How do you think the outcome of the workshop will be?
PP: We are going to work with retail and marketing students. They have their theoretical knowledge, and I am sure they will try to apply it to the best of their ability. I’m curious how this will fit in with our reality and what its conclusions will be. I like to be challenged but also to challenge them and their beliefs, to get them out of their comfort zone.
BS: Exactly! In class, they work with case studies, but now they can see what actually works and what doesn’t. The students will have the chance to experiment with real material at a practical level.
AG: As Paula and Bea have already pointed out, an experience like this is unique, and I think that the students will realize that right away. We at AA Gold work with a rigorous zero-waste policy, and adapting to work in this way is not easy, but it can be the perfect opportunity for students to do their best.
Do you think that an activity like this works better with students who show a greater commitment to the environment and sustainability? Or is this not that relevant?
PP: It really depends. If students care more about sustainability or are particularly interested in these kinds of issues, they can become more involved in our projects and this is a perfect match. For example, when we have interns who are vegan, they are usually more motivated than others who may not know much about this topic.
BS: I think that, at the same time, it can be really interesting to open the eyes of those students who do not know much about sustainability or are not so involved in ecological issues. It can be truly enriching for them to understand what a sustainable supply chain is, what it entails, and what it is really like to run a company like this. As a brand, it is easy to explain what it is like to be sustainable to those who are already well versed in the subject, but it is more challenging to speak for those who are unaware of it. Change is very powerful sometimes. I am looking forward to working with students who ask difficult questions or have a different point of view.
AG: I would like to go one step further. By working with the younger generations, the people who are the future of this industry, I take sustainability for granted. I prefer to refer to reality as a place where unsustainable practices have no place, as students should understand that this is the only way things can be done. Sustainability is the way to go if we want there to be a future, and we should expand this bubble of ours beyond the university.
BS: Of course, I think the three of us agree that sustainability should be the norm, mainstream, especially for the new generations in fashion.
What advice would you give the students from your personal experience?
PP: I would say to them that it is important to have prior contact with the world of work, even if it is not within the fashion industry. I worked eighteen years in different companies and learned a lot about developing products, managing processes, measuring success… This helped me immensely when building my own company. In general, experience allows you to better understand what you want to do and how to achieve it. It’s great that there are students who have their personal projects and want to found their own brand as they finish university, but previous experiences just help you get there.
BS: I think in a similar way about the importance of getting exposure to other ideas and people you can learn from before finding your own path. I too come from a professional background other than fashion (in my case, sustainability), and I didn’t really envision that creating a brand would be that hard when I started. Another point on which I would like students to reflect is whether another company is needed since in my view it is important that we produce and consume less. Are you creating something new, original, or are you going to offer something that already exists out there?
AG: Paula and Bea’s tips seem right to the point to me. Also, an idea comes to mind when I hear this question: you have to be a little crazy but also very humble to stay focused and do all the work that you have to do. Starting a company is not easy and you often have to do things that do not suit you or that you know you are not good at. Being humble comes from experience, and in my case, this experience also comes from a different field. I never wanted to create a brand, I did it when I was 40 years old, after I understood the potential and importance of working with zero-waste processes. It took me several years of work in the traditional fashion industry to notice this and make the leap.