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SDGs in a Pandemic: How Coronavirus is Changing the World of Fashion

Italy's Ambassador at the United Nations Maria Angela Zappia on the impact of COVID-19 on Italian sustainable fashion

Ambassador Maria Angela Zappia during her presentation for Fashinnovation Worldwide Talks

Fashion houses must aim for the authenticity of their product, as well as sustainability and creativity. In Italy, this means maintaining the crucial strong connection with the local territory and respecting the tradition in production. Luckily, when it comes to sustainability, Italian companies have been at the forefront for years now.

In Italiano

On April 20th, taking part in the Fashinnovation Worldwide Talks, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations Maria Angela Zappia spoke of Italian fashion in the context of “SDGs During a Pandemic.”

Ambassador Zappia started by saying that she is pleased to see the “fashion world reacting with energy and innovation to the huge challenge we are facing as humanity.” Indeed, as Ms. Zappia pointed out, fashion has long been considered a reflection of society, and the pandemic has made us aware of our fragility whilst also testing our capacity to respond and improve. However, Ms. Zappia believes that fashion now has the capacity to overcome this phase and become more sustainable. 

Ambassador Zappia focused specifically on Italy, which will have to be at the core of the fashion’s renaissance in this pandemic. The virus hit Italy massively and the country is paying the highest price in this crisis not only in terms of lives, but also at the social and economic level. The country, however, has not relented, and Italians are proving to have exceptional resilience and sense of sacrifice. The country’s production system responded demonstrating yet again that Italy is the cradle of creativity and know-how. Many fashion textile companies, both big names like Prada, Gucci, and Armani, but also smaller brands, converted their manufacturing to support the national healthcare system cope with the crisis. Many fashion houses started producing masks and gowns for healthcare workers, but also donating ventilators and other medical equipment. These actions show a strong message of solidarity and social responsibility.

Nevertheless, the fashion industry also needs to avoid the risk of total paralysis in the midst of the crisis. Fashion and textile industries are still moving, adapting to the new reality, introducing new safety measures and protecting their main assets, which are their workers. 

Another challenge the industry is facing is sustaining its level of excellence in this crisis. Fashion houses must aim for the authenticity of their product, as well as sustainability and creativity. In Italy, this means maintaining the crucial strong connection with the local territory and respecting the traditions in production.

When it comes to sustainability, Italian companies have been at the forefront for years now. Sustainability has become an integral part of the business model of both big name brands and SMEs. Companies have implemented green policies, controls in the production systems, innovative waste disposal techniques, recycling and upcycling. Research has been put in new and eco-friendly materials, recycled materials, reduced use of chemicals, and emission cuts. This experience will become fundamental in this moment.

According to Ms. Zappia, we must see the opportunity presented by this pandemic; more attention will be paid to the quality of the product and to what is behind the product that is beneficial to society. People will become less tolerant for the superfluous. The crisis is also accelerating our thinking, and leading us to pose many important questions in terms of sustainability of the current fashion industry model. Do fashion shows require the movement of so many people, both as organizers and attendees, or should they become more environmentally friendly? Are we sure that we need so many different collections every year, or should we scale down the frenzy of the whole industry? Would those changes be viable for the industry?

Moving forward, fashion companies should focus on durable, non-disposable goods, and not flood the market with excessive products. “Sustainability will be the key word of the times we are embarking upon,” concludes the Ambassador. 

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