It’s no secret that fashion is the most wasteful and non-eco-friendly industry, from its use of over 1,000 different chemical types in textile production, to water waste- it is an industry that has a lot to answer for when it comes to the wellbeing of the earth. Every year, over 100 billion items are produced around the world, and 3 out of 5 of these items end up in landfills within 12 months of their production.
According to the United Nations, fashion is the second most polluted industry in the world, as well as the main source of exploitation of workers in the world. And though these are startling statistics, the fashion industry has been working to turn it around. Luxury menswear and womenswear labels are working to produce collections that are not only eco-friendly but that are sustainable.
In 2019 at the G7 Conference in Biarritz, France, twenty-four new fashion and textile companies signed the Fashion Pact, making the total number of signatory companies 56, which represent 250 brands. Brands and companies include Burberry, Chanel, Chloe, Ermengildo Zenga, Farfetch, and Ralph Lauren to name a few. This is an unparalleled project where luxury labels are showing their commitment to sustainability in the areas of climate, biodiversity, and protecting oceans. And a year later all signatories reported on their sustainable and eco-friendly progress.
Because fashion brands are purveyors of creativity that drive fashion and design, it is their job as ethical companies to sell sustainable fashion to their customers. While they may not be at the top of fashion sustainability indexes- Loro Piana, Dior, Ermenegildo Zegna, Valentino, Chanel, and Salvatore Ferragamo are striving to be sustainable luxury fashion brands with each collection they produce:
The Loro Piana family started off as Italian wool merchants in Northern Italy in the early 19th century. Today the LVMH owned brand specializes in luxury cashmere and high-end wool products all over the world. Sustainability has been a key topic for the company and will create a program that will allow customers to track steps of production for its baby cashmere sweaters from beginning to end. In 2019 the company included a tag on clothes that allowed customers to see where their knitwear came from.
And also, in 2019 the label partnered with legendary French Oscar winning film director and screenwriter, Luc Jacquet. Together, film and fashion created a documentary series on the stories that surround the materials harvested from natural environments in Mongolia’s Alashan region, one of the key places to source Cashmere. The partnership shows the commitments that Loro Piana has to sustainability and ecological production of the world’s purest fibers. Jacquet and his film crew went to the Alashan desert to film goat farmers, who for generations have worked in some of Earth’s harshest landscapes.
And this year, Roman luxury house Valentino took a step in the direction of sustainability in launching new packaging that was made available to shoppers in November. The red embossed logo on the white shopping bag is made from 55% of recycled paper. Boxes with the VLogo Signature come from sustainably managed forests. In notes from the house: “Small imperfections will be part of the nature of the recycled concept and will stand for the Maison’s attention to authenticity.” The house has even gone so far to have 100% recycled ribbon, the white ribbon with the ton-sur-ton log that’s available in three different sizes.
And Chanel isn’t far off as they have put a sustainable plant-based cap on their perfume bottles in an effort to have recyclable packaging. The biodegradable cap created by Finnish company Sulapac Oy is made of 91% plant-based materials while maintaining an eye-catching look.
Maria Grazia Churri is conscious of her sustainability responsibility as Dior’s Creative Director. We saw that in Dior’s SS20 runway collection, made from the fabrics and processes that are eco-friendly. “The Dior brand is a couture brand and it is our goal to create pieces that are timeless and sustainable,” she said. “Fashion is something that speaks about the future through innovation, and we have to find the balance between all these elements and the only way to find the balance is to speak with people who have more knowledge in areas that we don’t.
“Luxury customers are more and more aware of the social and environmental issues that the Fashion Industry is facing,” says Tunisian entrepreneur, Hasna Kourda. She and her business partner, Mehdi Doghri, are brining attention to fashion suitability with, Save Your Wardrobe, an app that helps people to be more fashion conscience.
“Customers in luxury retail are using their purchasing power to buy the values they want to see in Brands so much so that Net-a-Porter released Netsustain and Farfetch announced in April 2019, Positively Farfetch,” she muses. “These initiatives from leaders in luxury retail show how important it has become to put sustainability as a top priority when creating collections.”
Along with the Positively campaign, Farfetch has dedicated its second Dream Assembly cohort entirely focused on sustainable solutions. Powered by the fourth industrial revolution and new technologies, these disruptive innovations are bringing new circular business models for brands and retailers and are leading the way for the decade that is ahead.
Sustainability is not a new concept for Ermengildo Zenga, who has just gone public on the New York Stock Exchange. It has always been at the core of the Ermenegildo Zenga Group’s mission from the beginning, when its Founder, Ermenegildo conceived the company in 1910 in Trivero, Italy. Last year the company’s CEO, Gildo Zegna stated, “since the very beginning, our family business has been driven by a sustainable approach has had a long-standing commitment towards the environment and the community. Zegna’s global mission is deeply rooted in the pioneering vision of the founder Ermenegildo, who firstly understood the importance to develop the brand, respecting nature and enhancing sustainable projects. With the #USETHEEXISTING project (under the guidance of the house’s artistic director Alessandro Sartori) Zegna is today reinforcing its pledge in the sustainable journey which lasts since 1910.”
Sartori’s #USETHEEXISTING project, marks the brand’s commitment to improve the usage of wool and technical fabrics from pre-existing sources. Shying away from pre-existing sources and by using innovative processes, and choosing to use recycled materials like plastic bottles and bamboo fibers, the brand is striving to maintain the sustainability values of its founder.
Salvatore Ferragamo was another inspiring designer out of Italy, and a man before his time. His use of natural, recycled and innovative materials was revolutionary and today, the Florentine brand continues to experiment with environmentally-friendly materials and techniques. A couple of years ago the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in the heart of Florence had an entire exhibition devoted to sustainability.
As these brands are striving to honor people, wildlife, and nature by investing in sustainable development projects. As a new decade has dawned, international initiatives like the Fashion Pact, along with the awareness of how of how luxury brands can improve their sustainable efforts will hopefully not just be talk, but brand lifestyle. Here’s to 2022 and what strides fashion will make to continue its eco-friendly advances.