Can big fashion brands be eco-friendly and sustainable?

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Sustainable fashion means that garments have been made mindful of the environment and respect workers’ rights and dignity. Small independent companies like Dampaì and Titanic Jeans are making headway as sustainable fashion companies, but what about the big companies that we already know and love?

What about the brands we see in the boutiques and outlets in Milan?

Can companies like Levis, Adidas, Carpisa, and Guess offer sustainable fashion?

In this article, we look at sustainable fashion and what these big brands are doing to be environmentally friendly & sustainable. All brands mentioned are easily available online, at flagship stores and at outlets such as Scalo Milano Outlet & More.

Fast and Slow fashion

Customers are becoming more aware and mindful about what they buy, and they are using their voices to make a positive impact on the people involved in the production of clothing and other products.

The term “fast fashion” refers to inexpensive, fashionable, mass-produced clothing with a negative environmental impact. Because of their affordability and style, these garments are popular with consumers. Clothes like these are quickly thrown away in landfills because they aren’t made to last and are out of fashion very quickly.

Consumerism and globalization of manufacturing during the ’70s, ’80s and 90s made “fast fashion” easily accessible, and the market was hungry for it. Large companies started outsourcing production to markets where labor and raw materials were inexpensive to protect profit margins. In many cases, laws and regulations protecting workers and the environment were never disclosed or were outright ignored.

The 2000s brought on a new era of awareness for human rights and environmental protection. A leading voice in the pursuit of sustainable fashion is Kate Fletcher, Professor of Sustainability Design & Fashion at the London College of Fashion. Over the last two decades, she has written several books on the fashion industry. Her original thinking and progressive outlook infuse the field of fashion, textiles and sustainability with design and how to best approach the manufacturing process.

Fletcher is also known for coining the phrase “slow fashion,” used as the antithesis of fast fashion, and it has become the catchphrase to describe eco-friendly brands. The idea behind it is that eco-friendly brands use recycled and raw materials that may be labor intensive and take longer to produce, but the outcome will be a garment that will outlast trends and time.

An ethical approach

One of the most critical components in creating sustainable fashion is the supply chain.  A sustainable fashion supply chain integrates and coordinates a manufacturer’s activities and all its suppliers to achieve the highest level of efficiency and ethics while still making a profit.

Employee’s rights, working conditions and wages are also considered in sustainable manufacturing.

The environment

Environmental concerns regarding fashion production are CO2 emissions and water pollution. Transport from factories to retail outlets is mainly responsible for carbon emissions. According to the UN, the fashion industry contributes between 2% and 8.1% of global carbon emissions. Freshwater is contaminated during manufacturing due to the use of chemicals and dyes and plastic polymer fibers that break down easily during use and wash, damaging the environment.

Big brands and sustainability

Because of voices like Fletcher’s and the mass environmental protection movement happening around the world, big brands must make some changes, or they will lose customers. So, what are  fashion brands doing to protect the environment and their workers?

Levi’s

Levi’s Wellthread collection, the jean is made using organic cotton and Circulose, a material made from recycling worn-out old denim fabrics / Levi’s jeans @scalomilano

There is no dispute that Levi’s jeans last a long time and are often passed down from mother to daughter or father to son. However, the production methods and chemical dyes have been put under the microscope by critics.

The spring 2021 Levi’s jeans campaign exclaimed, “Buy Better, Wear Longer,” sending a conscientious message to raise awareness and move toward slow fashion. On their website, a statement acknowledges, “There’s no denying it: the apparel industry has a frightening impact on the environment. Since our brand is part of it, it is up to us to do everything possible to create the fits you love with methods that respect the planet.”

It continues, “And, we confess … We haven’t always gone in the right direction. Being an extremely sustainable clothing brand is a goal that is close to our hearts, and we are still working on it. We have made great strides in several areas and are striving to improve in others, but there is still a long way to go. And we hope you will walk alongside us.”

Levi’s deserves a standing ovation for facing the issue straight on and letting their consumers know it is a work in progress. Rather than just changing their slogans and messages, they are taking action to make their products eco-friendlier. 

What Levi’s is doing to make eco-friendly and sustainable fashion

Various sources such as non-endangered plants and materials, including madder root extract and natural indigo, agricultural by-products like food remnants, and minerals such as clays, carbonates, and natural oxides are used to create the colors in the Levi’s® Fresh line. Cottonized hemp and organic cotton, as well as scaling water, are also part of this effort.

75% of Levi’s cotton comes from more environmentally friendly sources. Currently, 65% of their products are packaged in factories that use Worker Well-Being programs to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

They have also committed to promoting more sustainable production practices, reducing their own natural resource footprint, and aiding in delivering a more environmentally friendly clothing industry with the new campaign.

Adidas

Every year, Adidas issue its annual Environmental Impact Report / Adidas @scalomilano

Once a home-based business in Germany started by brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler in 1924, they made spiked running shoes with canvas and rubber. Adidas grew until a family argument split them up. Rudolf broke off and started a rival company, Puma. Nonetheless, Adidas expanded.

They achieved international recognition when Adolf persuaded American Olympian Jessie Owens to try his athletic shoes. Owens won 4 gold medals in the 1936 Olympics while wearing Adidas shoes.

Adidas was bought in 1990 by a French business tycoon and later became a multinational company. It has expanded its collection to include clothing items, varying from men’s and women’s t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, pants and leggings.

It is now the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second-largest in the world, after Nike.

As one of the world’s largest manufacturers, they have been publicly criticized for poor labor conditions and environmental disregard, something they immediately rebutted.

What Adidas is doing to make eco-friendly and sustainable fashion

Every year, Adidas issue its annual Environmental Impact Report. It is a fully comprehensive guide covering group leadership and management, the impact on the environment due to manufacturing of their products, details about their sourcing and supply chain, company strategy and employee management and initiatives.

Since 1997, Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence (‘HREDD’) has been an essential part of the Adidas value chain.

The Fair Labor Association (FLA), an independent accreditation authority, evaluates the supply chain and social compliance program.

Adidas also adheres to YESS (Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced), an initiative launched by the Responsible Sourcing Network to assist spinners and textile mills in implementing adequate due diligence to prevent cotton produced with forced labor.

Carpisa

The three pillars of the Carpisa sustainability strategy are Product, People, and Planet/ Carpisa @scalomilano

The Carpisa brand was launched in 2001, and it quickly rose to the top of the bags, luggage, and fashion accessory market. International star Penelope Cruz has collaborated as a design consultant and brand ambassador for Carpisa, signing several handbag collections.

Cruz is not the only celebrity collaboration. Jerry Scott, creative director of Moschino, has also signed his name to a capsule collection of travel carry-ons for Carpisa. The latest collaboration is with craftsman house Solimene Ceramics in Vietri Sul Mare for a collection of cheerful and colorful beach bags and accessories featuring the traditional motifs used on crafted ceramics in the Campania region.

What Carpisa is doing to make eco-friendly and sustainable fashion

Under the umbrella of the Pianoforte Group, Carpisa policies regarding the environment and social commitment have been in place since its beginning.

The three pillars of their sustainability strategy are Product, People, and Planet.

Innovative solutions and sustainable materials are the basis of the entire production process. The company has set a goal to reach a 49% volume of eco-friendly products by 2024.

Carpisa has made a commitment to its workforce, instating a policy of respectand inclusiveness without discrimination and fostering a spirit of sharing and growth through training programs. The Carpisa workforce comprises 761 employees, 86% of whom are women.

Carpisa has been engaged in a wide range of sustainable development initiatives, as defined by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Among these are environmental protection and biodiversity, the responsible use of resources, and the design of environmentally friendly stores and packaging.

Guess

Smart Guess, is a line of environmentally conscious materials and manufacturing processes / Guess @scalomilano

In 1984, two young Frenchmen went on vacation in California and fell in love with the golden coast. The Marciano brothers decided to leave the idyllic Riviera and start a clothing company in Los Angeles. Their debut item was a pair of slim-fit ankle-length, stonewashed, three-zip jeans called Marylin. The stonewashed method was new and not in fashion, provoking criticism. They sent a pair of jeans accompanied by a handwritten note to some carefully selected department store buyers. Bloomingdales loved their product and ordered twenty-four pairs. The unique style and sexy cut of Guess jeans were sold out in a few hours. That was only the beginning; now, they are available at department stores and malls worldwide.

What Guess is doing to make eco-friendly and sustainable fashion

The new Guess campaign exclaims, “Eco is the smart choice,” followed by a description that their materials are recycled, organic and innovative.

A minimal waste policy has been put on their roster of eco-sustainable goals. By 2023, they will implement circular product design (use, recover, regenerate) for every significant category and more sustainable systems, 100% of accessories and footwear, and 50% of eCommerce shipments will be recycled or recyclable packaging, and by 2025 all of the product packagings will be recycled or recyclable.

In addition to a sustainable road map to offset C02 emissions, Guess has pledged only to use sustainable materials. By 2023 they have committed to adding sustainable materials to at least 30% of the global materials portfolio. By 2024, 75% of Guess denim will be Smart Guess, their line of environmentally conscious materials and manufacturing processes, and they are working toward using 100% biobased polyesters.

All in all, it’s good news that big brands are making efforts to change and adapt their production methods with the goal of protecting the planet.

Where to shop

All the brands mentioned above can be found at their flagship stores or conveniently located at Scalo Milano Outlet & More, the shopping outlet village located just outside the city center.  

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Scalo Milano Outlet & More, outlet village in Milan

Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Via Milano 5,
Locate Triulzi (MI)
Scalomilano.it

Opening hours

Monday – Sunday
Fashion & Design: 10 am -9 pm
Food: 10 am – 11 pm

Scalo Milano Outlet & More

Shopping at Scalo Milano Outlet & More, Milan Italy – Save up to 70% on fashion and design brands. Scalo Milano Outlet & More is the closest outlet village to Milan and is accessible by a free shuttle bus service.

Getting to Scalo Milano Outlet is easy; there’s a free shuttle bus from P.zza della Repubblica (in front of the newsstand), which takes about 25 minutes or take the S13 train which stops in front of the outlet at the Locate di Triulzi station.  By car or taxi, it’s only a 15-20 minute drive from the center of Milan. There is ample parking and a recharging station for electric vehicles. 

Article by Celia Abernethy, Milanostyle.com

This guide is brought to you by Scalo Milano Outlet & More
All images courtesy Scalo Milano Outlet & More Press
For more info: 
scalomilano.it/en

About Author /

Celia is the founder and managing editor of MilanoStyle.com. Originally from New York, she now lives in Italy. She believes in living 'la dolce vita' to the fullest and helps travelers discover the best of Milan and Lake Como with custom itineraries and experiences. Email.

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