Together, they raised topics that ranged from the global refugee crisis to the gender revolution - each new discussion point a pertinent reminder of the fashion industry’s potential to pair its unique entrepreneurship and creative thinking to solve problems that impact us all.
Acknowledging the 65 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, private investor turned philanthropist and founder of The Elpída Home for Refugees, Amed Khan, took to the stage with Chin-Chin Yap, producer of the documentary Human Flow, on day one and called for industry leaders to engage with geopolitical issues such as this to influence and improve the situation. Citing the broad economical and environmental impact of the fashion industry, Khan reinforced our collective responsibility, “International humanitarianism is an insular system that has failed us,” he said. The message was loud and clear- a crisis of this scale and proportion requires an all-in, cross-sector response.
Debate on a global scale continued as Dr. Shazhan Amed, a paediatric endocrinologist working at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, discussed the gender revolution, encouraging attendees to reimagine gender as a continuum. She explained, “Traditional binaries associated with gender are no longer valid.” Gender identity is not, according to Amed, “a simple social psychosocial construct of nurture, but rather it’s the complex interplay of environmental, biological, hormonal and even cultural factors.”
Transgender model Laith Ashley, Belgian model and intersex activist Hanne Gaby Odiele and Phillip Picardi, also weighed in, with Picardi outlining the role of the media to support the gender revolution on behalf of new Condé Nast digital publication Them, a dedicated platform for the queer community. “Most queer media services gay men, and we have trans and non-binary staff members who are producing this content, which makes it a radically different approach from a lot of other media organisations."
Turning to the business of fashion, specifically sustainable supply chains, the morning ended with designer Dries Van Noten taking to the stage. The elegant disrupter has quietly built a business model that works successfully on both a global and a personal level, “I like to choose my own way forward. I am an independent. I’m not trying to fight against systems and rules, it’s just that we work in an organic way." The designer shared that the factory he operates in India sustains its local community and supports skilled craftsmanship, and is the reason why there will always be an embroidered element to any Dries Van Noten collection.