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|Born||1964 (age 51–52)
|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 Pistoia, 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 in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia and Mali. 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, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 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).
In June 2015 and January 2016, the Ethical Fashion Initiative participated at Pitti Immagine's Pitti Uomo fair in Florence. On both occasions, the Ethical Fashion Initiative supported several African fashion brands to showcase their menswear collection at the event (Dent de Man, MaXhosa by Laduma, Proyecto Mental, Orange Culture, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Nicholas Coutts, AKJP, U.Mi-1 and Ikiré Jones).
Simone Cipriani speaks at international trade organisations and conferences. Simone Cipriani will speak at the European Development Days at the "Culture Where Art Thou?" panel organised by UNESCO. From November 2015 to May 2016, Simone Cipriani has led the Hand of Fashion lectures at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to promote discussion around the theme of sustainable fashion. Guest lecturers have included Omoyemi Akerele, Bob Bland, Marie Claire Daveu, Oskar Metsavaht, Miguel Fluxá, Hirofumi Kurino, Aurora James, Auret van Heerden and Lisa Barratt.
In April 2016, Simone Cipriani spoke at the Fashion Business Series organised by Omoyemi Akerele of Style House Files and Lagos Fashion & Design Week. Simone Cipriani has spoken about the concept of luxury at the Manchester Metropolitan University's Hollings faculty "The Big Issue" conference.
In November 2015, Simone Cipriani chaired the "Sustainable Fashion: Empowering women in Africa's fashion industry" at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva and also at the 2015 International Textile and Apparel Association conference in Santa Fe. In September 2015, Simone Cipriani spoke at the Aspen Institute Alliance for Artisan Enterprise conference calling for the fashion industry's business model to involve artisans in a fairer & more effective way. In July 2015, at the United Nations's Third International Conference on Financing for Development held in Addis Ababa, Simone Cipriani chaired the side event, "Financing for Impact: Investing in a Sustainable Fashion Value Chain." In February 2015, Simone Cipriani spoke at 1.618's conference on "Sustainable Sourcing & Responsible Value Chains" alongside Jessica Michault, Marie Claire Daveu, Giusy Bettoni, Dylis Williams.
Simone Cipriani participated in 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 has written several op-ed pieces which have been featured on the Huffington Post:
- Authenticity and Artisans. Read article here.
- The Potential of Migrants. Read article here.
- Africa: the Incubator of Tomorrow. Read article here.
- Fashion Needs a Sustainable Handprint. Read article here.
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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