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This week, Global Fashion Agenda hosted a media masterclass in New York City at the GCNYC Fair Fashion Center. Supported by responsible denim manufacturer ISKO, the event gathered journalists from multiple publications for an intimate seminar that delved into findings from our publications and explored opinions from industry experts.

Reporting about sustainability in fashion can be challenging due to the complexity of the topic. Meanwhile, brands and retailers can be reluctant to communicate openly about their sustainability efforts due to the fear of being criticised by the media for not doing enough. In an effort to create a more constructive dialogue between brands and media, Global Fashion Agenda regularly hosts media masterclasses that provide a forum for journalists to connect with brands and gain a deeper understanding of the issue.

During the masterclass, guests heard insights from Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director, The New York Times, who discussed the complexity surrounding the language to describe sustainability. Friedman also talked openly about the challenge to make sustainability enticing for readers, suggesting, “Part of the answer may be to humanize, and not talk about the complexity…Tell stories about the people who work in the factories, not just the factories. Who are the people who are buying a dress every week, and what are they doing with them? Perhaps this could make it more accessible to readers.” Friedman also addressed the responsibility of both media and brands to engage in the topic contending, “Media is responsible for telling stories about how we got here, and where we are going. And ‘here’ is being in a climate crisis. Your job is to speak truth to power — and tell the stories that don’t want to be told.” Urging businesses to speak out she said, “If companies don’t tell people what they are doing, they will think you’re performing badly.”

The masterclass continued with a panel discussion that that included Géraldine Vallejo, Sustainability Programme Director, Kering; Elena Faleschini, Global Field Marketing Manager, ISKOTM and Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group, who addressed their companies’ sustainability initiatives, communication approaches and challenges. Commenting on the role of media, Faleschini explained, “We see media as an important actor to convey the message to end-users on how to be responsible.” Alpen echoed this, remarking on the “strong responsibility for the media” and argued that “there is an increase in interest, but often the conversations fall short. There are a lot of grey zones. There is a lot of responsibility for the media to shed a light on the struggle and hard work to give people a picture of the truth.” Vellejo went on the explain the power of media to drive change, asserting, “Media has the capacity to change people’s mind about many topics. Sustainability is about how we are going to use and change the world.”

Global Fashion Agenda also hosted a similar media masterclass at the Condé Nast New York headquarters where they engaged with journalists across the publishing house’s portfolio of brands. Speakers included Tonne Goodman, Contributing Editor, Vogue; Julie Gilhart, Creative Business Consultant; Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group and Rachelle Hruska MacPherson, Founder, Lingua Franca.