As more attention has been recently drawn to sustainability issues, the fashion industry has come under the spotlight. The industry of fashion represents one of the largest consumer industries and yet it is heavily polluting, creating concern around its practices. Its negative impact on the planet is mainly caused by extensive water use, emissions, use of chemicals and generation and disposal of waste. The fast fashion industry, in particular, creates a lot of waste due to its business model characterized by quicker turnaround of styles, increased number of collections and lower prices.
During the event “The New Age of Fashion” that was held on the 17th of February organized by BSI and Green Light for Business, the topics of sustainable fashion and greenwashing were discussed. The presence of three guests made us understand better what sustainability in fashion really means and how sustainable brands are created and operate in the fashion sector.
Armadioverde – Francesco Minghini
The first guest was Francesco Minghini, head of Marketing and Sales for Europe at Armadioverde, the number one fashion recommerce in Italy. Armadioverde was founded in 2015 by two parents as a solution to the concern that their baby was growing faster than his clothes. They opened physical retail shops with the aim of swapping kids garments but they soon noticed that their business model was not scalable. They then transformed Armadioverde to an online platform, today present in Italy and France. The idea behind the fast-growing business is simple but effective. They collect clothes that are not used anymore free of charge and they separate those that are in optimal conditions, which are meant to be sold on their website, to those that are damaged, which are donated to ONG Humana. In exchange, they grant digital “stars”, which can be used to purchase other people’s second-hand clothes on their website.
Armadioverde is an example of a Circular Economy-based platform that provides an innovative, sustainable alternative that reduces the consumption and environmental impact of fast fashion. As a matter of fact, this industry generates excessive waste since a large amount of clothes is being disposed of before ever being worn out. Armadioverde provides a solution to close the loop and give a second life to used garments and therefore can be considered as an excellent example of business in the sustainable fashion industry.
Mila.Vert – Tina Logar Bauchmüller
Tina Logar Bauchmüller is the founder and designer of Mila.Vert, a fashion brand that produces timeless and sustainable women’s garments. Tina created the business in 2015 in Slovenia with the aim of making desirable clothing and avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that the fashion industry represents. Her brand is a symbol of empowerment, passion and kindness, which are the values embodied in both the design and production of clothes. As a matter of fact, Mila.Vert produces clothing in collaboration with two family-owned sewing companies and a knitting studio, all located in Slovenia. In this way, they ensure a transparent supply chain that guarantees both ethical and quality standards.
Tina has explained us that their design process is slow and intended to make timeless and quality clothes. They use environmentally friendly fabrics, and they have a limited supply chain. Some garments are partially handmade and all of them are made-to-order, which increases production times (5 to 15 days) but ensures a more sustainable approach to fashion. Other best practices of Mila.Vert include the use of organic cotton that reduces the usage of water, having a custom-fit production to customer’s measurements and producing 100% cruelty-free and PETA-approved clothes. Finally, she has expressed her will to use fabric leftovers to substitute plastic-based packaging.
Wråd – Matteo Ward
Our last guest was Matteo Ward, Bocconi alumnus and co-founder of Wråd, an innovative start-up and design company dedicated to sustainable innovation and social change. Before co-founding Wråd, Matteo had experience in the world of fashion as District Manager at Abercrombie&Fitch. He is a sustainability advocate in the fashion industry: he is member of an advisory board at United Nations and member of Fashion Revolution Education team and Fashion Revolution Italy. Moreover, he is also a Ted and Keynote speaker.
Matteo has talked about greenwashing, which is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound. Greenwashing deceives consumers into thinking that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or that follow sustainable standards. Nowadays greenwashing has become common practice in many companies, and for this reason it is important to understand the red flags that indicate greenwashing. In particular, some signals might be vagueness in language and wording, having too many visuals that refer extremely to greenery, promoting lies and unsubstantiated environmental claims and trading off benefits against some other bad practices. Although improvements in sustainability in fashion, Matteo believes that there is still a long way to go until the fashion industry can finally claim the sustainability card.
The Sustainable Age
As the long-used industrial model of “take, make and waste” based on linearity is no longer viable because of natural resources scarcity and increase in industrial waste, a new solution has to be found in the fashion industry. New models based on circularity have started to emerge and reusing and recycling garments is becoming a widespread practice. Moreover, consumers need to be reeducated to reduce consumption and source more ethical clothes. Fashion claims for a new age: the sustainable age.