Is Italian fashion going towards a more ethical direction?
It does sound like a really fancy excuse for a really fancy cocktail party. But A sustainable drink for a sustainable fashion has all the premises to result in something unusually different, perhaps quite pragmatic and long-lasting – which in fashion usually anticipates the happening of something worth paying attention to. The Chamber of Italian Fashion (CNMI) will indeed present the outcome of years of research in a document shared with the other Fashion Weeks: “Guidelines on the eco-toxicological requirements for clothing, leather goods, footwear, and accessories” (literal translation). While waiting for the document to be released to the public, we have talked with Greenpeace and a few Italian brands particularly sensitive to the subject about their past experiences and present expectations.
“Recently we had a really open, and we hope constructive, discussion with the CNMI. Though we are not aware of the details of the document, as for today we think that the majority of Italian luxury brands, except for Valentino, have not stepped towards the right direction yet. But we do expect that with this document there will finally be a stronger consciousness towards the elimination of toxicological substances. This must be paired with a human approach based on transparency and respect towards the environment and the health of the consumers.” According to Greenpeace, whose Detox campaign has been consistent in Italy since 2011, the Italian Fashion System is in need of a more ambitious plan to protect the environment: from a correct management of hydro assets to energy efficient technologies, but mostly to the regulation of all the toxicological substances used to produce clothes and accessories. Luckily for us, the 15% of global fashion companies have now taken measures for a complete elimination of the toxic chemical yield in their production chains. “Among them there are Fast Fashion stores (Zara, H&M); luxury Maisons (Burberry, Valentino); sportswear brands (Puma, adidas); discount companies (Lidl, Penny); and tons of Italian textile businesses like the Miroglio Group, Besani, Tessitura Attilio Imperiali, and Ditta Giovanni Lanfranchi. Moreover, just in the past weeks, twenty brands of the Prato Textile District, who supply services to some of the most important Italian fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, Valentino, and Armani, have signed our Detox campaign undertaking a serious commitment to their consumers.”
A photo posted by Elena Mirò (@elena_miro) on Feb 26, 2016 at 9:01am PST
As one of the few Italian businesses successfully promoted by Greenpeace, the Miroglio Group has recently launched a collaboration with the plus-size brand Elena Mirò. This capsule collection of floral digital prints has been produced with a water-saving technique that, compared to the traditional one, saves up to the 50% in water. “In line with our plan with Greenpeace, we are proceeding towards a complete elimination of the chemical substances” – revealed Mauro Davico, Communication and PR Director for the Miroglio fashion department – “We are at a really good point right now and we have been receiving more and more interest from the media.”
Flavia La Rocca is one of the two ambassadors of the Prato Textile District who, along with Lee Wood, is currently showing at Milan Fashion Week. At the Vogue Fashion Hub she presented a collection made completely out of sustainable materials: interchangeable and functional garments for a total of ten looks. “From the perspective of my brand – which has chosen to produce sustainable fashion since 2013 – the simple aiming for a 100% sustainability requires a major commitment. There are a lot of challenges: from the research to the creative process, right to the production and the final communication to the client.” Flavia started to be involved with the Prato District since the establishment of her brand and, for the F/W 2016-2017 season, she decided to produce a capsule collection in collaboration with the local brand Cardato Recycled Made in Prato. “It’s a really important collaboration,” she states, “that for me meant reducing the chain to the very minimum by working side by side with the producers, learning a lot more about the production process in order to be able to demonstrate the versatility of the textile. The regenerated wool has been hand-woven in the District for more than a century and I find it very fascinating that, while still being a historical activity, the Cardato Recycled is today able to offer such a contemporary, versatile, and sustainable product.”
Creative Director of Genny since 2013, Sara Cavazza Facchini has made her creative approach to fashion all about human values. In September 2015 she joined the Fashion 4 Development gala in New York City, showing to 350 first ladies her F/W 2015/16 collection. Since the collaboration with the international platform, launched by Evie Evangelou in 2011, Genny’s take on sustainability evolved into the decision to attach a value label to all of its clothes. The value label states the sustainable quality of all the Made in Italy garments, as well as describing its social responsibility towards employees and the low environmental impact of its products. “What I have personally noticed is that recently our customers are deeply interested in all that revolves around the product they are buying: from where it comes from to what Made in Italy practically means. I’ll admit that working in a sustainable way does, in fact, require more effort than usual, design-wise and business-wise, but I firmly believe that it’s all worth it. The success of a brand cannot simply detach from its ability to combine aesthetic and ethic anymore. Before deciding to buy a fabric, for example, I request from our suppliers (most of whom have already signed the Greenpeace Detox campaign) all the info on its production process and then, if I find something odd, I just change my mind and replace it. At the end of the day, a garment must give value to the human being who decides to wear it.”
With a similar point of view, Stella Jean, who also joined Fashion 4 Development in 2014, gave her unique contribution for a more ethical Italian fashion since the starting of her mind-blowing design career. Her commitment to an aesthetic that promotes social, cultural, and ethical growth has influenced tons of emerging brands to explore the same possibilities. “Considering the enormous power that it wields, fashion cannot abstain itself from informing and educating on sustainability,” she told us. “A sustainability that expresses itself even before the textiles, through the hard-working hands and the dignity of the people who produce them.”
While Greenpeace rightfully underlines the need to catch up with the other Fashion Capitals, it looks and sounds like something more practical is actually happening in Milan. The industry is unavoidably changing its standard procedures alongside its design principles and communication strategies. What the future holds is, of course, impossible to predict. What we do know is that the result of these changes was, still is, and probably always will be a bottom-up process in Italy. Whether we like it or not, it all starts with us as consumers and our willingness to keep ourselves updated and well-informed. After all, we must know what we are wearing in order to be consciously demanding.