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IFM and Kering showcase wool swimsuits at French Senate

By Florence Julienne


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IFM x Kering Sustainability Certificate 2024. Photo credits : F. Julienne.

A fashion show featuring wool swimsuits, held at the Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, prompted the young senator from Vosges, Jean Hingray, to humorously remark, "You can conjugate my promising career in the imperfect tense."

The moment took place during the presentation of the work by students from the French Institute of Fashion (IFM) for their Sustainability Certificate IFM x Kering, with luxury group Kering represented by Marie-Claire Daveu, Director of Sustainable Development and Institutional Affairs at Kering.

"Let’s go change the world!"

On Thursday 28th March afternoon, six groups of students presented their proactive projects to an audience consisting of a prestigious jury and fashion professionals, within the Senate premises. An unprecedented event in the history of this institution and IFM, which has developed a curriculum on sustainable development based on collaborative and contributory projects, under the guidance of dynamic Canadian professor Andrée-Anne Lemieux.

The first group presented an upcycling project carried out in partnership with Ghanaian designers. For this, they visited Kantamanto Market in Accra, the capital of Ghana, the largest second-hand market in the world. The country is literally overrun by mountains of textile waste dumped by Western countries (260,000 tons of textile waste from France).

They collaborated with the Or Foundation, a foundation combating textile overproduction and social inequalities in Africa, and set up a work process to upcycle second-hand clothes, promote Ghanaian designers, and bring them across the Mediterranean to Paris. The aim? To exhibit this collaborative work for two or three days in a pop-up store at the seventh floor of Printemps, a floor entirely dedicated to circularity. "Why only three days?" reacted Jean-Marc Bellaiche, President of the Printemps group and jury member, inviting them, thereby, to continue their project.

The second group organised a series of conferences to share knowledge, best practices, and collective intelligence in sustainable development, in partnership with Paris Good Fashion.

The third group stood out with Wool & Waves, a presentation of wool swimsuits, made in collaboration with Woolmark and Vilebrequin. On paper, this may seem strange, although this process has already been experimented with on men's swim shorts. Here, the women's version resembled real close-fitting swimsuits, except that the absence of polyester or other plastic fibres, derived from petrochemicals, helps to avoid water pollution.

The highlight of this presentation was the arrival of models in swimsuits on the podium, leaving the audience stunned and the male jury particularly eager to ask questions. Xavier Romatet, General Director of IFM, also did not miss the opportunity to salute the fact that women in swimsuits were walking around the Senate.

Presentation of the project "People Helping People" by students of the IFM x Kering Sustainability Certificate 2024. Photo credits : F. Julienne

Regenerative artificial intelligence, education on responsible fashion, students explore all new fields of possibility

The Regen-AI project, unveiled by a fourth group comprising several nationalities, from Paris to Jerusalem, combined three "regenerative" concepts: upcycling, Artificial Intelligence, and the social dimension. Upcycling, with the creation of original pieces from surplus stocks and organic pine resin (Pine Tex). The use of AI for "design" (note that the word may be alarming, here it means optimising fabrics that go together based on easily manageable databases by AI) of new garments from stocks. And finally, collaboration with workshops specialising in professional integration such as Espero or La Tisserie Parisienne.

With their "Little Sustainable Heroes," an educational and playful programme to raise children's awareness of responsible fashion, the fifth group echoed a bill submitted by Senator Jean Hingray on March 21, 2024, entitled "Education on Eco-Responsible Fashion."

Finally, the last group touched on a rarely discussed yet extremely worrying phenomenon given the increasing impoverishment of the French or immigrant population: the living conditions of the homeless. To set up the "People Helping People" project, students went to meet the homeless to understand the issues they faced.

In collaboration with ShelterSuit, an organisation that assists them, and equipped with dead stocks from Balenciaga, they designed outfits, between shelters and protective coverings, and distributed them to the most deprived. All that remains is to label and market them in a "buy one, give one" spirit.

IFM x Kering Sustainability Certificate 2024. Photo credit : C. Roussel

At the end of this intense afternoon, the jury members all praised the pedagogy of this teaching method that combines action with words. Marie-Claire Daveu indicated she was proud to participate in this adventure: "you take care of people and the planet, you combine imagination and creativity. You can change the world."

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The senator was very impressed, being himself the rapporteur of a bill to develop action to combat student food insecurity. "Fashion is shaking up the Senate, keep going, it's sometimes sterilised here," he concluded. "Fashion is revealing of the world we live in. You must champion your projects loudly and boldly, take action, and we will be there to support you."

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit from French into English by Veerle Versteeg.

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