Milan Becomes A Sustainable Hub

The organizers of ready-to-wear fair WHITE MILANO staged the world’s first high-end sustainable fashion trade show here, in an event that unfurled between January 11 and 12 at Milan’s BASE location in the city’s district. 

Dubbed WSM (WHITE SUSTAINABLE MILANO), the fair was attended by 4000 visitors and a noted presence of Asian buyers, WHITE said. “We have long term goals and a long-term  to sustainability,” said WHITE’s president Massimiliano Bizzi.

“There has been a lot invested in this fair,” said Carlo Capasa, president of Italy’s fashion chamber Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana on the penultimate day of mens fashion week.

About 80 brands and sustainable 20 startups participated in the event that was also sponsored by Italian buyer consortium Camera Buyer Italia and vanguard brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, which brought a section of its Sustainable Thinking exhibit to the Milan trade grounds.

“What is the most interesting is the interaction between brands and startups and the conversation going on here,” said Giusy Cannone, Milan’s Fashion Tech Accelerator Managing Director who has a pulse on international startups present in sectors from the circular retail economy to artificial intelligence.

In an attempt to comply with the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s sustainability goals for 2025, larger players like Prada, Versace, and Gucci are moving slowly but surely.

This season, Ermenegildo Zegna cut waste by 50 percent up from 20 a season earlier, while Emporio Armani unveiled a capsule collection of 18 up-cycled garments some emblazoned with the slogan “I’m Saying Yes to Recycling.”

“I’d say that almost every brand has a sustainable component in their collection,” said Capasa, who with Livia Firth of Eco Age pulled off the first Green Carpet Awards here — now in its third year.

While major conglomerates like LVMH, Kering and Inditex have touted their ambitious plans before an international stage, real change in Milan and the rest of Italy has been happening behind the scenes.

Textile makers like the Albini Group are at the forefront of manufacturing organic and eco-friendly fabrics. Others like denim fabric group Candiani, yarn makers Filpucci and Cariaggi, and startups like Orange Fiber (which also had a stand at WSM) are making it possible for luxury designers worldwide to create fashions that are made with up-cycled materials or biomatter. Milano Unica, the largest textile fair in the nation, has been focused on shining the spotlight on sustainability and the advancements taking place within the textiles market in Italy for the past four years.

Small and large brands alike believe that if vanguard labels stampede into the sustainable market, it will drive down the costs for the entire sector.

One of those small brands, Bav Tailor was at the inaugural edition of the WSM fair.  Famous for her flair with up-cycled fish skins and coated leaves, she is one of the most notable high-end sustainable Italy-based designers.

“The line of buyers was out the door at 9 am,” said Tailor, who now sells her fashions worldwide and is focusing on the US market.

“This fair has a good calibre of international participants and designers. I was surprised at first and I think it’s going extremely well.” 

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