Fashion Green Hub

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Plateau Fertile Roubaix, powered by Fashion Green Hub, is ​​the first third place textile project in the north of France bringing together the actors: fashion, textiles, art, design and culture. The objective is to work collectively and to give meaning. It's an inspired and inspiring, friendly and working space for diverse profiles. It's one of the first 20 French third places to have been labelled "Proximity Manufactures" proposed by France Tiers-Lieux following a call for expressions of interest, as part of the France recovery plan. It is a great project to bring together cultural and social entrepreneurs and creative people from the textile-fashion sector.

The hub’s history

The hub was created in 2015 by three people in the north of France in Roubaix, which was a very big textile capital 100 years ago. It was a weaving city with around 1.000 factories weaving wool, cotton and linen. You can still see those old brick factories in the city with big chimneys. We are now in one of them, actually. Our goal was to make fashion companies and textile companies meet and work on sustainability, because at the time nobody worked on it.

We wanted to show that sustainability, innovation and jobs were connected and we could manage to create activities and jobs in the process of sustainability.

From the beginning we thought we had to work on it on the whole value chain, not only distributors, manufacturers or designers, in order to put everyone together so that people could move, find solutions and do more projects together as well. We created this association and we worked for two years together. We were around 50 people at the time and needed a place to prototype, talk and do things. So we started this third place, Plateau Fertile, named after a place in Roubaix. Then it grew and we became national. At a certain point, we figured out we were 200 companies all around France, so then we became a national association and now we are 450 companies. We opened a second Plateau Fertile in November 2022 in Paris and we are planning to open a third one, early next year, in Lyon.

These spaces are training places, since we train unemployed people to upcycling manufacturing and afterwards they can go to manufacturers. We train people who are normally unemployed for more than five years. People and young companies can prototype as well. We provide printing machines, rotary machines, any kind of machine so that they can just sit and do whatever they need to do there. We make companies work together, create a lot of working groups on different subjects, do small events, rent spaces and do a lot of different activities. We don't accept the general public unless the person has a project and then they are welcome to develop their projects with the community.

Why did you choose to base your hub in this area?

I was living there at the time and there are a lot of textile companies still, especially big retailers, not many manufacturers but big companies who were starting to think about how to go into sustainability. In Paris, it's a totally different building. It's a very modern architectural building. The same architect has also built the big library in Paris, which is a huge Modern Library. So that's completely different. That's the opposite. It's all glass so the light is absolutely fantastic there and it's very good for textile and creativity. We don't know about the third building yet, we are looking at spaces and old factories as well.

What did you manage to (re)build in your territory?

We have created these places, which allowed 2.200 companies to work together, because nobody was working together before. Schools were not working with industrial distributors or manufacturers, so we made all those people meet and work on projects, get to know each other, collaborate and hire people. We train designers to help them settle and grow. We have created an on demand factory, as well.

In the future, a lot of cities actually would like to have a Plateau Fertile in France, so we are in contact with them.

We showed that sustainability was creating jobs. This is what we wanted to show in this area, that working on the subject was innovative because there are a lot of startups working on artificial intelligence or robotics, manufacturing, very innovative things. So we wanted to show that sustainability, innovation and jobs were connected and we could manage to create activities and jobs in the process of sustainability.

How do you envision the future?

We organise events several times a year. They are professional events with exhibitors, conferences, two days of people bonding together, spending a good time together and learning things as well. Now, we organise three times a year Fashion Green Days or Fashion Days on innovation. We were the only one to do this kind of B2B event for sustainability. People now meet each other two or three times a year in our events in different parts of France.

In the future, a lot of cities actually would like to have a Plateau Fertile in France, so we are in contact with them. We never do a Plateau Fertile if we don't already have a big enough community in that area. It depends as well on the financial conditions, if we are able to build something which will be working financially. We are quite slow, we don't want to rush. We are a small team, about 20 people only. So we go step by step, we take time, we talk to all the ecosystem actors before we launch anything. It's a slow process, but that's not a problem. It comes when it's ready. We are not a financial company. So we have no shareholders to please. We do whatever we decide to do.

Spotlight Practice 1: Accessibility to resources

Sustainability to us means to use existing fabric first. We have some swatches of existing stock of fabric, stored nearby, so that designers can come and see what’s in stock. We also have a digital platform where they can find the same fabrics and they can order them on the platform. We train a lot of companies as well. We have a full program of training where they can work on materials, production, the organisation, management, everything.

Spotlight Practice 2: Nurture Trust

We had a researcher from the Catholic University in Lille who did his research thesis on innovation for four years with us in the old house in the north. He talked to a lot of members and partners and his conclusion was that our strongest quality is trust. People trust each other, talk, do projects and innovate. When someone comes into the association, they know they can trust others, nobody's going to take advantage of them. There is respect and trust and that's quite specific.

Annick Jehanne, President of Fashion Green Hub, shared with us her perspective towards a slow pace of living and working.