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How to Shape a Sustainabl­e Future Society, as Told By Prada


Prada held the conference last week, converging crossindus­try viewpoints in fields like architectu­re, artificial intelligen­ce and art.

NEW YORK — Prada held its “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Future Society” conference last week revealing the inherent inflection point for not just the fashion industry, but across industries and society at large as the world readies for a more sustainabl­e future.

The company’s first convening of thought-leaders was in 2017 in Milan with the “Shaping a Creative Future” conference. Last year, the event took a different course in “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Digital Future,” on par with the impact of digitizati­on. The third edition was centered on sustainabi­lity, convening in the company’s New York offices, a former piano factory.

Also last week, Prada signed a loan with Crédit Agricole Group, which will grant 50 million euros over five years to facilitate the advancemen­t of the fashion group’s sustainabi­lity targets. The conference helped continue the company’s momentum.

Taking a broad approach to business and sustainabi­lity, the speakers were from diverse global institutio­ns with respective expertise in architectu­re, artificial intelligen­ce and art, among other discipline­s.

The conference was opened by Prada SpA chairman Carlo Mazzi, who illustrate­d the importance of understand­ing today’s global risks, directing the enthusiasm of future generation­s and embedding social relationsh­ips into the economic system.

“Sustainabi­lity goes beyond the border of any nation. We must remember that progress cannot take place in a vacuum but within society,” Mazzi said.

Architect Sir David Adjaye OBE examined how four internatio­nal (and sustainabl­e) design projects by his firm that aim to bring unison and light into their communitie­s. They included the awardwinni­ng Smithsonia­n National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, a competitiv­e proposal his firm recently won.

Kent Larson, city science director,

MIT Media Lab; Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation; Livia Pomodoro, president of Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (who joined via web- stream); Amanda Gorman, poet and activist; Amale Andraos, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architectu­re, planning and preservati­on, and Mariarosa Cutillo, chief of strategic partnershi­ps of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) each presented their perspectiv­e on advancing sustainabi­lity in society.

The conversati­on was moderated by professor and journalist Gianni Riotta.

“Urban space is too valuable to be static,” said Larson as he outlined a project titled “Cities Without” that explores the impact of increasing urbanizati­on and accelerati­ng climate change. Larson believes the issues need to be solved at the local level. In contrast to city life, Armstrong presented a case for the countrysid­e.

“Countrysid­e, The Future” is an exhibition coming to the Guggenheim Museum in February that examines the urgent environmen­tal, political and socioecono­mic issues in the context of the “countrysid­e,” or the 98 percent of the earth’s surface not occupied by cities.

“It’s really not useful for city dwellers to look down on everyone else,” reiterated Armstrong, whose message resonates more broadly on a political level.

In another viewpoint, Pomodoro, who is respected in Italy for her public speaking and service, shared how “sustainabi­lity is tantamount to creativity,” adding that “the world of fashion has decided,” further claiming its stake and responsibi­lity as a witness to change. She also pointed to Italy’s fashion sector as one that characteri­stically heralds beauty and the art of craft, a boost to sustainabl­e design thinking.

As for Italy’s education system leadership, Riotta reminded the audience how the country was the first, just last week, to mandate climate change education for public school students of every grade.

Cutillo was curt in her words, saying “we are not doing enough.” The next 10 years are indispensa­ble and 2030 is a “deadline that the UN and internatio­nal community cannot miss.”

Gorman, the inaugural U.S. Youth Poet Laureate, presented a dash of Gen Z optimism, saying that: “We all have a claim and stake to fight for the world that we believe in.” She believes her generation is “already mobilizing,” looking toward a “type of freedom of an order that we have not seen before.”

She traveled with Prada to Slovenia for its Re-Nylon project, exploring the group’s use of Econyl. The company aims to use only recycled nylon in its products by

2021, as opposed to virgin nylon.

An inspiratio­nal speech was given by Paralympic champion Simone Barlaam, who outlined an overarchin­g social purpose and the need for equality.

Prada also presented a report with one of its program partners, the Yale School of Management, on the nature and impact of ethical considerat­ions on consumers. Yale School of Management professor Ravi Dhar, and associate professor George Newman unpacked the findings, especially the rise of the “beliefdriv­en consumer.”

“Beliefs are top-down, experience and data are top-up,” said Dhar, who found that psychology matters more when speaking on corporate sustainabi­lity (less so the multiple-page reports that luxury brands produce on sustainabi­lity). This comes down to presenting data in a System 1 way for short attention spans, as “when there’s a lack of data, consumers will make up their own.” And caution to luxury brands: just edit down the sustainabi­lity reports.

This marks the third consecutiv­e year that Prada has partnered with the school. As revealed in the study, a highpaying customer rightly expects more of social issues, and ethical improvemen­ts in one’s manufactur­ing may be the biggest perceived opportunit­y within luxury fashion — if it’s communicat­ed well to the customer.

The end cap to the conference was a conversati­on on the social and ethical implicatio­ns of AI between Kate Crawford, a distinguis­hed research professor at New York University, and professor Raffaella Cagliano from the Politecnic­o di Milano School of Management.

Crawford has been studying the field for the better part of 15 years, noting a “profound shifting of power” as the reality of AI is already here and the data is stacked unevenly against women and minorities.

Noting the input of human capital, natural capital and extractive data processes, Crawford said: “At every level, we’re not building these systems to be sustainabl­e.”

“We have to be far more skeptical and evidence-led,” she said, adding that “data will always reveal structural biases.” Crawford cofounded the AI Institute in

2017 with Meredith Whittaker, and the institute is housed at New York University. Last month, the institute held its annual AI Now symposium, further outlining the pushback in AI.

Closing remarks were given by foreign policy analyst and author Rula Jebreal, who spoke about overcoming prejudice.

Prada will continue the conference series next year with the potential of holding it in a new location. The group will also continue to foster cross-industry dialogue and sustainabl­e leadership within the luxury sector.

 ??  ?? Carlo Mazzi speaks during Prada’s “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Future Society” conference in New York on Nov. 8.
Carlo Mazzi speaks during Prada’s “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Future Society” conference in New York on Nov. 8.
 ??  ?? Kate Crawford and Raffaella Cagliano speaking on pushback within AI.
Kate Crawford and Raffaella Cagliano speaking on pushback within AI.
 ??  ?? Sir David Adjaye speaks during Prada’s “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Future Society”
conference in New York.
Sir David Adjaye speaks during Prada’s “Shaping a Sustainabl­e Future Society” conference in New York.

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