After receiving European Green Capital 2020 title, Lisbon will host the first of many tomorrow’s events in its continued role as a facilitator of a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. Event, Sustainable Fashion Business, is a one-day conference that takes place at Lisbon Academy of Sciences, featuring an array of speakers from around the world, discussing topics and discussing how the industry can move forward in a positive manner.
Being the first Southern European capital to accept this distinction, it recognizes the developments that have taken place within the city over the past decade. Friday’s event will be hosted by Lisbon Environment Council Member José Sà Fernandes, who will present to both physical and digital audiences the benefits of manufacturing in Portugal and how the country is taking greater responsibility for its manufacturing capacity. With climate crises occurring more and more every day, it is imperative that we work across borders, industries and sectors to tackle this struggle together. By openly tackling global markets, the Portuguese capital wants to bring together leaders and visionaries in creating the circular and sustainable future we so desperately need.
The event will focus on various sectors in the industry such as clothing, jewelry, footwear and accessories, drawing on the heritage of craftsmanship and artisanal talent that form the cornerstone of the country’s infrastructure. The Transitional Minister for Environment and Energy, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, will also take part to highlight the business opportunities that lie ahead in the transition to a greener and more responsible industry.
The schedule, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CET, consists of panel discussions, conversations, interviews and talks from various industry players. It will address topics such as education, and its role in sustainability, as well as green financing schemes, textile waste and the importance of technology. Emerging into the post-pandemic world, this topic has never been more prevalent. Organizations like Ellen MacArthur Foundation, PANGAIA and Farfetch were just a few of the few who spoke at the event with input from such designers Priya Ahluwalia, Mats Rombaut and Alan Crocetti. In addition to the scheduled talks, there will be opportunities 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 possibilities available through collaboration and partnerships.
Seeing the country’s textile heritage, the Portuguese State Secretary for the Environment, Inês Costa, remains hopeful about the future. “Disruption must be the basis for the evolution of this industry,” he said. “To innovate and invest in sustainable raw materials and production processes, low-carbon logistics and circular business models are key. Businesses that value quality and longevity, over quantity and brevity, alongside the value 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 acting in a change mindset.
Although Portugal may be a small country, its readiness to adapt has solidified its offering as a manufacturing hub. When the textile industry experienced a crisis in 2003, with the relocation of production to other regions such as Asia, forcing business owners and entrepreneurs to look for alternatives. Today, with most of the production plants located in the North, the country’s industry is distinguished by special offerings and high quality, mastering complex design work with technological innovations and, most importantly, advanced solutions in the field 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,” commented José Sá Fernandes, Environmental, Climate, Energy and Green Structure Advisor in the City of Lisbon, as he discussed the importance of upcoming conference. “While we may undertake a reduction in quantity to ensure better quality and durability of materials, talking about it is everyone’s job. I believe that those who will attend this conference will also begin to believe and have hope for a better future. “
With tomorrow’s conference only one way to draw attention to the actions that need to be taken in realigning the industry, the city is set to organize ongoing events to keep issues at the forefront of everyone’s mind. “Events like Sustainable Fashion Business are very important to raise public awareness about the changes that are being made,” Costa continued. “Good practices, brands and institutions that invest to be part of a circular economy, and that place sustainability at the heart of their business, are what we need to address.”
Laura Balmond, a research analyst at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Program Manager of the Make Fashion Circular Initiative, was excited to be a part of the discussion. “Sharing knowledge will be key to finding innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing fashion,” he said while explaining the critical need for such events. “The crisis cannot be solved with just one organization. By bringing together people from across the fashion industry to tackle this problem, the level of collective ambition can be increased. We are all responsible for creating a better fashion industry and hold each other accountable for making it happen. “
This event is a call to action, uniting the industry to rewrite the road that lies ahead. If each participant can leave even with 1-2 changes to make in their business, the long term impact of this event will be very important in the years to come. Now is the time to share ideas, resources and expertise to ensure that as an industry, spread around the world, we can become a positive force for good both socially and environmentally. And, as Balmond concludes, “While the challenges can be daunting, it’s important for fashion brands to get started and explore the possibilities rather than waiting until all the answers are available. Businesses need to work together to allow clothing to keep circulating, policymakers need to create the enabling conditions for these materials to emerge, investors need to support the scaling of new innovations, and academics need to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. “Everyone has a role to play and going forward we must take responsibility to ensure that, through individual circles of influence, we can be a part of this collective change.