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Fashion Green Hub: A network of circular economy experts in France are thinking ahead

By Odile Mopin

20 Oct 2020

Fashion

For years now, the Fashion Green Hub association (ex-Nordcrea) has played a key role in the responsible fashion landscape, working on topics including eco-design and new business models in the industry.

Fashion Green Hub is notably at the origin of the Fashion Tech Days. Experts and brands meet to advance on "green" innovation in fashion, where there are days of seminars around a range of crucial topics. The association also organizes the Fashion Green Days, the forum for circular and eco-designed fashion.

Founded by Annick Jehanne in 2015, Fashion Green Hub is supported by local authorities and the State (ADEME, Hauts de France Region, European Metropolis of Lille, City of Roubaix). It is also supported by professional organisations, such as the Defi, Re-Fashion (ex-Eco TLC, an association focused on recycling), the Union of Textile and Clothing Industries (UITH), and the Trade Alliance. Today it brings together 200 fashion industry players, brands such as Promeod, ID Groupe and La Redoute, schools and young designers. The association also provides funding through its production, training and service activities, from its "headquarters" and workshop, the Plateau Fertile, in Roubaix. Fashion companies are taking over the expertise of this paradoxical start-up (an agile and reactive structure), but above all advocating social, human and local values. A "follow-up" association that is working on all fronts of eco-design. At a time of a health crisis, a global panorama of Fashion Green Hub's activities was timely. FashionUnited discussed the network’s outlook with Annick Jehanne.

FashionUnited: You are the soul and the organizer of this association. Why did you create it, and why has it recently changed its name?

Annick Jehanne: Quickly on the name. We come from the North, the cradle of great northern brands, we started our activities between Lille and Roubaix. The Fashion Techs Days are held there. But as we grow, we are becoming more and more international. In any case, we cover the whole territory with our 200 partner brands. We needed a name that reflects the diversity of our members.

I come from purchasing in department stores in the central buying offices. Then I became a consultant and I trained a lot of managers in fashion. This way I approached the upstream, the production side of the business. And I quickly realised that the system was running out of steam. That's why in 2015, I decided to create this association, to make the knowledge I had acquired in these fields for companies. Today there are about ten of us at the Plateau Fertile, which serves as a workshop for the eco-designed projects that the brands we support and want to carry out-we are a team. Arielle Lévy is in charge of communication and products, Majdouline Sbai pilots the Fashion Green Days and "sustainable development" projects, and Benoit Frys chaperones production. We are also surrounded by a pool of freelance stylists specialised in eco-design.

Can you summarise the philosophy behind your activities?

We are convinced that fashion must change very quickly and rebuild a different business model. A model that reduces its impact on the planet, offers consumers products that are creative, functional, healthy, sustainable and manufactured under humane conditions, enables sustainable economic activity for its players-from the entire chain of materials to trade, recreating jobs and providing training in the territories.

What is your comprehensive set of actions?

Our first component is knowledge sharing. This is why we have been organising these B to B events, Fashion Green Days and Fashion Tech Days, since the beginning of the association, to bring pragmatic solutions to the industry. In 2020, we are organising four thematic editions of Fashion Green Days, in an online format. The next ones will take place from October 19 to 23, in two parts. It will be a series of face-to-face professional workshops, by appointment, with a maximum of about 20 participants in our premises. From October 22 to 23, there will be webinars devoted to round tables on the dissemination of best practices in sustainable development and collaborations between the economic, academic and institutional worlds in supporting the change of the fashion industry’s business model.

The second area of action is local manufacturing, upcycling and support for project leaders. Through partnership programmes, the association helps brands and retailers to gather them around in an efficient ecosystem, to find resources and training. Several expert consultants in sustainable and circular models will provide support.

Our workshop opened in 2018 in Roubaix and is there for that. It is a manufacturing workshop (prototyping and mini-series) for all our young brands. It is increasingly specialised in upcycling and its development has intensified this year with a team of ten people. We can thus propose to the brands to accompany them in their local manufacturing and upcycling projects thanks to our team of designers and model makers. For example, within the framework of Fashion Green Lab, our platform for sustainable and responsible fashion in which we carried out a project with Blanche Porte: a series of fashion accessories made using their stocks of mismatched household linen. A 100 percent circular range, which was a great success. We also carried out a project with Camaïeu, recovering lettering from their stocks of printed items to create a range of t-shirts with a message. These days we are also launching our own line of positive message t-shirts made in our workshop. The line was conceived by a collective of designers and the manufacturing process goes from yarn to dyeing and knitting. The whole generating "zero waste" via manufacturing on demand.

We have also deployed a training activity since the beginning, directly in our workshop and via Moocs. We have been training in virtual design and industrial sewing since 2020.

Are the collective and network essential to your function?

Absolutely, working together duplicates good practice. We organise working groups, according to the expertise we have at our disposal. This is why it is important to surround ourselves with a variety of skills. For example, the "Zero Plastic" group has been working for six months on the eradication of polybag and the recycling of clothes hangers.

In another register, the "Atelier Agile" group is working out the conditions of manufacturing an ultra-short circuit, always thanks to our site. Finally, the "Lin" group is working on the greater use of this ecological resource, a sector which is currently trying to recover in France.

We also share the innovative equipment that we have acquired or developed. We have thus created a 3D station in Roubaix. We provide brands and designers with an assembly of hardware and software that allows them to develop a product on a 3D avatar, combining the speed of design and economy of material. Finally, we offer an eco-printing station which allows designers to print their t-shirts on demand.

What are your next projects?

First of all, we are expanding. We're going to triple the size of our space, an old factory. In a few weeks, we will have 1,000 square metres at our disposal. We are going to take advantage of this to develop residences for sustainable fashion designers. As well as creating co-working spaces where designers will be able to take advantage of our tools and exchange. We are also going to set up a branch in Paris which will be more of a meeting and exchange space than a place of design. Initially, we planned to be hosted by the Ateliers de Paris, whose values we share. Another ongoing project is that we will launch upcycling training courses in early 2021, and we are planning a demonstrator workshop, "Factory of the Future", in an ultra-short circuit equipped with digital printing and cutting for 2021 as part of a Pia Filiere programme in the Hauts de France region. Finally, for sales, a common store highlighting the products of young designers is in the pipeline for 2021.

Photo credit: Fashion Green Hub

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.fr. Translation and editing: Andrea Byrne.