French, Italian and German fashion groups set up European Fashion Alliance – WWD

French, Italian and German fashion groups set up European Fashion Alliance – WWD

European moderates take the idea of ​​’more EU’ to heart. This week, 21 national and regional moderators from 18 countries on the continent are founding the so-called European Fashion Alliance.

European Union member countries have a variety of versions of the traditional moderation, the bodies typically set up to represent industry interests at the government level, as well as to support initiatives such as fashion weeks and nurture local talent.

There is the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, which was founded in 1958 and now has about 150 members, and the French Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which was founded in 1973 and now has about 100 members. These are big and important design and clothing manufacturing decision makers operating in the heart of the world’s fashion capitals. There are also smaller organizations such as the Bulgarian Fashion Association, which promotes and networks designers from the Eastern European country and was launched in 2019.

All of these bodies are now united under one umbrella organization, the European Fashion Alliance. And in Brussels they take quite a few leaves from the organizational playbook of the EU.

The Alliance will have a rotating presidency that changes at regular intervals; Finally, there will also be minimum standards that members must meet in order to join, and the body’s funding will work in the same way as EU budgets, with each member paying a share according to their size and national budget.

Scott Lipinski, Managing Director of the Fashion Council Germany.

Scott Lipinsky
FCG/Nela Koenig

The project has been on the drawing board since 2018, explained Scott Lipinski, Managing Director of the Fashion Council Germany, in an exclusive interview with WWD. His organization was one of the driving forces behind the new alliance and will hold the first of the rotating presidencies through the end of 2023.

Lipinski explained that the idea came after an EU-funded initiative called United Fashion, which brought together several moderators along with brands and designers. “I was just so happy to see the whole exchange,” Lipinski said. “One of the goals of this project was to create a new kind of alliance or [fashion] Council at European level.”

But four years ago, the initiative didn’t really get off the ground. “It was too hard,” Lipinski argued. There were complex questions about headquarters, manifestos, and whether to involve hundreds of brands and designers. “We ended up with a huge monster idea,” Lipinski said. “It was overwhelming.”

But there was already support from European political leaders for such a body. “So we learned from our past experiences, and then we just picked up the phones and started making calls,” Lipinski said. Fashion Council Germany also hired Elke Timmerman, the Brussels-based project manager behind the United Fashion project.

After a two-day summit meeting of moderators in Frankfurt in March of this year, Timmerman and Lipinski signed the so-called Frankfurt Agreement, the founding document of the European Fashion Alliance. The 31 participating organizations agreed that a smaller alliance that could develop more organically would be a better place to start.

Although only 21 of the original 31 participants are currently members, other organizations are ready and more are likely to join once the bureaucratic hurdles are cleared, Timmerman explained in an email.

“We are very pleased to be part of the European Fashion Alliance,” said Pierre-François Le Louët, Chairman of the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin, in a statement on the launch. “I’m sure that together we can leverage the impact of our industry around the world and promote sustainable and inclusive action.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the New European Bauhaus Conference. © Frankfurt Fashion Week.

Although an official manifesto is still pending, several key objectives are already discernible. One of the aims of the alliance is to represent the European fashion industry at the level of the EU government.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the EU’s decision-making body, gave a keynote speech at last summer’s New Bauhaus conference in Frankfurt, where a fashion alliance was again discussed.

“She said that we need a voice from the European fashion industry,” Lipinski noted. “And then Dr. Christian Ehler [member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education] was also something of a driving force. He told us: ‘We don’t know what you want because we don’t have a single organization to turn to to discuss policy. So please start this network.’”

The clothing industry expects further guidelines and laws in relation to the fashion and textile industry in the coming year. The alliance should sit at the table when decisions are made and ultimately plans to represent unified industry positions on such important legislative issues as sustainability.

“We all know that we are one of the biggest polluters on earth,” Lipinski admitted. “So there is an urgent need to make real changes there.”

Additionally, more EU funding than ever is flowing into the continent’s creative industries, and the alliance will likely have an opportunity to offer advice on where the money could be best spent. In the current EU six-year budget for 2021 to 2027, funding for culture and creative industries has increased by 50 percent compared to the last six-year budget to a total of 2.44 billion euros.

In addition to representing political interests, the European Fashion Alliance is also concerned with transnational networking. The panel plans to meet on specific topics such as crafts, innovation, best practices and national specializations, as well as to encourage cross-border projects and more networking.

There are already some successes here. From the very first meetings, smaller European moderators drew inspiration from the larger ones, Lipinski noted.

More than two years ago, the Fashion Council Germany commissioned a report on the importance and size of the German clothing industry for them to present to their own government to convince them that the industry is worth paying attention to.

“Some of the smaller ones [fashion councils] also demand to be heard,” said Lipinski. “That was perhaps one of the first insights that some of these countries had. They said, “Okay, tell us how you did that? Because we too want to be heard by our government so that it understands how important our sector is.

French, Italian, German fashion groups start

Representatives from 31 European fashion organizations met in Frankfurt, where they agreed to found the European Fashion Alliance.
EFA/Frank Baumhammel

When asked if he was concerned there might be power struggles and perhaps even competition between alliance members – say, one country wanting to host a fashion week at the same time as another – Lipinski dismissed the idea.

“Isn’t that a bit of an old myth?” he asked. “I mean, I sat down with Copenhagen Fashion Week the other day and said let’s do something together. And the French and Italians are friends; They constantly exchange ideas and are in constant conversation. It’s not about egos, it’s about getting things done.”

The next meeting attended by all members will be a digital summit in July and then an in-person summit in October. But it’s important to manage expectations, Lipinski said. The European Fashion Alliance has only just been launched, he warned, and results could not be seen until early next year at the earliest.

In the distant future, the German-Scottish CEO wishes above all that the alliance does something positive.

“Maybe we won’t give it [any new EU policy or law] a name. We may not be the ones enforcing it either. But if we could say that we were the ones behind certain valuable policies that future-proofed our industry, I would be proud,” concluded Lipinski.

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