How the Sustainability Conversation Is Changing Milan Fashion Week

Katie Abel

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Sustainability has dominated the luxury conversation since last month, when executives from more than 30 top companies signed the “G7 Fashion Pact.” The plan, crafted by French president Emmanuel Macron and Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault, signaled that the fashion world — long criticized for its harmful environmental practices — was finally getting more serious about tackling the problem.

Then, last week, Kering-owned Gucci announced it was committed to becoming 100% carbon neutral. The label, which will stage its spring ’20 show on Sunday, said the move will offset emissions from operations and supply chain. “A new era of corporate accountability is upon us and we need to be diligent in taking all steps to mitigate our impacts, including being transparent and responsible for our GHG emissions,” President and CEO Marco Bizzarri explained in a statement last week.

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The issue was also front and center in London, when climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion held protests at high-profile shows. Burberry took steps to offset the carbon impact of its show through through VSC-certified REDD+ projects, which prevent deforestation and conserve tropical rain forest in the Brazilian Amazon.

Now in Milan, brands and retailers are making it clear that sustainability is at the top of their agenda.

On Tuesday, high-end resale platform Vestiaire Collective unveiled a pop-up shop in collaboration with the Green Fashion Awards, which is set for Sunday evening and honors legendary designer Valentino Garavani. The event, which debuted in 2017, spotlights the sustainability efforts of fashion houses and is backed by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age and Camera della Moda.

Vestiaire Collective’s temporary space, set up in a picturesque Milanese floral shop, features a range of second-hand dresses and a campaign that raises awareness about the eco cause. “Partnerships drive change. We know we need to take action, but we can’t do it alone,” said Sophie Hersan, Co-Founder of Vestiaire Collective. “Brands should move with us and everyone should collaborate. We don’t have the choice anymore.”

The e-tailer is making several notable brick-and-mortar moves, much like rivals Rent the Runway and The Real Real in the U.S. market. Vestiaire Collective has a pop-up at Le Bon Marche in Paris for six weeks and will open a permanent space at Selfridges London on Oct. 30. It is also diving deeper into the shoe market, with a new focus on sneakers —  and plans to quickly expand in Asia.

Elsewhere in Milan, American sustainability leader Rothy’s kicked off the week with a new eco-friendly wool flats collaboration with rising Italian designer Marta Ferri. And Lewis Hamilton showed his third see-now, buy-now collection with Tommy Hilfiger, which featured all vegan shoes.

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