"The most environmentally advanced place on earth." This honor was awarded to Costa Rica earlier this year by the New Economics Foundation, after compiling its Happy Planet Index for 2016. And the country is no stranger to the accolade - it topped the annual study in the 2009 and 2012 rankings too. So it is perhaps fitting that next month, Costa Rica's capital will host the first Latin American forum on sustainability in fashion.
Scheduled to coincide with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week San José, founded in 2013 by former model and sustainable fashion advocate Leonora Jiménez, the inaugural Costa Rica Fashion Summit will take place on 3rd and 4th August in Escazú, San José. A non-profit initiative that aims to provide regional fashion entrepreneurs with the tools necessary to compete in a global market place and to foster sustainable practices in the industry as a whole, the event will address ethical concerns including social justice, corporate responsibility, environmental sustainability, slow fashion and consumer empowerment. A series of talks and panel discussions will be held across the two days, and will feature distinguished industry figures, including Carmen.
“For me, a summit on sustainable fashion in Latin America is important because I want to help the emerging market there to not make the same mistakes as the rest of the world,” said Carmen. “I'd like to help instil some important values: to respect artisan communities more, and celebrate any given region’s unique brand DNA with the help of its craftsmen”, a sentiment echoed by fellow speaker Karla Martinez de Salas, editor-in-chief of Vogue México and Latin America, who will use the opportunity to talk about how we need to re-evaluate the concept of luxury by getting back to basics, including hand made products by local communities.
Among the speakers joining Carmen and Karla on stage will be Stefan Siegel, founder and CEO of NOTJUSTALABEL.com, Araceli Graham, owner and curator of Cooperativa Shop, Andrew Tomlinson, production designer, Katherine Davey, executive producer of Mario Testino, and jewelry designer Paula Mendoza. Summit founder and CEO Andrea Somma–Trejos has also selected four Latin American brands that are committed to sustainability and social responsibility to share their experiences and missions at the event: Uruguayan slow-fashion pioneer Ana Livni; Costa Rican designer Stefani de la O of Nomadic Collector; Costa Rican Project Hook, and PanoSocial, a Brazilian brand committed to reinvesting 100% of its profit into positive social and environmental progression.
Costa Rica has long been a pioneer of environmental awareness. In the 1990s, the country passed a series of “green culture” laws which protect forests, waters, biodiversity and natural beauty as both tourist attractions and scientific resources, and also developed a financing system, supported by both the government and international organisations such as the World Bank, to pay for environmental protection programmes. Endeavouring to build on this record, a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week San José explained that “We think that by working together [with Costa Rica Fashion Summit] we can promote a different kind of fashion industry: one that is competitive because of its close connection with nature and a more sustainable process.”
Costa Rica has not shied away from addressing the environmental challenges facing the world, and through this premier fashion forum the local industry is embracing the country's unique position to help enlighten and educate not only their peers in Latin America but across the globe.