Vogue Greece just hosted a conference presenting legendary fashion icon, Vogue US Chief Editor and Condé Nast Artistic Director Anna Wintour as its main guest of honour. The Change Makers conference’s main goal was to raise awareness about the critical issues of sustainability, diversity and female empowerment in the fashion world and beyond; concerns that affect society globally and at large.
Yesterday Athenian fashionistas experienced Wintour’s rare European appearance in an event that was as much about networking and champagne as it was about committing to facing certain brutal daily truths. Over 2,000 guests flooded the Athens Concert Hall for the five-hour event, which among live talks included a moving video tribute to the late fashion designer Sophia Kokosalaki, who recently died of cancer, and an interview with consistently successful designer Mary Katranzou.
Vogue Greece Editor in Chief Thaleia Karafylidou said that the idea for the conference emerged when she met Wintour for coffee and they discussed sustainability.
“In fashion, people are focusing too much excess and waste,” Wintour said in her speech, which came as the closing strongpoint of the conference. “The industry has deservedly been targeted for this behaviour. But true fashion is about new ideas that will last - it is the opposite of the disposable or fleeting. We must value creativity and craft. Fashion cannot be a product - it has to be human and it has to be personal. We wear the same things we love often because we love them. Fashion is not about choosing clothes to suit the demands of others. Fashion is about knowing who you are and declaring who you want to be.”
Wintour, who started her career over 30 years ago in New York as a visionary woman from London and has become one of the world’s most influential women, added that things have to change dramatically in how fashion is run. “Sustainability is not easy to achieve. So many of us know that what we are doing now is unsustainable, whether it's in the materials we use or the habits with which we work. We think: ‘I’ll fix that tomorrow.’ Not. Good. Enough. Sustainability is about fixing it today. Sustainability is about doing our best today to create change that will truly last.”
The conference prominently featured several leading and influential and inspirational female change-making figures who are leading the way via their actions and messaging regarding sustainability, diversity, and empowerment.
Cara Smyth, Founder of the renown Fair Fashion Center (FFC) that has as its unique mission to facilitate the incorporation of sustainable practices into fashion, shared poignant facts via a slide show about the shockingly damaging effects of today’s fashion industry on an ecological, humanitarian and social scale. One of them was a quote from environmentalist billionaire Yvon Chouinard: “Everything that is made, sold, shipped, stored, cleaned and then thrown away does environmental harm every step of the way. Nothing is sustainable.”
Dana Thomas awarded journalist and author of the bestseller ‘Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes’, also stunned the audience into silence with her no-nonsense account of fashion industry truths: “In airports, you can buy an entire wardrobe...Or you can click, click and it's your’s online! We are so overstimulated we forget fundamentals like quality...Although you've been robbed you feel like you've won!” she commented.
Plus-sized model Candice Huffine addressed the topics of diversity and inclusion in the fashion world. Her message was that the fashion world has come a long way but still has a long way to go. Huffine spoke of how her patience and persistence got her to where she is today - leading the way for women with larger and curvier bodies who so far have felt excluded, unfashionable, unfeminine and irrelevant.
The theme of Female Empowerment was further addressed by a panel talk among four exemplary Greek female designers, moderated by Vogue’s Head of Fashion Shows Emily Zak. The four guests were Greece's First Lady Mareva Grabowski Mitostakis, of Zeus and Dione, Maria Lalaounis of the exemplary jewellery empire, Rianna Kounou whose Greek clothing and accessories are sold in 40 stores worldwide, and Christina Martini, whose Ancient Greek Sandals have taken the world by storm. The entrepreneurs openly discussed the personal and professional challenges and triumphs of persisting to achieve their fashion business dreams. Each has managed to thrive during a financial crisis and in a world that often pushes women to the side.
In her speech Wintour also honoured Greece both ancient and contemporary. The ardent tennis fan said: “The many pleasures of visiting Greece for me, besides being in the homeland of your tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas (to this she received uproarious applause), is having the chance of moving among the remnants of an ancient world...What’s old here is truly old, and it’s by the hard work of the Greeks that it has managed to endure. At the same time, nobody is defined by the past. All of you here have managed to remake your culture day by day. I have been thinking a lot lately about what lasts from the past and what is remade in the present, in a world of uncertain change. All of us are trying so hard to hold on to our values, in an age when everything risks being washed away. But we are also trying to move forward into a better world.”
*Images courtesy of Vogue