We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves
Interview with Ana Costa, from Fashion Catalyst
"I remember having an interest in the environment since I was a kid". Fascinated by nature, Ana Costa has always worried about sustainability and the planet. With an academic background in Environmental Engineering, ana believes the environment and the fashion industry are deeply connected. Both inspire people and provide resources for them to be at their best. Recently, she discovered how to combine the two sectors and has founded Baseville, a sustainable Portuguese fashion brand. She also launched the project Catalyst: an inclusive platform that has the goal of sharing current developments, provide collaboration and maximize the impact of the industry in the environment.
How did the Fashion Catalyst project emerge?
Catalyst was born in the middle of a fashion entrepreneurs’ community, who felt the need to unite themselves. Sometimes to just share doubts and problems among pears. The goal is to quickly reach solutions and overcome mistakes that others are already familiar with. From the beginning, it was also established that Catalyst would give a boost to make brands more sustainable. In fact, all the initial partners were Portuguese sustainable brands.
Although this was the only purpose, it quickly turned into something bigger. We realized that sustainability is a complex issue for a lot of people and there is also a huge lack of technical information about fashion and sustainability in Portuguese. So we decided to create a series of publications on the topic, in order to decode the subject and make it simpler and more approachable. This decision was essential for our growth. Our vision quickly had a visibility that we could not even imagine, or at least that it would be so quick, and it has facilitated collaborations with ModaLisboa and with you (APICCAPS), or even with Planetiers World Gathering.
In which direction do you think the fashion industry is going? Is sustainability a mandatory concern for companies?
From our point of view, sustainability is crucial for all industries and society. In a world where there are new brands every day, where it is increasingly harder to distinguish themselves from the competition, focusing on sustainable tools and sustainability to grow can definitely be a success factor.
This topic has become mainstream in 2018. In the beginning of 2019, every report showed that customer’s loyalty increased in brands that clearly communicate its principles and efforts regarding sustainability. And a part of the population is actually willing to pay more for sustainable products (Pulse of Fashion, 2019).
Before this global crisis, this was definitely a mandatory topic to consider in the companies of the future. Currently, although in the middle of a global pandemic with the potential of severely and profoundly damage our society, we need to bring the sustainability topic to the table again. With less money going around, with people increasingly making more rational and weighted choices, we believe sustainability is more important then ever. Values like purpose, design quality and durability will be the main motivation for new consumption choices. Consumers will have more emotional availability to connect to brands that are aligned with our purposes. And brands will have to start considering this emotional link.
There is still another essential matter: all the reasons that previously lead us to ONU’s climate emergency declaration, remain active. All issues associated to resources’ use, pollution, circularity and regeneration have not disappeared during this period.
In which way can the small companies adapt to the undergoing changes?
Everything is happening so fast that I am afraid small companies won’t have the financial means to survive this COVID crisis. However, this is also an excellent opportunity for brands to create content and approach the audience. Communicate their values, their humanity. Show that, behind a company, there are people. People who have the same challenges as them.
Humanize, show solidarity and empathy in such a difficult time can be essential to show a side that usually is not present in communication. This can bring the consumers closer. It helps creating an emotional link between the brand/company and its audience. When the link is established, it is very hard to break in the future.
What advice would you give to companies?
It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, but it’s important for us to realize the future is now! Now is the time to elaborate strategies for deep changes. To create completely different solutions from what we’ve doing so far. Because that is familiar; is already tested and validated. If after these times economy goes back to what it was, those solutions will already be well known.
But what if the economy doesn’t go back to what it was?! We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and to, finally, look differently at the digital world. There has never been so little commerce in Portugal. There has never been so much online shopping, not only in volume but also in value.
And, as we’re taking the opportunity to renew websites, create content and make new partnerships, why not do it to improve platforms logistics performance? Why not adapt factories logistics to reduce lead-times and stocks?
I believe this pandemic has showed to a lot of companies the harm of exclusively working with Eastern countries, both in production and raw materials. Why not focus on the invest in national raw materials, approach old clients and make new ones, in order to benefit the production in Portugal?