Gucci wants to clean up fashion’s dirty laundry

Count as a leader in luxury fashion is keen to change its image and reduce its environmental footprint. Last week, Gucci announced a new strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an NGO that has become a leading authority on circularity. The foundation says it will support Gucci in its quest to scale circular design principles. In a statement, Gucci CEO Mario Bizarri said the partnership would “further reinforce our commitments to circularity and regenerative agriculture.”

The environmental impact of the fashion industry is difficult to overestimate: it is a huge source of waste and pollution, accounting for 10% of global CO2 emissions, 20% of plastic produced and 92 million tonnes of waste per year. Not surprisingly, 85% of the clothes thrown away each year in the United States go to landfills or incinerators.

While recent efforts are admirable, Gucci and other powerful players in the luxury fashion space still have a long way to go to significantly reduce the huge amount of waste and pollution these companies continue to generate. . To this end, circularity is key to achieving the goals of these brands.

Design waste

Circular design aims to eliminate waste from all aspects of a product’s lifecycle, from sourcing materials to planning for a product’s end-of-life. Circularity is essential for the fashion industry, which has traditionally operated in a very linear fashion, sourcing virgin materials for production and ending up with products in landfills.

For example, polyester, the most common textile used for apparel production, is one of the main contributors to microplastic pollution and is an ongoing driver of demand for fossil fuels, a key component of synthetic fiber. Polyester fabric is also notoriously difficult to recycle, which is one of the reasons why, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, less than 1% of clothing collected for recycling is actually recycled into new clothing.

Through Gucci’s partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion house hopes to design and produce its products in a new way. The company has already set a goal of reaching 100% sustainably sourced materials by 2025, and is developing partnerships with outlets and socially beneficial businesses that can breathe new life into products and under – Gucci products.

New frontiers of fashion circularity

Gucci is a global giant with resources to fund its sustainability goals. However, small businesses can also provide critical lessons in sustainable production.

Just steps from Gucci’s global headquarters in Florence, Italy, is Zerolab, the first leather recycling center and design-focused circular incubator in Florence. An innovative center for the collection and sorting of leather waste, Zerolab also functions as a training center for leather crafts and an incubator for emerging designers focused on circular design.

Cassandra Kane and Gabriele Rorandelli, the two co-founders of Zerolab, in front of some of the leather the company has saved from landfill for reuse

Cassandra Kane, Chief Innovation Officer at Zerolab, is at the forefront of luxury fashion’s evolution towards circularity. She said: “As luxury brands have exploded in growth over the past thirty years, their supply chains have become industrialized and globalized, and this explosive production is what can make once artisanal production less sustainable.” In 2021, Gucci recovered 290 tons of leather for recycling, but Kane noted that in Tuscany alone, where Gucci is headquartered, “over 265 tons or over 400,000 pounds of leather waste is generated at the factory every year.

The future of haute couture for Gucci and other fashion houses

While the global fashion industry is plagued by an overproduction of cheap synthetic materials, some industry players have further outsourced their waste problem by throwing away or burning their excess materials. Nevertheless, if industry leaders like Gucci can innovate circularity in luxury designs, there is reason to hope that they can pave the way for other fashion brands.

Kane is optimistic. “Reversing the tide of production practices for global brands is not something that can happen overnight. Gucci has made leaps and bounds fast enough that other brands can replicate,” she said. , adding, “Luxury brands like Gucci are leading the way in investing in sustainable and regenerative technologies, and partnering with experts like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a big step forward in solving the problems. In the industry as a whole, when the luxury sector invests in new technology, that technology ends up trickling down to the entire industry.

Asked about the future of sustainable fashion, Kane is hopeful. She told TriplePundit: “The new definition of luxury will be more than beautiful, handcrafted products. They will be products made from circular, regenerative and ethical materials through a production process that does not harm our planet, and perhaps even supports it.

Image credits: Zerolab

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