An encounter with Alice Audouin, founder of Art of change 21

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Like Camille Jaillant, founder of Olistic the Label, Alice Audouin is working towards a more sustainable future. If one has made sustainable fashion her playground, the other intends to make contemporary art the vehicle for eco-responsibility through her association Art of Change 21.

Alice Audouin wearing the Cassiopea dress designed by Olistic & Arizona Muse / Photographer Jérome Mizar

We are changing the way associations take actions in favor of the environment by integrating art and creativity and by promoting culture as a lever for the ecological transition. The association is based on collaborative action and international co-creation. Our activities are born during meetings where contemporary artists, social entrepreneurs and young activists gather and exchange. Our sponsors are the artist Olafur Eliasson and the entrepreneur Tristan Lecomte, founder of Alter Eco. Art of Change 21 is the culmination of ten years of prior engagement in art and the environment.

  • How did the idea of creating synergies between contemporary art and sustainable development come about?

As a student in economics and philosophy, I understood the interest of adopting a critical look at the economy through the angle of the environment. At Novethic, I tackled CSR head-on in the early 2000s, creating a first connection with art. Its relation with sustainable development seemed obvious to me and did not really exist at that time. I then got involved in associations and became head of sustainable development at Havas. I have always sought out innovation and consequently often experienced the solitude of pioneers.

  •  You are the founder of Alice Audouin Consulting, a consulting structure in sustainable development, art and responsible communication. Is addressing companies still the best way to act?

I guide companies in their ecological transition, which is also a cultural transition.

I bring creativity, foresight and a link with culture. I look for coherence between the company’s values and the causes it wishes to commit to. For instance, a company that is already devoted to fighting discrimination will be culturally well positioned to act in favor of the animal cause, which historically comes from the social field, actually from the fight against slavery! A brand like MAC illustrates this well.

Maskbook is an international, artistic and participative project launched in 2015 during the COP21. It addresses major environmental issues: air pollution, global warming, waste, pandemic.

  • You are part of the 1.618 expert committee, why? 

I joined the selection committee of 1.618 back in 2008. For the last 2 years, I have been accompanying Barbara Coignet and her teams again. This reflection on sustainable luxury paying attention to aesthetics and traditional know-how was missing. Having partnered with many emerging brands, I wanted to encourage these innovative projects.

  • How to make art a lever for CSR? 

The association is now tackling eco-design. We are addressing the issue of the end of life of the artwork, its transport, the responsibility of galleries … Above all, art has a tremendous power of influence. In September, we will organize an exhibition on the theme of nature at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Our key project Maskbook continues thanks to digital technology. The recovery of materials, recycling: contemporary art fuels creativity. 

  • In 2004 you initiated the 1st international symposium “The Artist as a stakeholder” in partnership with UNESCO. Olistic the Label acts hand in hand with the United Nations. What is the role of these international institutions?

They are essential, because they defend multilateralism. Art of Change 21 has a long-standing relationship with the UN Environment which used Maskbook to launch World Environment Day in 2019. 

However, I measure the gap between the moment when it was scientifically known that global warming would be a catastrophe and a strong mobilization. International institutions and environmental NGOs have not been able to rally youth on a large scale nor embody a commitment in the air of time. Extinction Rebellion is the first movement to have understood this.

Planète art solidaire is a new campaign from the Art of Change 21 association, sponsored by Maison Ruinart, which aims to financially help environmentally minded young artists through the current health crisis. Crédit: Julian Charrière

  • Fashion reinvents itself but how does Art perceive the world of tomorrow?

Artists, designers, stylists, architects: they all share the same vision of a more ecological and united future. The younger generations of artists naturally integrate the principles of eco-design. Jérémy Gobé, a committed artist, perfectly expresses it: “To be a contemporary artist is to be anchored in his time, a time defined today by the ecological crisis”. We simply cannot ignore it anymore.

But for art to keep playing its role, it’s urgent to help artists to overcome this crisis! In June, we will give 42 000 euros to 21 young committed visual artists.

  • You seem a bit frustrated with the contemporary definition of CSR…

CSR lacks ambition and forgets fiscal citizenship, socially responsible investment, business ethics…

Some of those silenced issues are the key topics of tomorrow.

Even on the environment, it is not really ambitious.

  • How do you manage to make conscious choices?

I lead a conscious, modern and comfortable life, I reduce my consumption, but I am far from a purist model like a Zadist or neo-rural, whom I respect.

We must distinguish between exemplarity and influence because degrowth has little influence on civil society. Social mimicry can help many causes, like veganism. I still avoid traveling by plane, but when I do, it is to defend our planet.

  • What is your favorite slow ritual?

I often go to Normandy for a break. I am part of the Yoga Cats, a Yoga circle of friends who work for many in sustainable development. The yoga classes soothe me, tone me up, a feeling that I also find with swimming and running. Apart from art, I appreciate literature to withdraw from everyday life, to reduce my stress and understand the world.  

Alice Audouin, founder of Art of Change / Photographer Jérome Mizar

  • What do these Olistic the Label pieces evoke for you?

Timelessness and femininity. I find the materials soft for the planet and for the body. I love their versatility. I could wear this dress for an award ceremony or simply to enjoy its comfort, like a caress on the body, for the outside as well as the inside! I imagine wearing it for a long time and then one day passing it on to my niece.

It’s all about the pleasure of feeling the durability of clothes: you can imagine them having several lives, several owners…

The lines are particularly constructed. I also like the silk blouse whose traditional manufacturing respects animal welfare. 

  • What is your relationship with fashion?

I’m noticing a deceleration in my buying behavior and my environmental consciousness has a lot to do with it. I have a few souvenir pieces as I have experienced a lot with my look. Today, appearance is less important to me than the feeling of well-being, the attention to the body. I appreciate vintage and I avoid fast fashion.

In my eyes, the ideal wardrobe is composed only of ethical, ecological and vintage fashion.

I’m getting closer to it, even if I still sometimes have a crush on novelty!

  • Which woman would you like to read here?

Cécile Lochard, Director of Sustainable Development at Guerlain and Candice Colin, founder of the Clean Beauty app, who both love sustainable fashion and are committed to the environment and health, and very much surrounded by animals.

Thanks to Alice Audouin for her answers and for receiving us at Art of Change 21.