone interview.
"A new mindset is needed to make responsible fashion the future of fashion," she says.
Author and blogger Francesca Romana Rinaldi
Book author and blogger Francesca Romana Rinaldi
Rinaldi's first brush with the idea of sustainability happened several years ago during a trip to London to attend a fashion exposition. As she became more involved writing and teaching on the topic she noticed a gap in literature, a lack of a managerial model for responsibility.
"Since then I found out it's not just about product responsibility," she says. "It's about all the different activities of the value chain and managing a balance with all the stakeholders."
The book discusses the fashion sectors on several different dimensions, including environment, society, media,   art, culture and territory; and regulatory and institutions.  They all feed into the concept of a corporation that values responsible sustainability, says Rinaldi.
The author's managerial model puts all stakeholders in a system with what she terms neo-consumers at the center, interacting and interested in all phases of production. A consumer centric concept gives weight to transparency and traceability, which is important to neo-consumers who are socially conscious about how products are made, the environmental impact and fair trade and labor, she says.
"Consumers don't exist in the way they did in the past," says Rinaldi. "They need to be more involved and interested and informed."
Leading and influencing this trend are people who embrace lifestyles of health and sustainability. They pursue a lifestyle based on ecological sustainability for their own health and  planet earth, explains Rinaldi. They eat organic food, recycle, use green energy and look for certifications that indicate environmental sensitivity and fair trade in the products they buy. They also are largely urban and want to be involved in the creative process of products.
Unlike classic images of eco-minded people of decades back, the neo-consumer does not shun technology and fashion, Rinaldi notes in her book.
Some companies more than others have adopted new technologies and internet commerce to establish new relations with the neo-consumer. For example, Nike with NikeID and Converse allow customers to personalize their sneakers during the creation process.
Sustainable fibers and textiles is one aspect of responsibility but there are others that encompass ethics and aesthetics. Innovation is also essential for responsible and sustainable fashion to succeed, says Rinaldi.
"...You cannot ignore aesthetics because that is the first element that consumers evaluate when deciding whether to buy a product...
"We cannot lie about this. There is just a really really small percentage of consumers that buy a product just because it is good, and not beautiful."
Still, Rinaldi maintains that it's possible to combine ethics with aesthetics and get people invested in not just the product but the philosophy of sustainability. When someone buys a t-shirt from a responsibly sustainable company it becomes more than just a t-shirt, she says.
"It's an incredible t-shirt because it is also sustainable. So it's a super t-shirt."
 Today companies that want to keep a competitive edge need to adopt corporate social responsibility in a meaningful way. Examples of those that embrace this philosophy are Columbia sportswear, Patagonia, People Tree, and lastly, one of the book's case studies Brunello Cucinelli.
Known for his cashmere sweaters, the Italian designer sells top quality clothing while striving to keep concern for workers at the core of the company business model of responsible fashion. Brunello Cucinelli is a company that has in its DNA the values of responsibility and it declares this to its investors, says Rinaldi.
Rinaldi and Testa present other case studies in the book and share the writing of chapters with other experts who delve into  many aspects of corporate responsibility throughout the creation and distribution process. Rinaldi says she hopes the book will be used by managers and students alike and by anyone interested in learning more about sustainable fashion.