Sartorial sustainability

Finbarr Toesland reflects on Milan Fashion Week, where the next generation of designers showcased an exciting, eco-conscious approach to their work ...

The production of fast fashion in high volumes at unsustainable factories across the developing world has damaged the environmental credibility of the fashion industry. But up-start brands are working to change this negative perception by creating innovative solutions to material waste and sustainability.

Tiziano Guardini is one of a small collection of designers who pioneered eco-innovation with his Milan Fashion Week catwalk debut in 2018, showcasing playful designs using the most eco-sustainable fabrics. From nylon produced from recycled fishing nets, or plastic recovered from the ocean, to organic cotton and materials created from castor oil and post-industrial nylon, Tiziano Guardini is leading the way.

“I started way before everyone started to talk about sustainability and I saw the evolution,” says Guardini. “In order to survive we must live in a more sustainable way and also in harmony with nature on this planet. Therefore, people are gradually understanding this, and they will look for products and brands like mine.”

Mainstream fashion organisations, too, are introducing initiatives to raise the profile of environmentally friendly garment production. As part of the push for a more eco-friendly fashion industry, Italy’s national fashion association, CNMI, held the Green Carpet Fashion Awards to honour those who have made a genuine commitment to sustainability.

According to the MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry contributes more greenhouse emissions than the entire airline industry and shipping combined. It’s facts like these that are making many consumers think deeply about the production of the clothes they buy. Now that customers are increasingly looking for clothing that has been produced in a sustainable way, there is a growing business case for embracing eco-friendly production methods.

Camilla Carrara, founder of sustainable brand Zerobarracento, knows that manufacturing sustainable apparel doesn’t mean that it can’t be high-end and desirable. 

“Today sustainable materials are as good as conventional ones in terms of quality but they also offer a higher level of innovation and, on top of these characteristics, a fantastic story to tell to the consumer. Responsible innovation is a big opportunity for designers to explore new boundaries” explains Carrara.

Zerobarracento products all start with a zero-waste concept, including a zero-waste pattern and zero-waste materials, such as Newlife transformed polyester created from 100% post-consumer plastic bottles and 100% made in Italy. The growing demand for higher levels of animal welfare, sustainability and improved working conditions isn’t expected to end anytime soon.

“We need to align story-making and storytelling now that sustainability is a hot topic. The media plays a key role, as brands do, in spreading the message of a new level of sustainable luxury,” concludes Carrara.