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Milan Fashion Week goes decidedly green

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Published
today Sep 23, 2019
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The Milan fashion week which ended on Monday marked a real turning point. For the first time, several leading labels have confirmed their sincere engagement in favour of sustainability, while a number of emerging designers exploited their catwalk shows to sound the alarm for the dramatic consequences of climate change, fully aware that fashion, one of the world's most polluting industries, still has a lot of work to do in this respect.


Marni, Spring/Summer 2020 - © PixelFormula

 
Marni’s designer Franceso Risso, for example, tapped the media interest sparked by the Fashion Week to broadcast a clear, practical message. Risso recently returned from a journey to Brazil, a country tragically hit by widespread fires in the Amazon basin, and said he was shaken by this and wanted to “talk about the urgent need to protect the environment.” He did this in his own fashion, by creating a setting of palm trees made of recycled plastic for his show, and by using hand-painted fabric offcuts for his collection.
 
‘Be part of the solution’, ‘React’, ‘Reduce’: these were some of the slogans featured on the sneakers by new sustainable label F_wd, launched by Japanese fashion group Onward in Milan during the Fashion Week. “I choose activist slogans and transform them into graphic designs to increase people’s awareness. We must act now, before it’s too late,” said Raphael Young, the project’s creative director, whose aim is to produce trainers that are 100% recycled and recyclable. “I worked with luxury labels for years, and I’m convinced that there are other ways of manufacturing products,” he added.

Another example was the approach adopted by Miuccia Prada, who examined the issue of the harm caused to the planet by unrestrained consumption, and how this contrasts with the need for labels to produce and sell. “I didn’t want to create fashion but a style, a collection of essentials which will be sought after for a long time, breaking up the unbridled rhythm of the fashion industry,” said the creative director of the Milanese luxury label, talking to the media at the end of her show.

Essentials such as those that were to be found in the majority of runway shows, as the trend for minimalism was decidedly rampant. Extremely simple, interchangeable items, featured in natural materials and with few decorative frills. From classic, multi-purpose trousers suits to lightweight knitwear to pretty little skirts and summer dresses in cotton or crocheted fabrics. A way to emphasise the need to go back to basics.

This trend doesn’t always rhyme with creativity, though once again Milan Fashion Week designers proved their peerless expertise with the quality of their work. Yet, a new, low-profile approach seems to have taken hold, evident in collections shorn of any unnecessary excess. The countless monochrome looks seen on the catwalks, the majority of them in discreet pastel hues, were perhaps evidence of the same trend.


Prada, Spring/Summer 2020 - © PixelFormula

 
For pioneering designer Daniela Gregis, who has made recycling her credo since 1997, this turnaround feels like a victory. The Italian designer has been showing at the Milan Fashion Week for over 15 years, with collections that are entirely hand-made in Italy and optimise resources as much as possible, and she must be quite happy at seeing that the new generation is following in her wake.

An increasing number of emerging designers showing in Milan is joining the movement, such as Rome-born Tiziano Guardini, who produces wholly sustainable collections thanks to the groundwork done with his suppliers-partners. Or Stella Jean, engaged in protecting and promoting ancient local craftsmanship, as in her latest collection, in which she highlighted the work of embroiderers living on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

At the latest Milan Fashion Week, sustainability, which until now was a theme that went unsaid, or more often than not was reduced to advertising slogans, has taken on a new dimension. In the last three years, the Italian Fashion Chamber (CNMI) has been shining a spotlight on the need to promote sustainability in fashion. In particular, it launched the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, akin to a series of Oscars for ecological fashion. The awards’ third edition was the final act of the week on Sunday evening, at the Scala opera house, attended by celebrities like Sophia Loren, Valentino Garavani and Lou Doillon.
 
“Sustainable development has been one of this Week’s dominant themes. We have seen, especially in young designers, a great attention and a willingness to tackle proactively an issue as important as this,” said Carlo Capasa, the president of CNMI. “For our part, we strive to organise an increasingly sustainable fashion week, using recycled materials for our events and reducing energy consumption. Next season, we will deal with mobility, something that must absolutely be improved for this event,” he told FashionNetwork.com.
 
A highly engaged fashion week, but a no less glamorous one. There was no shortage of electrifying celebrity sightings during the Milanese fashion marathon, culminating with the appearance of Jennifer Lopez at the Versace show, wearing the legendary green Jungle dress. A very popular theme throughout the week, from the luxuriant plant setting, with palm trees, coconut trees and lianas at Dolce & Gabbana, to Marni’s recycled cardboard and plastic jungle. A fitting allegory to illustrate today’s fashion world, so full of contradictions.

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