Milan Fashion Week goes green

"This is a green Fashion Week!" said Carlo Capasa, the President of the Italian Fashion Chamber (CNMI), at the Milan Fashion Week's opening. CNMI groups together the leading names in Italian fashion, and has long made sustainable development its rallying cry. The Milan Fashion Week, which will award the first-ever Oscars for sustainable fashion, has turned this commitment into reality.


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Genny - Spring-Summer2018 - Womenswear - Milan - © PixelFormula

The approach is shared by many companies large and small in the made-in-Italy fashion world. Such as Genny for example: at its show on Thursday it unveiled several wholly ecological items. "We have used silk that is certified 100% sustainable by Como silk specialist Taroni. Of course, it is more expensive, and the production process is longer and more complicated, since the manufacturing and supply chain aren't yet fully adapted to these standards," said Genny's Creative Director Sara Cavazza Facchini backstage.

"In this specific case, the costs are nearly double. But it is only the start of a process. When everyone will be on the same page, we expect price rises to become more tolerable, at about 30% for this kind of product. We are going ahead anyway, because we strongly believe in the approach," said Mattia Facchini, CEO of the Swinger group, which owns the Genny and Byblos labels.

"We are very committed to sustainable quality and to limiting environmental impacts as much as possible. All our collections are manufactured within a 100-km radius, and we monitor the supply chain to make sure that working conditions are respected. We have also drawn up a charter of global values which is clearly spelled out on our garments' labels," he added.

As Carlo Capasa admitted, "the fashion industry isn't very sustainable. Changing it won't be easy, but the process has begun and we want to promote it in any way we can, so that companies will start paying greater attention to the impact they have on the environment. It's our challenge for the future."

Italy is leading the field in the matter, since it first addressed the issue a few years ago. "We started in 2012 by publishing the sustainable development manifesto of Italian fashion: ten commandments focusing on the principles that the entire industry needed to adopt. In 2016, we issued the first guidelines for eco-toxic standards to be complied with in manufacturing," said the CNMI President.


CNMI has made ecology the main theme of its latest promotional video

Last week CNMI, which works on this issue in close collaboration with SMI, the Italian fashion industry's employers association, published another document, this time focusing on "eco-sustainable principles in retailing." The next themes to be addressed will be manufacturing processes, the circular economy and the social side of sustainable development.

In early September, another initiative was launched in collaboration with UniCredit bank, the official sponsor of the Milan Fashion Week since 2015. It introduces funding opportunities to support eco-sustainable practices by the industry's SMEs which supply major labels.  

The most visible outcome of this engagement in sustainability is the 'The Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia' competition, open to young designers with an eco-sustainable vision and created by CNMI in partnership with UK consulting agency Eco-Age. The Oscars for 'green' fashion will be awarded on Sunday 24th September, in the course of a gala evening organised at Milan's La Scala opera house, bringing together for the first time major labels, emerging designers and artisans.

The project is backed by an investment of nearly €2 million, 75% of which is financed by the Italian government. Eleven prizes will be awarded, including the Eco Award to Gisele Bündchen for her dedication to environmental causes, and the Artisanal Award to Chiara Vigo, the last artisan on the planet capable of weaving byssus cloth, known as 'sea silk'. The short-list for the best emerging designer prize consists of five names: Matea Benedetti, Calcaterra, Co I Te, Leo Studio Design and Tiziano Guardini.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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