The Quest to Mend Geneva’s Sustainable Clothing Scene
By Sarah Zeines
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
This post is an on-site edited version of The Geneva Observer’s SUSTAINED – The SDGs Decoded bimonthly newsletter, December 6 2021 edition. Below is an extract from the article:
“Giji Gya, co-founder with her partner Christophe Obradovic, of the Geneva based second-hand luxury and ethical boutique DOWNTOWN UPTOWN, believes that having better engagement is particularly important. Being an ESG, human rights and security policy expert, Gya saw it as a natural path to build the kind of business—a socially and environmentally conscious one—that she had been promoting over the course of a 20 year-long international career. “This city has such vibrant international dynamics that are making incredible progress at a global scale, but we don’t see the same at the local level,” she laments.
Who’s to blame for the city’s ethical fashion poverty? According to Gya, the issue takes root in both the political and commercial entities present. “Geneva is not fulfilling its full potential. It doesn’t have a good long-term vision eco-system for sustainable small businesses and there is little support or promotion for us. There is also a lack of visible and cross-stakeholder engagement of Genevois—in particular the youth—on sustainable fashion values. Go into any normal clothing shop in Geneva and no one understands the basic notion of ethical fashion. Is there exploitation in the supply chain? Is it fair wear? Let alone is the international community here in Geneva demanding it? If policy makers and large luxury corporations in Geneva are really behind human rights, then they need to step out of their silos and buy ethical, sustainable fashion in their local community.”
The challenges of location have not prevented the boutique co-owner from turning her ideals into a small-scale reality with determination. “It’s a tough business where profit is limited and income is irregular, especially since the beginning of the pandemic,” notes Giji Gya. “Despite this, we maintain our strong principles, even though we often feel we are swimming against the current in Geneva. To make fashion sustainable, we don’t do large commercial discount events like Black Friday that encourage over-consumption. We also think that it is important that customers understand that everything has a cost, so we are against the promotion of free shipping and customers need to pay for that. We are proof that a true ethical fashion business works, as after eight years, we have achieved our best year ever.”