#SuzyMFW: Milan’s Red Hot Story is Green
In the piazza facing Milan’s famous La Scala opera house, trees have come from nowhere and apparently taken root.
Painted pennants hang from old stone buildings to painterly effect. But the colour that matters in this Spring/Summer 2018 Milan Fashion Week is green.
Italy is launching an unprecedented effort to make its powerful clothing industry a model of good practice.
On Sunday 24th September, the first stage of a long-planned project will come to fruition with the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, selecting the most effective use of recycling and sustainability.
“Green Queen” Livia Firth, Creative Director of Eco-Age, is closely involved with the event and its subject. But according to Carlo Capasa, President of Italy’s Camera Nazionale della Moda, this initiative is country-wide and has gained the support of political figures including Dr Carlo Calenda, the Italian minister for Economic Development, who outlined the official announcement today.
Capasa says that when he arrived as head of Milan’s ruling fashion body two years ago, a commission for sustainability was already in place, with power names from Armani and Gucci to Prada, Valentino and Versace just some of those supporting the project.
“But now we want first of all to bring out what is behind ‘Made in Italy’,” says Capasa, who set up guidelines for manufactures on the percentage of environmentally-toxic substances that should not be exceeded and other crucial rules.
“We are working on some specific ideas and documents to make sustainability something you can measure – not something esoteric where no-one understands the truth,” Capasa says, explaining how Italy, the greatest European hub for creating clothing, has not just a duty but a desire to make fashion as beautiful on its production side as its sexy and glamorous outward appearance.
Livia Firth, who lives in England with her actor husband Colin Firth, praises the efforts of the Italian Fashion Federation in her country of birth.
“The Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana is the only fashion council in the world that has been really active with sustainability, with the innovative idea of a round table where all the brands regularly sit and meet several times a year,” Livia says.
“The second reason is that the Italian supply chain is one of the most famous in the world,” she continues. “This is a land where the producers actually work in partnership with the brand, because Italy is made of small and medium-sized companies and artisans who all work together.”
“The process of the awards is almost as important as the award night itself,” she explains. “If you think about the Oscars, that night is the culmination of the work that the movie industry has done – the cinematographers, directors and actors. Eventually Italy’s ‘Green Award’ will become the end of a conversation to make things more sustainable with everyone from the people running the mills to the designers.”
Both Capasa and Livia underline the fact that Sunday’s event is a culmination of many studies of sustainability and that giving a prize to one of many previously unknown talents is essential.
Capasa says that the event and all that has let up to it reinforces Italy’s desire to recognise good practice throughout the industry and especially among the unknown artisans who have been seen and selected by an international team of industry movers and shakers.
He sees it not only as a way to bring small, inventive designers into the limelight but also to raise awareness in the industry. Titans passing judgement have included Ruth Chapman, co-founder of Matchesfashion.com; Derek Blasberg from CNN Style; and Elaine Welteroth, Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue.
So what are these inventive Italian projects created by those in the eco circle?
Leo Studio Design in Puglia, the “heel” of Italy’s “boot”, has produced backpacks and shoes made from Econyl, a yarn made from nylon waste, and a printed skirt made from organic cotton that was grown with no pesticides or fertilisers.
Tiziano Guardini has made a dress in recycled nylon that is decorated with what appear to be sequins, but are in fact up-cycled seashells and discarded CDs.
I talked to Matea Benedetti, who created one of the most controversial products in a country that makes so many high-quality bags and shoes. The designer explained her experiments with apple waste from a company that produces bottled apple juice.
“I set out to make a substitute for leather in the furniture industry,” she says about her early career, before she went on to work in the sports industry to develop a cloth with the feeling of leather.
“It’s not 100 per cent leather,” she says, “it’s 69 per cent waste and the rest is mixed with polyurethane.”
The designer is planning to use the material for bags and shoes, which themselves become recyclable.
“I am really at the beginning,” Matea says. “I’m idealistic because everything is new to me. I was a costume designer. But this year we are developing things so fast. It’s sustainable – but it really is luxury.”