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|Born||1964 (age 49–50)
|Occupation||Head, Poor Communities & Trade Programme, Chief Technical Advisor, Ethical Fashion for the International Trade Centre (UN agency)|
|Known for||international development, ethical fashion, public speaking|
Simone Cipriani (born 1964) is an officer of the United Nations. He created and he manages the Ethical Fashion Initiative of the International Trade Centre (ITC), which is a joint agency of the United Nations and the WTO. The Ethical Fashion Initiative harnesses the power of fashion as a vehicle out of poverty by connecting top designers, including Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney, to marginalized artisans in East Africa, West Africa and Haiti. In 2013, Simone Cipriani was included in Business of Fashion’s list of 500 People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry.
Simone Cipriani was born in Tuscany, Italy, and completed his studies in Political Sciences and International Economy at the University of Florence. He began his career at CESECA, a company that offered Italian shoe and leather brands services in quality control, technological innovation and delocalisation of production. He participated in research projects within the EU Research and Development framework, and served on the board of directors of PromoIndia. He also directed an export consortium for Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In the 1990s Cipriani directed PISIE, an organisation that offered training and capacity building to leather industry entrepreneurs in the developing world. He worked on projects in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, before moving to Ethiopia, where he managed a large intervention by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to improve the national leather industry. Whilst living in Ethiopia he was central to the establishment Taytu, a leather handbag brand that was touted as Africa's first luxury label.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative
The idea for The Ethical Fashion Initiative was born when Cipriani was introduced to skilled artisans living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. After a successful one-year trial, the Ethical Fashion Initiative became an ongoing United Nations project. The Ethical Fashion Initiative represents a new way of doing business in the fashion sector, making it possible for communities in slums and impoverished rural areas to be part of the international value chain of fashion. It empowers women by generating work, allowing them to become micro-entrepreneurs. This is achieved through a business support infrastructure that facilitates fair collaboration with fashion houses and large distributors. The Ethical Fashion Initiative also supports and promotes emerging design talent from Africa.
Location of operations
The long-term locations of the Ethical Fashion Initiative are ITC in Geneva and the GoDown Centre in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. Proven success in lifting large numbers of people out of poverty long term and giving them the power to change their lives has resulted in the programme expanding to Haiti and the West African nations of Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso. To date, there are hubs of production in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Accra, Ghana and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In addition, there are smaller hubs of production in Gilgil, Thika, Korogocho, Dagoretti and Waithaka, all in Kenya. Since 2014, EFI is also expanding in Palestine and Cambodia.
Underpinning its success is an economic system designed to work in areas of deprivation. Because of this system of logistics The Ethical Fashion Initiative is able to work over a vast geographical area, both in slums and disadvantaged rural areas. Cipriani is responsible for this system which has been praised by The Economist.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative’s partners include leading designers, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Ilaria Venturini Fendi’s Carmina Campus, Oskar Metsavaht’s Osklen, sass & bide, Marni, Duro Oluwu, Stella Jean, New Zealand’s Karen Walker and Piece d’Anarchive. The Hollywood jeweller, Chan Luu is also a partner. The Initiative has worked with The Max Mara Group and the Italian supermarket chain COOP. Other partners around the world include Manor, Switzerland, Mifuko, Finland, United Arrows, Japan and Myer, Australia. The Initiative continues to work with the Australian programme, Hands that Shape Humanity. Other collaborations include Takashimaya and Corso Como 10, and Isetan with Marni.
Events and fashion shows
The Ethical Fashion Initiative, Vivienne Westwood and Yoox collaborated on an event at Pitti Immagine, Florence, which showcased bags designed by Westwood, photographs by Juergen Teller and seven short films about Westwood and Teller’s first trip to Kenya. In July 2010 The Ethical Fashion Initiative joined forces with Vogue Italia for the “Who’s on Next?” competition at Alta Roma with the young designer winners then travelling to Kenya to learn about ethical production. In association with Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs in July 2013 The Ethical Fashion Initiative partnered with AltaRoma on the "Africa to Rome" showcase, which promoted the work of Ghanaian designers Christie Brown and Kiki Clothing, as well as international designers Stella Jean and Portenier Roth. Partly as a result of this show, Stella Jean was offered a show by Giorgio Armani at Armani Teatro Milan, September 21, 2013. This showcased textiles woven with the initiative in Burkina Faso.
In June 2014, Cipriani invited Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean for a fashion show in Geneva to mark the International Trade Centre’s 50th Anniversary. This event cemented the growing partnership with Stella Jean, as the designer is expanding her work to more countries where the Initiative works: Burkina Faso but also Mali, Haiti and Kenya.
In July 2014 the Ethical Fashion Initiative collaborated again with Altaroma for the Beat of Africa and Room Service showcase. This promoted the work of Stella Jean and three West African designers - Lisa Folawiyo (Nigeria), duaba serwa (Ghana) and Mina Evans (Ghana). Three designers from Ghana participated in the Room Service event: Anita Quansah London, Christie Brown and MO SAIQUE, participated at the Altaroma Room Service. The participation of designers from West Africa is part of the Ethical Fashion Initiative's project, based in Ghana, of mentoring emerging African design talent. Simone Cipriani attended the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival, where the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s film “Around the World with Stella Jean” received the prize for the Best Message category.
Nurturing emerging design talent
In 2012 Cipriani expanded the scope of the initiative to include a program aimed at helping designers from West Africa to expand their established businesses across the region and also to have the possibility of export to Europe. Christie Brown designer Aisha Obuobi and Kiki Clothing’s Titi Ademola were the first designers in the scheme. Their collections were shown on that catwalk of Alta Roma in July 2013. In September 2013, both designers were invited to Milan to take part in Vogue’s Fashion Night Out at leading Milan fashion store group, Biffi. In 2014, the Ethical Fashion Initiative brought new design talent from Africa to IED Moda and AltaRoma(Catwalk show and Room Service).
Simone Cipriani speaks at international trade organisations and conferences, including the International Herald Tribune’s "Promise of Africa" conference in Rome, to which he was invited by Suzy Menkes, and the Australian Financial Review’s Bespoke fashion summit at The Sydney Opera House, which was curated by Marion Hume. He curated and moderated the “Good business for a sustainable future” workshop, part of the RIO + 20 conference, and was a keynote speaker at the inaugural Lagos Design and Fashion Week. He also appears in short videos the initiative uses to draw attention to its work. Among these are ITC and Vivienne Westwood. Simone spoke at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival as part of their Business Seminar Series.
Simone Cipriani attended the 11th Annual International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe organised by the International Folk Art Alliance, where he participated in the “Art of Empowerment” panel, alongside, Chan Luu, Willa Shalit and Lowery Stokes Sims. The panel was moderated by Keith Recker, Head of Artist Business Network & Hand/Eye Magazine.
Cipriani has three daughters with his wife Stefania Gori. He is connected by marriage to the Collezione Gori of Tuscany, which houses site-specific artworks, including sculptures by Daniel Buren and Sol LeWitt.
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