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Sustainable fashion from sustainable forests?

“Forests for fashion – Fashion for forests” was an event held on 21 March at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, to celebrate and advocate for the links between sustainable fashion and sustainable forest management. It was organized by UNECE/FAO on the occasion of the International Day of Forests.


Forests and fashion are related in many different ways. The fashion industry is already using many cellulose fibres produced from wood pulp, such as lyocel and tencel. These can be an excellent alternative to synthetic textiles, or to cotton and wool, as their manufacturing process is usually more environmentally friendly.


At the same time, however, fashion can also drive the unsustainable use of natural resources. “The level of risk depends on how it is managed,” said John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES. He also pointed out that given the world population (7 billion) and the massive volume of international trade connected to fashion, mismanagement could be potentially devastating and “wipe out a species in very little time”.


According to Paolo Naldini, Managing Director, Città dell’Arte - Fondazione Pistoletto, we are currently witnessing a paradigm shift in the management of forests and environmental resources “from their exploitation to their sustainable utilization”.

“We see already a market shift to making more use of biotic raw material,” said Rob Busink, Chair of the European Forestry Commission. He added that without sustainable forest management there is no sustainable fashion because “sustainable forest management is needed both to secure supply of raw material and to demonstrate that ecological, social and economic aspects have been taken into account during production”.


This paradigm shift was synthesized by Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the leading figures of the Italian Arte Povera movement, in the symbol of the Forests for fashion – Fashion for Forests event, the “Third Paradise Tree”. This design metaphorically describes the area where the sphere of nature and that of the artificial come together, defining a new world where nature thrives and humankind lives sustainably.

The one-day event included an art performance; a conference with speakers from the public and the private sector; the opening of a fashion exhibit created with clothes made of forest fibres and wood accessories designed by 15 young designers; and a dance performance by choreographer Marthe Krummenacher.


The high-level keynote speakers for the event included Michelangelo Pistoletto and Mario Boselli, President of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion.

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