María Pérez-Hickman president and co-founder member of the Barcelona Sustainable Fashion Association

María Pérez-Hickman president and co-founder member of the Barcelona Sustainable Fashion Association

María Pérez-Hickman - Sustainable fashion
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M.Maria Perez-Hickman Silvan has been involved for over twenty years in volunteering in various NGOs. Her passion for fashion led her to found in 2013, together with a team of five people, the Sustainable fashion association of Barcelonabeing today the only one left.

From this platform, it continues to promote, among other ideas, that the fast fashion is a socially and economically unfair modelwhile recognizing that to go beyond this paradigm it is necessary to achieve a balance between the North and the South of our planet.

Twenty years of work in NGOs print the character. What experiences have you used over the years and have you turned to MSBCN?

From an early age, when I lived in Madrid, I launched into social projects of a very different nature; then, already in Barcelona and when my children gave me a break, I returned to this world that fascinates me for contact with other realities.

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I was involved in a wonderful project at a CET in Raval that was starting its journey into small-scale production of garments for up-and-coming designers. This led me to meet five other people with that we have decided to form a sustainable fashion association. And I can say that I am the only one among all of them who is still committed to making the Association’s goals grow.

Nine years since its foundation. What has MSBCN achieved during this time?

when we founded Sustainable fashion Barcelona We were the only association in the sector in all of Spain and that we know in the world. We have been and continue to be an example for the sustainable fashion associations that emerged later. Our community is made up of people from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Ukraine, Singapore …

We managed to talk about sustainable fashionto learn about sustainable fashion, which for the first time sustainable fashion was seen on the catwalk in Spain.

We are a point of reference both for professionals in the textile sector, both for students of fashion design and for consumers who want to know more about ethical fashion.

In your founding manifesto, set out an entire statement of intentions and goals to be achieved. Among these, which ones did you manage to achieve?

I would like to say that we have achieved them all, even if that would mean that our world would be ready to accept another way of doing things, which it is not. There is still labor exploitation in the textile sector, neglect persists, dyes continue to pollute. Unfortunately the fast fashion continues to exist, despite us and our work, and the greenwashing it is present in all the advertising campaigns of large companies in the textile sector.

Even so, we are proud to say that we have proven this through our partner brands sustainable fashion is a realitythat you can be ethical and transparent and have beautiful models with excellence in clothing.

We also have a high degree of compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals that at the time of dictating our Manifesto did not exist but were already part of our DNA.

Making fashion a sustainable industry, what does it mean in its broadest sense? Does it also involve the elimination of the current mass production system in predominantly Asian countries, for example, with the consequences that this would have for the economy of those countries?

Establishing a north-south balance is a real challenge, yes. It is unacceptable that in countries where mainly clothes are made it is legal to pay meager wages and that this practice is treated as something natural when respect human rights.

Properly understood sustainability must find balance between the profitability of the company, the care of the environment and the social well-being of all the people involved in the supply chain.

“A quality and timeless garment is more profitable in the long run, we grow fond of it and this helps us to bet on repairing it, taking care of it and extending its life”

All coins have heads and tails. The benefits of sustainability seem obvious, but what would be its cross?

For now its cross would be the acceptance by the consumer that thePrices for sustainable garments are what they should be. The fast fashion It has done and is doing a lot of damage because it has normalized prices which are well below the real value of the items.

Another awkward part to deal with is the campaigns of greenwashing of large clothing companies. For the consumer of this type of clothing, it is good to be told that by buying their brands they are doing well, they are “interested” in believing it. This encourages you to keep consuming.

Is it possible to talk about sustainable fashion without agreeing with Inditex, H&M, Mango, Gap, Primark, Uniqlo, etc.?

We can’t just talk about sustainable fashion, we must teach, show, be transparent. The effort of the large textile companies exists, but it is insufficient.

A change in the system must occur through the system itself. Big companies will not generate change on their own, there are new technologies, new laws at European level and more attentive consumers (this also reflects a more systemic view).

We know the power of retail, but innovation is stronger than companies. As data, the analog technology industry was huge, and when digital came along, it disappeared. Industries are constantly changing and the subject of too big to fail has been taken apart.

You organize various events such as Re-Barcelona or the Sustainable Fashion Forum. Are you already working on the next editions?

Since the beginning of our Association we have organized numerous activities, festivals and conferences. We started in 2014 with the BEFF (Barcelona Ethical Fashion Fest) which stayed for 6 years and relented RE-Barcelonaan event of international dimensions made possible thanks to the financial support of Barcelona Activa, the Local Development Agency of the Municipality of Barcelona.

The last RE took place in November 2019 and the initial plan was for it to become a biannual event. Now overcoming the pandemic, we are in talks to organize one in 2023.

On the other hand, the Sustainable fashion forum will celebrate its eighth edition this year within the Barcelona Design Week.

What is the relationship with the rest of the country’s sustainable fashion associations?

We collaborate promptly on specific campaigns with other associations.

Are we very far from other European countries in terms of sustainability?

still in Spain there is a lot of awareness work to be done on the benefits of sustainability in our environment. That the countries of northern Europe have an advantage over us is a fact, but the progress we have is positive. We will continue to inform and train both consumers to create a critical mass, and entrepreneurs and companies who want to acquire more sustainable habits in their businesses. We spread the values ​​of sustainability widely through our social networks, training courses (MODS) and our comprehensive consultancy.

Does the new situation created by the pandemic, which has meant more hours of stay in homes also due to the increase in teleworking, benefit the concept of wearing stable and durable clothes? Is a commitment to relocation of production also encouraged?

We have clearly verified in these two years, a change in consumer habitseven if these new habits must take root to be able to say that the sustainable fashion sector has benefited.

“We can’t just talk about sustainable fashion, we have to teach, show, be transparent”

How have these two years of pandemic affected the Association?

In reference to the brands, some members saw their sales very low and barely survived the period of the pandemic. Now the recovery is slow but positive.

And as far as the Association is concerned, the fact of connecting via the platform on line (before it was not a common practice), it allowed us to form a team with members from other cities, even countries, as well as with volunteers (we are an Association rich in volunteering). Being on the same screen meant that the origin was not a handicap. We have worked hard and continue to do so.

Maria Perez-HickmanDoes sustainable fashion necessarily have to be more expensive?

The concept of expensive or cheap is very relative. If something cheap doesn’t last it will be like throwing our money away and making us go shopping; thus the circle of consumerism does not stop, with the environmental damage that this entails.

A quality and timeless garment is more profitable in the long runwe grow fond of it and this helps us to bet on repairing it, taking care of it and extending its life.

This reflection in terms of garments made with new materials, but let’s not forget that sustainable fashion also includes clothing rental, second-hand and change of clothing. Practices generally available to everyone.

How does the Association communicate its various actions to society as a whole to increase the visibility of sustainable fashion?

Luckily we have a large communications team (currently running a relay) made up of members and volunteers. We divide the many tasks that correspond to this Commission into small responsibilities that are shared when a colleague does not arrive due to her commitments outside the Association.

The most active social network is Instagram and behind it is LinkedIn, but we also have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Once a month we send a newsletter to subscribers. Even when the opportunity lends itself, we organize informational interviews.

Does MSBCN get help from any type of organization? How is the Association financed?

MSBCN is mainly financed with membership fees and promptly requests contributions from the Municipality or the Generalitat for the organization of major events or for the development of its own projects.

Tell us about MSBCN’s goals for the next two years. What projects do you have in mind?

Our most immediate goal together with Solidarity Y Upcycling Barcelona and that it will have a clear future projection The fabulous trash This is an ambitious as well as necessary project, born with the aim of promoting alternatives for the reuse and recycling of pre- and post-consumer textile waste.

Fashion is facing one of the biggest challenges in its recent history. In Spain, the law on waste and contaminated soils for a circular economy prohibits the destruction of surplus textiles. This law also requires the establishment of separate collection systems for textile waste by 2025.

At the moment we are immersed in the pilot phase that we are developing thanks to a contribution granted by Barcelona Activa.

Part of this project consists in training women as techniques in the use of fabrics through eco-design. Eight students in vulnerable situations have already been the first beneficiaries of our pedagogical plan which includes recruitment.

We will then evaluate the feasibility of crushing the residual pre-consumer textile flow for subsequent spinning, as well as for the production of non-woven fabric.

To move on to the next stage, we called a campaign of fund-raising through the Triodo Foundation.


This interview was originally published in the issue of Textile news April. Here you can see the complete edition.

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