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    An Interview with Ilaria Venturini Fendi


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2009 , Interviewed by Chloé Mukai, ITC for Trade Forum

    © Carmina Campus

    TF: What are the biggest challenges in producing a collection from Africa?
    IVF: The first challenge is in supplying the group of women with the opportunity to receive on-the-job training in production, so they can become self-sufficient. Their poverty is not just material but also about a lack of know-how. Through this project they are given the possibility to acquire new skills and this is the first step towards enabling them to find their own way to autonomy. I hope that one day an entire bag will be tagged as "Made in Africa".

    TF: What is your definition of "ethical fashion"?
    IVF: To me ethical means "what is good to do". The word has become a sort of buzzword lately, but in my opinion it deserves greater attention. In fashion, like in other fields, we need clear traceability schemes in order to know not only the origin of products but also what kind of productive process they went through. This is why I feel protected and reassured by the fact that ITC is supporting and monitoring my project.

    TF: What does this project in Cameroon mean for you in terms of social and environmental engagement?
    I like to think that the project allows Carmina Campus to become part of a new economic and productive system that values goods based on responsible design, not only for production purposes but also for the promotion of fair behaviour by designers and consumers.

    TF: Why fashion and agriculture? What connection do you make between the two?
    IVF: Perhaps it's the seasons they have in common, but in fashion the seasons are so hectic and unnatural. Living in contact with nature made me realize that I needed to slow down. It's not that I work less now. I simply tend to leave aside the calendar to make unique, timeless pieces. In my opinion, slowing down has become an indispensable and necessary step if we want to conceive a better future. I apply the same care to what I grow on my farm as to what I design, and I believe that we should be as concerned with what we wear and what surrounds us, as we are for what we eat. This awareness permeates all aspects of my life.

    TF: Some could argue that Carmina Campus has some flaws in terms of ecology - for example, the carbon footprint of flying materials from Italy to Cameroon and back to Europe. What is your response to this?
    This is a problem I asked myself and it's the reason why the manufacturers of my bags are all Italian. This year I have been working with stocks of airline fabrics to make bags aimed at drawing attention to the issue of carbon emissions. However, I think the question of emissions becomes less significant in talking about Africa. In my opinion, Africa is the only place where the problem of emissions has to be taken into consideration in a different way, as I cannot think of a strategy of increasing opportunity for trade and development in Africa.

    TF: How does this project fit into your personal history?
    It fits perfectly. My family's philosophy is that work is an essential part of a person's life. I was fortunate enough to have been able to choose what I wanted to do. I became a farmer when I was a designer and then went back to being a designer, reinventing the rules for my work. I had the opportunity to apply the values that I follow in my personal life to my work and this gave me a sense of balance. I think happiness in life depends exactly on this.

    For more information about Carmina Campus, visitwww.carminacampus.org