NUMÉRO: Where did you get the idea of linking fashion and philanthropy?
Bebe Moratti : To be honest, it was all a bit more complicated than that… The idea of founding my company was born in slightly particular circumstances, when I was coming back from the little town of L’Aquila, in central Italy, which had just been devastated by an earthquake. My friend Daniele Sirtori and I had gone there as volunteers to help the local population. I’d taken part in humanitarian missions before, for example in 2004 when I spent three months in Sri Lanka following the tsunami there. On our way back in the car from L’Aquila, Daniele, Vanni and I asked ourselves why there are no businesses that work directly with NGOs. Firms today do everything to maximize their profits without thinking about their impact on society. They sometimes give part of their profits to charity, principally because such donations are tax-deductible. So we started to imagine a company that would give half its profits to philanthropic causes and which would work in a more ethical way. We wanted to unite these two worlds which everything currently seems to separate. We started by producing collectors’ motorbikes, because we had a certain knowhow in that field. One of them was sold at auction for 600,000 euros, the money going to humanitarian causes. In our minds, the next step was to transform our company into a fashion and lifestyle brand.
Why did it seem like a natural evolution to you?It was a bit of a crazy idea since we had no experience in the field, but fashion is a real vector for change, because the clothing industry is the world’s second-biggest employer – if the garment trade decided to adopt a more responsible attitude, its impact could be considerable. And also, of course, because fashion and its promotion have enormous influence, especially these days. So we decided to follow our instinct. I didn’t got to fashion school, but I was passionate about photography. I grew up in Milan in the 80s and 90s, at a time when photographers like Peter Lindbergh were shooting campaigns for luxury brands. Their photos were all over town. We decided to create a quality label because, our motorbikes being luxury items, it was logical that our clothes should be too. Above all we wanted to send a positive message and make pieces ethically and responsibly. We decided to show our clothes in Paris, which was even crazier, but the city and its public warmly welcomed us.
“Right from when I was very small my parents made sure I wasn’t only confined to our social class.”
So today you give 50% of Redemption’s profits to NGOs?
Right from the start, before we even began making a profit, we decided to make donations without waiting. So we gave some of our products and certain motorbikes. Also, by auctioning some of our bikes, we were able to raise over e3 million. There’s just one thing I want to say: there’s a lot that’s wrong in this world, and I’m not one of those people who waits for politicians to sort out the problems. I’m a businessman, I’m someone who’s pragmatic. In Europe and the U.S., society is polarizing and the middle classes are disappearing. Western businesses have their products made in developing countries without offering them the means for them to develop in turn. I don’t think that’s right. Redemption chooses suppliers in France and Italy and our production is responsible in that we create jobs in our country and pay attention to the impact of our activities on the environment. And we give money to NGOs, some of which help developing countries. In recent history there are two moments that show the possibility of an economic system based on generosity. Roosevelt’s New Deal created America’s middle class as well as an economic boom that lasted from the 60s to the 90s. Then, at the end of World War II, America invested massively in Europe with the Marshall Plan. It was in their interest to develop our economy. I don’t understand why manufacturers have now decided to exploit other countries rather than investing in their development.
“When you’re confronted with such serious problems, you can react with indifference, with despondency or, on the contrary, you can decide to do something about it. And that’s what I do. When you don’t do things for yourself, but because you’re trying to make the world a better place, working is no more difficult than drinking a cup of coffee.”