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shemakes Voices: Daniela Toccafondi

Profile picture for user Giovanni Giusti
by Giovanni Giusti

Daniela spoke about her career and her experience as a woman in high-level roles. Interestingly, she told us how she does not feel that she has experienced gender discrimination, and she explained this both objectively and subjectively.

Daniela Toccafondi’s career path began with a degree in economics; a thesis on the textile area of Prato, Italy, seen through communication channels was an early intermixing of two themes, that of industry and communication, that would be the basis of her successful career. Already early on, she’d established three truly essential elements that would help her in the future. First, academic success and a continued contact with the university which would lead to roles as researcher and professor; second, a connection to the territory of Prato and its main industry, that of textile and clothing, strengthened through a position she held at Confidustria, the local business association; and third, a great capacity for networking, through which she bridged university, entrepreneurs, cultural and political associations.

Now, Daniela is the president of PIN, Prato’s university campus that is a satellite of the University of Florence and director of Pratofutura, an association of businesspersons, professionals and researchers who, for the last 30 years, have been taking on essential issues of the T&C industry in Prato. In the past, she’s held roles in politics, as superintendent of economy and tourism at the City of Prato, vice-director of ACTE (the European Association of Textile Cities) and director of CEDIC, a masters program for business internationalization towards China.

In our interview, held by Giovanni Giusti (president of Flod, the company in charge of the shemakes project’s communications), Daniela spoke about her career and her experience as a woman in these high-level roles. Interestingly, she told us how she does not feel that she has experienced gender discrimination, and she explained this both objectively and subjectively.

Personally, she entered from the start of her career into two areas that are male-dominated, those of academics and of industry. Nonetheless, she was always valued and assigned roles that recognize this. She says it may be due to a kind of family imprinting: a grandfather who used to present her by saying “my granddaughter is as good as any man,” which for him was intended as a compliment… Balancing this, Daniela also worked in the academic setting that encourages independence, pushing her capacities and putting the emphasis on merit over gender. Even through her travels, such as accompanying business people to China during exchange programs with ACTE - whose members are mostly northern European - she always encountered women in powerful roles, in state-run, private or institutional situations. Daniela believes, in fact, that her generation may be the one that was able to ride the wave of change with the most success.

So what is the key to sustainable development in the T&C sector? For Daniela, networking is always key. In Italy, where the market is made up of small and medium businesses, it’s important for them to work together, dialogue and move towards shared objectives. But a second important theme is that of digitalization of processes that would enable transparency. She sees the capacity of the Made in Italy brand to represent organizational change in which quality and creativity should remain while processes would be modernized.

What does Daniela recommend for young people entering the T&C sector? Much in line with our ideas at shemakes, for Daniela this industry isn’t just about creativity - despite this being a great value in every type of job - but about having a scientific and mathematical approach or background, because the industry needs women who can rethink timing, mental organization and teamwork. This is why multidisciplinary learning paths are essential to provides numerous openings, and are perhaps more important than specialized training. But most of all it takes courage, the courage and desire to throw one’s self 100% into the job or the career that you’re drawn to. If there’s passion there’s always a way to do it, and for Daniela, the fashion industry is the perfect sector to make one’s dreams concrete… without any limits of gender. 

The #shemakesVoices Quiz

Prior to the digital interview we asked Gabriela  to respond to questions to get to know her better. The result is the image featured above that reflects her work, ideas and outlook on life. 

If you were an animal what would you be, and why? A cat, because they are the masters, never the servants.

What city do you identify with and why? Paris. Tradition and innovation.

If you were to leave your favorite object to the next generation, what would it be and why? A piano. to make them able to find new melodies. 

What impact do you hope your work will have on the future of the sustainable fashion industry (or beyond!)? I would like to extend the consciousness in sustainable fashion.

Shemakes voices is the digital interview series that celebrates women innovators in the textile and clothing industry. Each month a partner of the shemakes consortium will dialogue with one of our advisors: a diverse group of women who have succeeded in building movements or services, or exploring innovations and technologies in the textile industry.