Smart Talks, the report

“Contemporary visions for smart-tech denim,” was the title of the “Smart Talks” that gathered some of the top game-changers on the denim scene today. On the second day of Denim Première Vision, the first Milanese show at Superstudio Più on via Tortona, Giusy Bettoni, CLASS Hub founder and  Première Vision sustainability consultant moderated six panels that tackled how to develop sustainably responsible garments that have an innovative and fashionable edge.  The executives, designers and researchers who presided at the event, discussed how to effectively communicate their eco-conscious strategies in order to penetrate customers who, according to market researchers, are more than often unaware of their commitment to the planet.  But they also focused on the importance of choosing responsible technology and materials to produce smart outfits. And they pointed out how successful synergies come from horizontal partnerships, where suppliers become partners.

Together, we can

“We are not here to sacrifice anything. Ethic and aesthetic can go together and today’s panelists will prove that things can be done in a better way,” Bettoni said.

“Denim is such a critical fabric, so it’s our task to set the bar and change the mindset of the whole business,” explained Uwe Kippschnieder, Denim Developer at Closed. “We extensively used the stonewashed process in the past, which is very impactful on the planet,” he added. “By now we are evolving. We don’t call ourselves sustainable, but we are a fashion company that is honestly trying to improve things.”

Two years ago, Closed created Better Blue, which, in a more environmentally aware society, stands out as an example of a more conscious brand. It is a small line, exclusively made with sustainable denim woven by Candiani, an Italian mill that weaves ROICA™ recycled elastomer produced by the Japanese company Asahi Kasei, into its garments. “Nowadays stretch is expected by denim consumers,” said Shinohe Hiroaki. “We had to come up with a solution to make it Earth-friendly.”

“When you are about to buy a pair of jeans, always ask why you need to spend that money,” advised Candiani’s Global Marketing Director, Simon Giuliani, a fourth generation member of the family that started the denim textile maker in 1938. The idea is that consumers are ready to pay more if they understand what’s behind a valuable product.  Therefore it’s vital to tell its story. “We always explain the advantage of buying our denim,” he added.

sustainable fashion

sustainable fashion

Keep it simple

Storytelling is crucial to communication strategies of today, but, as Bettoni pointed out: “You need to have a proper story-making. Otherwise, it won’t work.”

Filippa K is a Swedish fashion brand seriously committed to green policies. “We don’t do much denim,” pointed out the Sustainability Director Elin Larsson. “But I am here to share our vision which we hope may be inspiring.” Larsson focused on how creativity can reshape modern denim language with Federico Corneli, Co-Founder of the sustainable premium denim brand Haikure.

Overproduction is a problem that we haven’t solved yet, but we are still working on it.” Larsson explained.  “In the future, we might be able to deal with pre-ordered goods, but for now we concentrate on making Filippa K consumers aware of the best shopping practises. We discourage compulsive shopping, we give suggestions on how to take care of their garments. We introduced in our shops a Filippa K second-hand section and a swapping one too. Clients are curious, even if they find it a little awkward: they are not profitable at the moment, but you don’t change things in a day.”

Sustainability doesn’t work if you are not 100% transparent,” Corneli stated. “Each Haikure garment has a QR code allowing customers to understand where does it come from and who did it. In this way, they can engage with us with a simple tool. We believe that a fun, emotional language is the best way to raise awareness. People want to know more about their clothes, only not all of them want to go deeper into the sustainability process, so we keep it easy.”

sustainable fashion

sustainable fashion

Do the right dye

Is there a way to dye denim more sustainably? Alessandro Maria Butta, owner of Colori La Campana says it has been possible all along.

“[Our establishment] is a farm, not a factory. We are based in Italy, in a rural area of the Marche region, and we developed our 100% natural dyeing techniques by adopting traditional rules from the past. Experience taught me that it is possible to get impeccable, long-lasting colours with plant extracts.  The problem is the quantity, because are only able to produce smaller amounts.”

Manel Subirats from Greendyes said his company is making eco-friendly dyes and saving energy at the same time.

We developed a completely different way to dye. We only use mineral or vegetable materials, and it takes us only one hour in a cold cycle, which means the process saves up to 75% of energy.  In addition, we use 100% recyclable water. When we say what we do, people usually don’t believe us, but we are ready to be tested, especially in large quantities.”

sustainable fashion

sustainable denim

Machinery matters

Roberto Vago from ACIMIT – Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers clearly stated that a good manufacturer practice should also be applied to the factory equipment. “Quantifying the impact and performance of textile machinery is just another way to go green. Companies should not only buy the ones granting a good sustainability rate but make sure their maintenance is correctly done.”

During the discussion, Simone Sottocasa from Shima Seiki and Patrick Silva from the Santoni Group presented innovative solutions they have developed. “Employing certified machinery and implementing design programmes, adds extra value to the final product,” they both agreed.

sustainable fashion

Let’s have fun

“We wanted to find a fun way to work with sustainability. To talk about such topics can be tricky, so we chose to keep it simple,” said Johan Ekman of Weekday, the Swedish denim brand founded in 2002 which H&M group acquired in 2008. They launched a unique denim line made by using yarns upcycled by the Spanish fiber producer Recover.  “We have a denim upcycling process, where we collect post-consumer garments, recycle the fabric and create new jeans,” explained Paqui Ferrer from Recover. The result was a selection of items with a non-conventional denim look, which quickly sold out because, as Ekman pointed out: “Customers are ready even to pay a little more if they feel the brand and its suppliers are reliable.”

Roian Atwood is the Senior Director of Sustainable Business at Kontoor Brands which controls denim brands Wrangler, Lee and Rock & Republic. He introduced Wrangler’s latest project Indigood, which will soon hit the market with denim garments dyed with a technique consistently reducing the use of water. “This is the most sustainable denim we have ever produced,” he underlined. “We feel the responsibility to be the ones who can actively change the business. But we want to do it in a fun, positive way. Indigood stands for our feel-good,  look-good approach.”

sustainable fashion

sustainable fashion

Updating the past

Sustainable and up-to-date garments can also be created without producing anything new. “We don’t draw, we don’t buy fabrics, buttons or zips. We just get garments already made and re-think them with our taste.” That’s how Andrea Rosso described what he does with MyAr, the brand he founded in 2015, offering a selection of vintage military clothes that he personally discovers in flea markets around the world and customizes to give them a second life.

“There are large quantities of military apparel available on the market, and they are long-lasting pieces, designed to guarantee full functionality. It would be a terrible waste not to re-use them. Moreover, second-hand stuff allows me to avoid overproduction.” Rosso also stressed out that: “In the future, one-third of our wardrobes will be made by second-hand or recycled items, it’s going to be a big global trend. I think it would be great to track the previous owners of a garment, maybe one day it will happen.”

sustainable fashion

Report written by Cristina Manfredi, journalist

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