The guests of our monthly interviews, sometimes, come back and we can’t help but enjoy it. Marina Spadafora was back, with her book ‘La rivoluzione comincia dall’armadio’ (‘The revolution starts from the closet’), and Matteo Ward, ‘nominated’ by Marina as last time, is back too. We talked with him not only about the novelties at WRÅD, the eco-sustainable brand founded together with Victor Santiago and Silvia Giovanardi but also about the changes taking place in fashion, especially in light of the Covid emergency.
So Matteo, in our first interview we mainly talked about your brand, WRÅD; two years after our chat, were there any further news or anything else related to the brand?
Lots of news. From the last interview WRAD Communications was born, through which we provide consulting services to brands that have the desire to approach the world of social and environmental responsibility by restoring design to a functionality that transcends the product. In this way we are able to amplify our message and ultimate goal, activating synergistic partnerships with an increasing number of companies united in their diversity by the desire to question the status quo.
We are also always present in schools with our educational format to talk to the kids about the real environmental and social cost of the fashion industry and to provide simple tools to take more responsible positions when they buy. During the lockdown we held many lessons that confirmed our willingness to further strengthen our efforts on the educational front in order to help train tomorrow’s leaders with a holistic approach and vision of the sustainability issue.
In addition to being the founder of an ethical brand, you are also an activist and member of Fashion Revolution Italy; two years are few and many together, how have you seen the approach evolve in this period, not only to ethical fashion, and in particular to your brand, but also to a more sustainable general consumption?
There is much more attention from the market (Generation Z in the first place) even if the value-action gap, that is the distance between those who manifest the will to want responsible products and to adopt a smarter lifestyle and those who actually put in place these principles, is still high due to different types of barriers that we have to break down.
There are real revolutions going on in the textile supply chain, also with several Italian excellences, which are developing innovative processes to reduce more and more the consumption and disfigurement of fundamental natural resources for humanity. However, the problem persists that if brands and the system think that it is enough to make a switch to more responsible materials to be able to define themselves as ‘sustainable’, without changing the business model and corporate philosophy, then I see no evolution on the sustainable development front. As we often say “sustainability is more than a thing to do – it’s a thing to be”, it is a mindset defined by a systemic awareness of the problems we face today and which transcend the fashion sector. Incremental growth and the idea of profit that do not consider human and natural capital in the equation are not compatible with the limits of a finite natural system. The exploitation of indispensable resources to support people’s lives is no longer justifiable for the production of unnecessary basic textile product.
Inevitable question in Covid’s time: your personal opinion on the changes that the fashion world is facing and will have to face. Which are the most easily exchangeable and which are more resistant to change?
Covid has exacerbated problems that the fashion system has dragged on for several years: too much quantity (not recyclable) and little quality, crisis in the wholesale distribution model, disconnection between product, seasonality and real market needs, little transparency, use of substances that are not responsible.
One of the areas on which it is necessary to continue investing is education: the information asymmetry that characterizes the fashion system today is the main cause of its environmental and social inefficiency. But today we are thirsty and wanting TRUTH. To catalyze positive change, brands can and must therefore re-invent their communication strategies and work to become a relevant guide on topics that transcend the product. Honest, inclusive and participatory communication of this type, based on real customer respect, can trigger behavioral changes defined by a renewed awareness.
Another fundamental theme is that of innovation, necessary to catalyze the rise of circular models that are truly capable of reducing textile waste and extending the life of our garments. To date, only 1% of the fashion products made each year are correctly recycled in the textile sector and 15% of this occurs in the Prato district where, for various reasons, a circular collaboration model has materialized as opposed to linear individualism that has always defined the fashion system. It is clear that with more than 100 billion products made every year, which can take up to 200 years to be disposed of, it is essential to revolutionize the system: from product design and planning, which must be such as to make recycling easier, consumer and post-consumer.
Today we do not need new fashion designers but new ‘fashion system designers’.
We have already pushed the button of school education; in your school’s tours, how permeable and open are the young people about these issues? What is it that involves them most, what are the most common questions they ask you?
When we reveal the real environmental and social cost of the fashion industry to young people, the first reaction is shock. The second is “what can we do to be part of the change?” and here it is essential to offer tools to transform them into real Fashion Revolutionaries. Their eyes catch fire when they understand that each of them has the power to catalyze positive change. We tell the world of fashion through the life of a pair of jeans. In the school we recreate the denim production chain, starting from cotton, spinning, dyeing, up to production, sale and consumption. At the end of the workshop, awareness triggers the desire to create and contribute to the creation of a solution. And these are very interesting days because they give us the opportunity to listen and understand what are the barriers that today’s teenagers perceive as such for more responsible purchasing and consumption, from price to design.
Plans and objectives for the future?
Our goal has always been to question the status quo, an objective that we pursue by working in the educational, innovative and design fields. I will continue to study and carry out projects with our WRÅD team, functional to respond to the real needs of humanity through textiles, but not only. I still cannot reveal everything but a project for example that excites us a lot is Me & Te, a brand of TM Project, our partner company, with which we have collaborated to solve a real problem of the young patients of the Neonatal Intensive Care wards of hospitals, bacterial infections , which in the TIN department of Vicenza are the cause of 70% of the deaths. A frightening fact that motivated the design and construction of rompers for premature babies with a special fiber capable of reducing bacterial proliferation by 85%. It is a concept that we launched in November 2019 and that during the lockdown COVID-19 then obtained the official recognition by ULSS Berica of medical protection.
Well, Matteo it seems fantastic, congratulations! Then I just have to say ‘keep it up’, I hope that many young people who have had the opportunity to meet you on your educational tours follow you, your example. Thanks for everything and we’ll update soon.
The next monthly interview will be out in September for the August break ☀️