28 June 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on ‘Fashion 4 Development, A Global Platform

 

to Advance the Millennium Development Goals’

 


Fashion design and production could provide a major platform for sustainable development in Africa, the Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocate said today at a Headquarters press conference to introduce Fashion 4 Development, an initiative created with the aim of mobilizing the industry to support attainment of the targets.


“I believe that the fashion industry will lead the emergence of many developing economies,” said Ray Chambers, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, noting that the initiative had come into being at a time when everyone’s help was needed to reach the Goals before 2015.  “We need a big push to get us over the finish line,” he added.


Accompanying Mr. Chambers were key figures behind the two-year-old initiative, including Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia and Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion 4 Development(F4D); Cesare Ragaglini, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations; and Evie Evangelou, Co-Founder and Global Chair of F4D.


Ms. Sozzani said that two components of the initiative were already up and running in Ghana, Nigeria and Botswana.  African designers and producers were receiving assistance in the form of start-up needs and promotion to help them reach the export market.  At the same time, unemployed women were trained and employed in situ to produce clothing on order from fashion outlets.


Many people in Africa had previously been employed in the fashion and textile fields, but the industry there had been decimated by a lack of materials, she said, explaining that, although the continent had the best raw materials, they were processed elsewhere and the fabrics that came back were too expensive to support a profitable industry.  For that reason, in talks with diplomats this morning, one focus had been on getting the African Union’s help in eliminating taxes on imported fabrics and threads in order to make it easier for start-up businesses to succeed.


She said that Italy following the Second World War, and Brazil and China more recently, had shown how clothing industries could be revived after steep decline in an export-oriented manner.  With organization, guidance and the right materials at the right price, international-quality fashions could be profitably made, she said.  “It is important to show that Africa can really produce, like China.”


Mr. Ragaglini added that his country had launched the initiative last February during a New York Fashion Week event at his residence that had raised wide awareness.  Italy had for decades been extremely active in development assistance, and fashion was one of its most important industries.  It was, therefore, natural for the country to promote development through fashion, he said.


“It’s not about charity, it’s just work,” Ms. Evangelou emphasized, enumerating the core principles of F4D — educating, empowering, enhancing and enriching the lives of all involved.  Dozens of fashion-related companies had signed on, with many new pledges received today, she said, adding that the beauty products industry was involved through the parallel Beauty 4 Empowerment initiative.  Giving the initiative a high profile were the First Ladies & Fashion 4 Development luncheons held around the time of the General Assembly opening, as well as New York Fashion Week, featuring prominent women.


Other projects included the provision of scholarships to talented African fashion workers and, following Rio+20, a partnership with Sustainia of Scandanavia on a fashion shop featuring products made in Africa, she said, pledging to “continue to inspire new commitments and new partnerships on a daily basis”.


Asked about the differences between production conditions in China and those in African countries, Ms. Sozzani said Africans had a different way of working, but they enjoyed what they did.


On the issue of traditional skills having lost out to factory-made products, she agreed that traditional design and production had been lost in China, but pointed out that traditional African crafts were still plied in a way that had adapted to modernity, although other elements of a successful enterprise were missing.  It was important to support the fashion talents of women involved in projects, she said, stressing that for that reason, lowering taxes on fabrics was a primary goal.


She went on to point out that, at the moment, she lacked funding for a showroom to exhibit what African designers produced.  “I myself am the showroom,” she added, explaining that she provided the necessary publicity through her magazine.  It was also important not to set African designers apart as “African”, but instead to group them as talented individuals from the continent.


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For information media • not an official record