European Fashion Alliance: The Status of European Fashion conference

20240305 EFA Conference Brussels Simone Cipriani Guy Morgan Henrik Vibskov

On March 5th, the European Fashion Alliance (EFA) held its debut conference in Brussels, Belgium, discussing critical industry topics.

On March 5th, the European Fashion Alliance (EFA) held its first conference ‘The Status of European Fashion’, in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together industry leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders who discussed crucial topics shaping the future of European fashion. In preparation for the conference, EFA conducted a comprehensive Europe-wide survey on the impending sustainability legislation affecting the fashion industry, which results and recommendations will be published until end of April. The survey aimed to assess the current state of the European fashion landscape and identify significant challenges and opportunities in anticipation of impending regulatory changes. First learnings were presented to the audience.

In his opening keynote, Scott Lipinski, Chairman of the EFA, emphasised: "We created the European Fashion Alliance because we saw a gap. There was no organisation representing the creative side of the European fashion industry. There are a lot of brilliant regional organisations – also well-established textile organisations, but there was a missing link for a European fashion alliance focusing on a creativity driven sector - an alliance of knowledge sharing, an alliance of shared interests, and a big ambition to create a better fashion ecosystem."

At the conference, 150 attendees experienced a dynamic program featuring keynote speeches, a presentation on ‘the Status of European Fashion’ report and four engaging panel discussions, which took place after a presentation of the study’s key facts by Elke Timmerman, Board Member of EFA. The study showed that the negative image of the industry is mainly influenced by fast fashion, but that a positive change is influenced by SMEs. According to the survey participants, three main solutions would help improve the public opinion: consumer education, regulatory action and sustainable business models. One further main learning of the survey is that SMEs, despite reasonable efforts and investments in durability services to ensure the longevity of fashion products, are not fully aware with neither prepared for the upcoming EU regulations. Important and well overdue CSR-manager positions mainly can’t be created due to missing resources. The following panel discussions on policy, education and innovation, led by prominent figures from the fashion industry, allowed panelists to share their perspectives and expertise on navigating the evolving sustainability landscape.

The first panel moderated by Simone Cipriani, UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, Founder Ethical Fashion Initiative, ITC focused on policy and featured Guy Morgan, Director of Sustainability at Chanel; Henrik Vibskov, fashion designer; Ruth Reichstein, Policy Coordinator at Cabinet von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; and Julia Aruni Kirschner, Director of Impact and Innovation at Armedangels. The discussion explored the intersection of EU sustainability policy and legislation for SMEs, including insights into the Green Deal, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), digital passports, upcoming legislation and the international impact of EU decisions.

The second panel of the conference explored the future of skills development and education systems and their role in promoting sustainability and empowering young talent and entrepreneurs. The discussion was moderated by Jasmien Wynants, Co-Founder of Masjien, with experts Prof. Dilys Williams, Director of the Centre of Sustainable Fashion, Paolo Naldini, Director of Fondazione Cittadellarte, and Carlota Barrera, fashion designer.

The third panel dove into the forefront of industry transformation with a panel discussion on supply chain transparency, Digital Product Passports (DPP), digital fashion, digitisation, new skills, and innovative business models. The talk was moderated by Christine Goulay, Founder of Sustainabelle Advisory Services and featured Semora Mangnoesing, Commercial Director of EON, Alexandre Capelli, Deputy Environmental Director of LVMH, Federico Brugnoli, Founder and Sole Director of Spin360, and Dr. Andrée-Anne Lemieux, Sustainability Chair Director IFM-KERING, Full Professor Institut Français de la Mode.

Furthermore, the conference culminated in an engaging panel discussion led by EFA Board members, including Carlo Capasa, Chairman of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana; Caroline Rush, CEO of British Fashion Council; Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode; Elke Timmerman, International & Business Relations at Flanders DC; Scott Lipinski, CEO of Fashion Council Germany and Zuzana Bobikova, CEO of Slovak Fashion Council.

In addition, Commissioner Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, provided an inspiring conclusion to the conference day in her keynote speech: "The insightful panels today underscored the vibrancy and resilience of your industry. The discussions also showcased the European Fashion Alliance's key role in supporting the European fashion and textiles industries based on creativity and cooperation - the driving forces of innovation. And as we look into the future and embrace the spirit of innovation, sustainability and education that has animated today's discussions, the European Fashion Alliance and its members have demonstrated that Europe is not just the cradle of fashion, but it is also its future."