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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 January 2021

'Harry Potter' actress Emma Watson to chair sustainability committee for Gucci owner Kering – what this means for fashion

The star will bring her expertise on sustainability and gender equality to the fashion conglomerate's board

The actress and activist Emma Watson has just been appointed to Kering's board of directors. AFP
The actress and activist Emma Watson has just been appointed to Kering's board of directors. AFP

British actress Emma Watson has been appointed to the board of directors of luxury fashion giant Kering, it has been announced.

"Watson will bring to the board her commitment to sustainable development and women's issues," said the Gucci-owning company in a statement, citing her “impressive experience” in the fields as a reason for the move.

Why did Kering choose Emma Watson?

The actress, 30, who is best known for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, and most recently starred in Little Women, is a long-term supporter of gender equality issues.

She was appointed a goodwill ambassador for United Nations Women in 2014. In this role she launched the HeForShe initiative, to help include men in the promotion of women's rights, which resulted in Time magazine including her in its 2015 list of the world's most influential people.

Five years later, she became the youngest ever member of the Gender Equality Council, which advises the G-7, the international intergovernmental economic organisation, after being asked to fill the role by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The actress and activist Emma Watson, seen here shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at a meeting on Gender Equality in Paris in 2019, has been named as a new director for fashion conglomerate, Kering. Photo Yoan Valat
The actress and activist Emma Watson is seen here shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at a meeting on Gender Equality in Paris in 2019. Yoan Valat

Watson also helped bring Hollywood’s anti-sexual harassment movement, Time’s Up, to the UK, and was instrumental in the launch of a free legal advice hotline for women facing harassment in the workplace in her home country.

The Beauty and the Beast star is also a keen sustainability activist, a reputation which she cemented when, in 2016, she wore a Calvin Klein dress made entirely of recycled plastic bottles to the Met Gala.

On top of all that, she's been lauded for her support of the app Good On You, which rates brands according to their commitment to ethics and sustainability.

Kering's track record in sustainability

The French luxury conglomerate Kering presides over fashion houses such as Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, among others.

While in 2017 the company pledged to reduce its environmental footprint by 40 per cent, the company upped that goal in 2019 by declaring its intent to become carbon neutral across all of its divisions.

It has worked to reduce damaging production methods by, among other things, investing heavily in technology to reduce waste and the reliance on damaging chemicals. This includes reworking leather-dyeing processes to remove heavy metals that have been linked to cancer.

Emma Watson has joined the board of Gucci's parent company, Kering. Recently Gucci announced it will only show two collections a year.  AFP
Gucci announced it will only show two collections a year. AFP

Despite losing the brand Stella McCartney – arguably as famous for its stance on sustainability as for its fashion – in early 2019 to rivals LVMH, Kering is still well placed to hit its targets. This has been undoubtedly helped by the recent declaration by Gucci that it will shift to creating two seasons-less worth of collections per year, a move that will substantially reduce output and therefore waste.

Despite this, they still earned ratings such as "not good enough" or "it's a start" on Good On You, meaning Gucci and many other Kering-owned brands clearly still have a way to go when it comes to substantially reforming their sustainability practices.

That is supposedly where Watson, who will also chair Kering's sustainability committee, comes in.

However, Orsola de Castro, co-founder and global creative director of the non-profit Fashion Revolution, for one, is sceptical of the move.

"[Watson has] been an advocate about sustainability, but she sure is no expert," de Castro told CNN. "Overall the employment of celebrities tends to pay service to the communication and the marketing efforts more than the real change that's needed on the ground."

The new appointment comes as the company faces pressure to improve diversity among its leadership.

It also appointed to the board Jean Liu, president of Chinese ride-sharing business Didi Chuxing, and Tidjane Thiam, former chief executive of investment bank Credit Suisse and recently appointed special envoy to the African Union.

Kering chief executive Francois-Henri Pinault applauded the new board members' "knowledge and competences, and the multiplicity of their backgrounds and perspectives".

Updated: June 18, 2020 10:14 PM

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