• Home
  • News
  • Business
  • Paris Good Fashion’s Isabelle Lefort on making Paris the capital of sustainable fashion in 2024

Paris Good Fashion’s Isabelle Lefort on making Paris the capital of sustainable fashion in 2024

By Diane Vanderschelden


Scroll down to read more

Business |Interview

Odile Idkowiak, Odile Communications; Charlotte Perrier NFP Insurance Company; Isabelle Lefort, Paris Good Fashion; Sylvie Bénard, PGF; François Souchet, PGF; Laure Du Pavillon, PGF; Nathalie Pavlovski, NFP Insurance; Marjolaine Courbon, NFP Insurance Credits: Patrick Sagnes

Initiated by the City of Paris, Paris Good Fashion initially aimed to establish Paris as the capital of a more sustainable fashion by 2024, in anticipation of the Olympic Games. On the occasion of its fifth anniversary, the association conducted a review of its first roadmap in the presence of key industry stakeholders on January 23 at the Institut Français de la Mode.

A few days before this meeting, FashionUnited had the opportunity to interview Isabelle Lefort, co-founder of the association, to discuss the tangible outcomes of its actions in France and Europe. This includes the presentation of its proposal to the European Commission and the initiatives planned for the period 2024-2030.

Five years after its launch, what does Paris Good Fashion represent?

Today, Paris Good Fashion brings together over 100 members across various categories. Among them are brands such as Lacoste, Balzac, Balmain, Schiaparelli, Bompard, as well as major groups like LVMH, Kering, Richemont, the Etam Group, etc. The diversity also extends to retailers, with the presence of Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Le Bon Marché, as well as digital platforms like Vestiaire Collective and LeBonCoin. Renowned federations, including Trade Alliance, Haute Couture, Prêt-à-porter, and the National Leather Council, are also among our members, along with consulting firms and partners such as Deloitte, KPMG, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and APF France handicap, to name a few.

Collectively, we represent between 60 and 70 percent of the French market in terms of turnover. When it comes to representation and economic significance, Paris Good Fashion is now the largest French association engaging industry stakeholders in sustainable development. Recently, we celebrated our fifth anniversary with an event at the French Fashion Institute (IFM), where we discussed our achievements. In total, we have led more than 50 projects and concrete actions, ranging from mapping eco-responsible actors in Île-de-France to a citizen consultation, and a working group on hangers and polybags that resulted in a solution reducing this form of pollution by over 70 percent.

Could you further explain your citizen consultation project? What results has it brought?

In 2020, as part of our initial initiatives, we launched a citizen consultation on the question of "how can we all act together for a sustainable fashion for all." We were convinced of the need to involve citizens in solving this issue, addressing the question collectively. This consultation was a success beyond our expectations, bringing together 107,000 participants.

However, what was even more surprising was the demand that followed. I must admit that I was surprised that, before committing, all our members asked us to create a glossary. To have a common language and share the same definitions and scope. In collaboration with the working group, including Deloitte, Chanel, Kering, LVMH, the Federation of Haute Couture Fashion, IFM, and Etam, we worked on defining over 350 terms. It is now available on our website, in both French and English, and is consulted daily. It has become a reference tool.

What projects are you currently working on?

Currently, one of our flagship projects is the development of a Methodology Act for the Fashion & Luxury sector aimed at assessing the credibility of decarbonisation strategies. We asked Deloitte to lead the project for creating this methodology, designed by ADEME (Environment and Energy Management Agency) and World Benchmarking, with the support of Climate Chance. More than ten of our members are already involved in this project, and we have recently gained the support of Federations and DEFI Mode, the incubator and growth accelerator for the clothing industry in France, for the development of this tool, complemented by funding from ADEME.

The goal is to create a concrete international benchmark capable of evaluating and measuring industry progress in decarbonisation. We are aware of the progress made in the industry over the past five years, but there is a real lack of coordination and harmonisation. Without common tools, we cannot account for progress and, therefore, move forward. The same logic led us, on the eve of our fifth anniversary, to measure our progress and define our next roadmap, conducting an audit, setting up a benchmark, and developing a questionnaire in collaboration with all our members to allow us to progress transparently.

Among your concrete achievements, you developed the map of the actors you mentioned earlier. Why did you specifically develop this tool?

It was important to know what we were talking about when we started and to map out sustainable fashion actors in Île-de-France. Again, to move forward, it was important to measure ourselves. In May 2020, the first version of the map was made available in French and English on our website via MapStr. It now lists over 433 actors in slow fashion, ethical fashion, eco-responsible, vegan, upcycling, etc.

These actors were selected and validated by the working group consisting of the City of Paris, the Federation of Ready-to-Wear, IFM, Galeries Lafayette, and Refashion. It has over 3,000 subscribers who consult it monthly to find useful addresses of second-hand actors, repair places, and much more.

What outcomes have you observed from your field experimentation regarding hangers and polybags?

The outcomes have been particularly conclusive. In the span of three months, with 12 brands and 37 stores, we managed to collect over twenty tonnes of hangers and polybags. These are substantial volumes. Moreover, remarkably, 95 percent of the collected hangers were in an almost new condition. The results are enlightening, but there are concrete solutions, and that's what we propose. For hangers and polybags, our working group is working on defining a method to reduce the impact of these plastic objects by 70 percent.

We have implemented a pooling of collection, increasing the collected volumes and opening up possibilities for recycling. Through the standardisation of these processes, we achieve an almost complete reduction, especially in the case of the closed-loop polybag. In 2024, we are launching, with the Trade Alliance and the support of Defi Mode, the amplification of the experiment to all actors nationwide and will work with partners for its development in major cities internationally.

What is the stance of companies regarding production volume, especially given the waste volumes you mention?

It is interesting to note that in the presentation of our progress report on fashion actors in terms of sustainable development in 2023, one of the questions we asked companies was about volumes: is the issue of degrowth on the agenda in your company, or not at all? The unanimous answer was "no." This is perfectly understandable given the complex economic context. The sector's business model relies on novelty and growth. However, the question of volumes produced by the industry is a real and concerning issue.

In April 2023, we organised a round table with economists, including Timothée Parrique, author of a thesis on degrowth and the book "Ralentir ou périr" (Slow Down or Die). The room was packed, and at the end of the debate, many people asked me for Timothée Parrique's contact details. It was surprising since everyone agreed that it is not on the agenda in our companies, but it is the future. As a result, we launched a dedicated course for MBA and MSC at the French Institute of Fashion, already aiming to raise awareness on the subject and dissect it to find concrete avenues for progress.

What have you achieved regarding your goal for 2023-24, aiming to raise awareness among public authorities on sustainable fashion issues and promote this model in France and internationally?

We had the opportunity to be received in Brussels by the directorate-general for the environment, where we presented the position paper we co-piloted with Vestiaire Collective. Our proposals were highly appreciated for being very concrete and constructive. Following our meeting, we agreed on mutual support, especially in the context of upcoming discussions in the European Parliament, to convey information to parliamentarians and accelerate the adoption of common proposals on which we largely agreed.

On which proposals have Brussels and Paris Good Fashion decided to focus?

We agreed to work together on the creation of an independent reference tool aimed at reassessing the waste hierarchy. Currently, waste treatment is largely oriented towards export, mainly because it is considered as used textiles rather than waste. Our goal is to encourage a European-wide effort to reassess this hierarchy. We want any entity or country wishing to receive used textile products to prove that they can treat them appropriately and without a negative impact on the environment. In total, we formulated six recommendations for a responsible and circular management of global textile waste.

Do your members like this measure? Why, despite companies paying an eco-contribution for waste to be treated responsibly, does this waste end up polluting third-world countries?

Indeed, every company in our sector must pay an eco-contribution based on the number of references it puts on the market. The measures we propose are naturally well-received by the industry. All stakeholders want an effective management of the chain and see no interest in waste not being treated responsibly, especially when they finance eco-responsible management. Refashion has until recently been the only eco-organisation worldwide ensuring the organisation of the chain. They are very proactive. However, the problem is complex, far-reaching. It is the gaps in the global system and the lack of global regulation that lead to insufficient waste treatment. No brand wants to see its used clothes, its "waste," end up on a beach.

The problem? It is how we solve this. We need to work hand in hand. Everyone must do their part. Among the six proposals we submitted to the European Commission, we advocate for piece-by-piece sorting, rather than overall sorting, with individual traceability. This is essential to know where the clothes go once deposited with waste management organisations. Yes, it represents an investment. Yes, it requires reassessing current processes. But we will only succeed if we all - brands, public authorities, social and solidarity economy structures, in France, in Europe - work together in a coordinated manner.

More broadly, what is the influence of your actions? For example, the government has initiated legislation requiring companies to operate sustainably, and this legislative framework is indeed an incentive to move in that direction. But are there any actions in place to help them achieve this?

When we created the association, our goal was to make Paris the capital of more responsible fashion by 2024: a challenge met. Collective intelligence is at the heart of the sector's transition. We, for our part, have undertaken 50 concrete projects. What makes France unique in its dynamic of responsible fashion is the combination of a strong impetus from the government with ambitious legislation, encouraged by the European New Green Deal. In our structure, each member has an equal voice, fostering fair collaboration without one group being more represented than another. This stimulates cooperation among all actors and opens up discussions. Actors who previously didn't communicate are now working together, transparently and with an open mind, such as LVMH, Kiabi, Lacoste around the same table. No question is taboo.

After your first roadmap, which aimed to make Paris the capital of more responsible fashion, what is your second roadmap for the next five years?

The objective of our second roadmap for 2024-2030 is to make Paris an exemplary capital of responsible fashion, capable of co-creating, innovating, influencing, and accelerating. By developing trajectories to decarbonise the industry, addressing inclusion issues, and exploring new economic models integrating volume and recycling. These areas will be at the heart of our concerns, with continuous refinement. Our members recognise the usefulness of our actions, finding them concrete, collective, and addressing impactful issues. We will further strengthen our key performance indicators, measure our impact to assist the actors. We will establish technical committees to enhance our expertise. And to promote our actions internationally, we will create gateways to better share our achievements with other partners. François Souchet, previously in charge of the textile strategy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will lead this initiative.

Similarly, we are establishing the ForEverYoung Committee so that young graduates, already active in companies, challenge our governance, our strategy, and prepare for the transition. Working for the future means anticipating, preparing for the transition, and passing the torch. The topics evolve very quickly, their complexity as well. As an association, we need to be agile, useful, concrete, and collective. It is exciting.

Paris Good Fashion
Sustainable Fashion