Intégrer le développement durable au sein des processus d'entreprise - Entrevue avec Félicité Donyo

Mis à jour : janv. 4

You will find bellow the english translation of the interview.

Q: How would you describe the place of sustainable development in your company?

A: From the beginning, it was very clear that our company had to have sustainable development values. My partner is also an entrepreneur and she did natural makeup. And I was in the fashion business. I saw many aspects of fashion, and when we met to talk about this idea of a versatile skirt, for us it was really necessary and natural to go into sustainable development. We wanted our company to leave a positive and minimal footprint on the environment. We are two mothers too, we have children. So we want to inculcate to them the respect of the planet, the respect of the environment and the respect of human beings too. So it was only natural for us to go in that direction.

Q: What challenges related to sustainable development have you faced?

A: Our first challenge was at the level of the fabric, of the raw material: how to find the raw material which we wanted for our skirt, and which also answers our values. That was very complicated. I cannot say to you that the first one was 100% what we wanted, but it started like that. So the first step, the fabric. The second step, finding the manufacturers. Building relationships with manufacturers, making sure that the manufacturers we use share our values and our vision of fashion and sustainable development. The third step is price. There is a cost to all this. We have to make people understand that sustainable development is another way of thinking about consumption, and another way of thinking about objects. All that has a cost and it's necessarily a little more expensive. We have to find the right balance so that the price is acceptable for the consumer and that it is also profitable for the company.

Q: How has the pandemic affected your business?

A: It put the finger on a boo-boo that has been around for a long time in the fashion industry. We're not going to hide it, fashion is one of the most polluting fields of activity on earth. Because of the unbridled consumption that we have been experiencing recently, we really had to find a way to go and deal with the problem and the Covid angle really helped us in sustainable development. Changing the fashion paradigm: we need to consume better and consume less. And how to do it? We really need to educate people. The Covid has helped us to start changing mentalities because it's not done yet, but we're in the process. And at the level of the entire production chain, we are forced to readjust. We can no longer squeeze our manufacturers, we can no longer squeeze everyone's lemon to get out of prices, to get out of quantities, to go faster. We have to slow down and take care of the people who work in this industry. We must also make people understand that the product is a product that we must respect, that it must stay and that the people who produce it are people who have a life, who have values and we must respect them too. It's really a paradigm shift for everyone: how we consume, why we consume and what we really want to keep. And we, as a company, have to offer products that people really want to consume, not things that we want to accumulate.

Q: How does the rise in popularity of eco-responsible movements increase competition?

A: Between the eco-responsible approach, the sustainable development approach and greenwashing, there is a very thin line to cross. We can have values, we respect them, we make sure that our company respects those values, but there are other companies that use eco-responsible values to sell, increase their sales volume and reach more people, and that they don't do anything eco-responsible in the chain of their production. You have to be very careful. On our side, we had already anchored ourselves in our procedure. We do everything with the aim of sustainable development. At the social level, at the environmental level, at the organizational level, on these three points, we have already implemented developments and I know that other companies are doing it too. We are in competition, but these are the values that we are going to put into it. We are going to differentiate ourselves from others by our values, what we decide to put into the product.

Q: What advice would you give to students in the competition looking for inspiration to come up with innovative solutions?

A: One of the tips is: ask questions continuously. Don't be afraid to miss something and continue to be curious. Take a step back and listen a lot to others. Create products that are investments more than anything else. We are in an era where consumers are looking for useful products. They want to invest in something. So it's about creating value-added products that will really serve a purpose, and that meet a need. That's why you have to listen to the consumer all the time and ask questions. You also have to trust technology. One of the big points of sustainable development is that you have to use technology. Technology is going to help us to manage stocks, and to manage production to avoid overproduction. Another piece of advice is to open up the company, talk about the company, talk about human experiences. "Human storytelling" advice is very important. The life experiences of the people in the company or of the customers are very important. People want to hold on to something. Values are one thing, but values conveyed in stories are even better.

Q: What tools or resources would you recommend?

A: Currently I'm with Fashion Dex and LIM College in New York City, who give vignettes on sustainability and fashion change. Also, they have very good speakers and by listening to these capsules, we're going to look for information about all the speakers and what they do, what their job is... So we're going to find information like that. The fabric fairs that I regularly attend, including Première Vision and Spin Expo, have also developed expertise in eco-responsible fabrics, and in sustainable development. We have to ask these people questions, go and look at their resources and everything that's interesting for us. We can no longer afford to work alone in our corner and find the solution. We must share experiences, share knowledge and share expertise.

Q: What are the particularities of sustainable development for a company working in the fashion industry?

A: The fashion industry is a field that is undergoing very big changes right now and we need to align ourselves with something else. The business model that existed before is not necessarily viable now. Fast fashion, we can no longer rely on it to build a company in the fashion industry now. We can no longer offer 50 collections a year to our customers, they no longer accept. We really have to rethink the essence of fashion to be able to better respond to it, and always be glued to what consumers want. Propose the circular economy rather than recycling. Companies like Patagonia that offer to repair coats more than to buy new ones, that's more of an avenue to go down. Repairing, the circular economy, making sure that the product has more than one life, it will be a challenge for many. It means consuming less, it means less income, it means that companies like Zara can no longer make billions a year. We have to rethink the scale of consumption and the scale of income.

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