Paris Wants to Set Example of Sustainability in Fashion

PARIS — Five years ago, a small but significant group of industry stakeholders came together to create Paris Good Fashion with the ambition of pushing the Paris-based fashion industry toward more sustainable practices. It had around 10 founding members, including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Galeries Lafayette, with an initial roadmap to end this year ahead of the Olympic Games.

“We set ourselves the challenge of becoming the sustainable capital of fashion, and we think we achieved our mission,” said former fashion journalist Isabelle Lefort, cofounder of Paris Good Fashion, ahead of an event earlier this week to chart the project’s achievements and outline its roadmap for the next half-decade. “Now, more than 100 companies are part of the association; our members represent around 60 percent of sector revenues,” Lefort said.

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The aim is to share best practices and concrete initiatives, and co-create new ideas in order to allow the industry as a whole to reduce its environmental impact. The voice of each member, from start-ups to luxury conglomerates, has the same weight, facilitating exchanges on an equal footing. The approach has resulted in around 40 different concrete actions over the past five years, Lefort said. “Working together on specific, concrete subjects, we can move the needle for the sector.”

For example, a pilot in the Paris region for reducing and recycling plastic bags and coat hangers at retail led to a reduction of 21 tons of plastic waste. Members also created a glossary of sustainable fashion featuring 355 definitions that all members agreed upon to ensure everyone was speaking the same language. Learnings from the initiative are available to members and non-members alike either via the organization’s website or through open-source tools. “There are a lot of things we can amplify and share,” Lefort said.

The organization also has the backing of the Paris mayor’s office, the IFM, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, creative platform Eyes on Talent and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Chanel, Etam, Kering and Richemont are also among its biggest corporate members.

While Lefort believes the organization met its initial ambitions, it now intends to go further, laying out a new roadmap for 2030. One of its first initiatives will be the creation of a so-called “ACT Methodology” for the fashion and luxury sectors similar to those that have been built for the energy or paper industries, for instance, a framework to help industry players with concrete measurement tools to reduce their environmental footprints.

“It’s an internationally recognized methodology for measuring the credibility of companies’ decarbonization strategies,” Lefort explained. “It’s been done in sectors including energy, paper and it’s the first time for fashion. Today, there are about 12 companies involved in working on this, including LVMH, Chanel, Richemont, Etam, Galeries Lafayette and La Poste. Starting in February, we will launch a public consultation for two months so all companies in France and abroad can participate. The second part, in April and May, will involve around 15 international companies that will try out the methodology so it can be made available internationally,” she continued.

This is particularly crucial, given new European regulations on traceability and sustainability reporting that will make their mark felt on fashion players operating throughout Europe over the next couple of years.

“We did a survey a year ago of the state of advancement of all of our members. In five years, everyone has made progress on eco-design, traceability, etc. But there was no common framework, there was no harmonization,” Lefort said. “Today, traceability and measurement with an ACT Methodology means everyone needs to be aligned. If we want to progress, we need to be able to measure. We need to be able to provide tangible proof of our actions.”

She continued, “In order to convince people, you need to be able to measure the impact of the transition, how much it will cost, what will be the return, and what will be the added value of the products.”

Following a questionnaire with members, one major priority for the next five years will be working on inclusivity, with the potential implementation of training programs to help the industry better approach the issue.

Another 2030 goal is to set an example for the rest of the world. “We aim to make Paris an example of a capital of sustainable fashion,” Lefort said. Sustainable fashion expert François Souchet, who previously worked at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, began working with the organization in January with just this in mind. “We must promote and amplify these tools internationally,” Lefort said.

“There is exceptional dynamism in France, thanks in part to legislators, who, compared with the EU and the rest of the world among the most incitive, and big French companies, which are strongly represented in the luxury goods industry, which means financial means and reporting obligations,” Lefort said. “We need to be able to create measurements applicable to all, not just in France, but internationally. That’s why Paris needs to set an example.”

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