Lisbon Hosts Fashion Conference To Discuss Ways To Build A Greener Future

In the wake of receiving the European Green Capital 2020 title, Lisbon will be hosting the first of many events tomorrow in its continued role as a facilitator of a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. The event, Sustainable Fashion Business, is a one-day conference taking place at the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, featuring a line-up of speakers from across the globe, tackling topics and discussions on how the industry can positively move forward.

Being the first Southern European capital to receive this distinction, it recognises the developments which have taken place within the city over the last decade. Friday’s event will be hosted by Lisbon’s Environment Councilman, José Sà Fernandes, who will be presenting to both physical, and digital, audiences, the benefits of making in Portugal and how the country is taking an increased responsibility for its manufacturing capacity. With the climate crisis becoming ever more present on a daily basis, it is imperative that we work across borders, industries and sectors in tackling this fight together. By openly addressing the global market, the Portuguese capital is looking to rally both leaders and visionaries in creating the circular and sustainable future we urgently need.

The event will be focusing on a variety of sectors within the industry such as clothing, jewellery, footwear and accessories, alluding to the heritage of craft and artisanal talent on which the country’s infrastructure has been grounded. The Minister for the Environment and Energy transition, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, will also be taking part to highlight the business opportunities which lie ahead in transitioning to a greener and more accountable industry.

The schedule, which runs from 9.30am to 5.30pm CET, is made up of panel discussions, conversations, interviews and talks from a variety of industry players. It will cover topics such as education, and its role in sustainability, as well as green financing schemes, textile waste and the importance of technology. Emerging into a post-pandemic world, these topics have never been more prevalent. Organisations such as The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, PANGAIA and Farfetch are just some of the few speaking at the event with input from designers such as Priya Ahluwalia, Mats Rombaut and Alan Crocetti. Alongside the schedule of talks, there will be the opportunity for visitors to network with investors and industry leaders throughout the day. An exhibition space has also been installed to showcase recent Portuguese initiatives and help visitors to better understand the scope of the possibilities available through collaborations and partnerships.

Looking over the country’s textile heritage, the Portuguese Secretary of State for the Environment, Inês Costa, remains hopeful in what the future holds. “Disruption must become the cornerstone of this industry’s evolution,” he states. “To innovate and invest in sustainable raw materials and production processes, low-carbon logistics and circular business models is key. Businesses that value quality and longevity, over quantity and brevity, alongside values of repair and reuse, represent the future.” With the government now working more closely with the industry itself, this presents a sense of optimism and hope in instilling and actioning a mindset of change.

While Portugal may be a small country, it’s readiness to adapt has strengthened its offering as a manufacturing hub. As the textile industry hit a crisis in 2003, with the relocation of production to other regions such as Asia, it forced business owners and entrepreneurs to look for alternatives. Now, with most production plants located in the North, the country’s industry is distinguished by its specialised and high-quality offering, mastering delicate design work with technological innovation and, above all, advanced solutions within the area of sustainability. “The fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world and there is an urgent need to find new solutions that meet the needs of responsible consumption,” comments José Sá Fernandes, the Councillor for the Environment, Climate, Energy and Green Structures within the Lisbon Municipality, as he discusses the importance of the upcoming conference. “While we may go through a reduction in quantity to ensure a better quality and durability of materials, talking about it is everyone’s duty. I believe that those who will attend this conference will also start to believe and have hope in a better future ahead.”

With tomorrow’s conference just one way of drawing attention to the action which needs to take place in realigning the industry, the city is set to organise ongoing events to keep the issues at the forefront of everyone’s mind. “Events such as the Sustainable Fashion Business are crucial to generate public’s awareness on the changes that are already being made,” continues Costa. “The good practices, brands and institutions that are investing to be part of a circular economy, and which place sustainability at the heart of their businesses, are the ones we need to be bringing forward.”

Laura Balmond, a research analyst at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Programme Manager of the Make Fashion Circular Initiative, is excited to be a part of the discussion. “Sharing knowledge will be key to finding innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges fashion faces,” she says when expanding on the critical need of such events. “The crisis cannot be solved by one organisation alone. By bringing people from across the fashion industry together to address these issues, the collective ambition level can be raised. We are all responsible for creating a better fashion industry and for holding one another accountable to make it happen. “

The event is a rallying call to action, bringing the industry together to rewrite the path which lies ahead. If each attendee can leave with even 1-2 changes to make within their businesses, the long-term impact of these events will be crucial within the coming years. Now is the time to share ideas, resources and skillsets to ensure as an industry, which spans across the globe, we can become a positive force for good both socially and environmentally. And, as Balmond concludes, “Although the challenges can be daunting, it’s important that fashion brands get started and explore possibilities rather than waiting until all the answers are readily available. Businesses need to work together to enable clothes to remain in circulation, policymakers need to create the enabling conditions for such materials to come to the fore, investors need to support scaling of new innovations, and academics need to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible.” Everyone has a role to play and going forward we must take responsibility in ensuring that, through our individual circles of influence, we can be part of this collective change.

Register for the event and access the full programme here.

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