From Prada to Stella McCartney, here are some of the high-end fashion brands that are taking steps towards making the fashion industry more sustainable.
Ralph Lauren's Earth Polo is made using recycled plastic bottles
For a long time, the fashion industry came under fire by activists and environmentalists for practices that seem at best wasteful and at worst harmful. But in 2019, things are changing. More and more high-end brands are taking steps – whether small hops or giant leaps – towards becoming more sustainable.
Prada is one of the latest high-end brands that has taken on board the ethos of sustainability. In May 2019, the Italian fashion house launched its first fine jewellery collection. The first drop – which featured the likes of guitar pendants, animal dangle earrings and statement bracelets – reinvented some of the brand’s iconic symbols as well as takes on themes from newer collections. But it also ensured to create the line ethically. The debut collection was created with 18-carat gold and diamonds sourced from suppliers certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council, which works to promote responsible practices in metal and gemstone processing, from extraction to commercialisation that considers everything from labour rights to environmental impact.
The British fashion designer has long been an advocate for both vegetarian and sustainable fashion, and her website states that her fashion house operating to creating a modern and responsible business. As far as animal products go, Stella McCartney never uses leather, skin, furs or feathers in any of its clothes or accessories. The site proclaims: “By taking this stance we are proving it is possible to create beautiful, luxurious products that are better for everyone – animals, people and the environment.”
But it’s not just the animals themselves that McCartney and co are looking out for, it’s also the environment at large. For example, fabrics are sourced in a way that minimalises waste. With cashmere, for example, the new method has reduced its environmental impact by 92 per cent. More recently, Stella McCartney launched a sustainable sunglasses line by using bio-acetate made from Cellulose acetate (coming from wood) and plasticizer (derived from the esters of citric acid), which are both natural and renewable sources.
The most recent symbol of Ralph Lauren’s commitment to sustainability came in the form of a Polo shirt made from recycled plastic bottles – about 12 bottles per shirt – that’s also dyed with a process that uses zero water. This is one step in the American fashion house’s commitment to removing 170 million plastic bottles from landfills and oceans by 2025. The new take on the iconic polo shirt, Earth Polo, was produced in partnership with First Mile – an organisation founded in 2004t with the mission to revolutionise waste and recycling for businesses to create a positive social impact. In fact, Ralph Lauren even has its own in house team dedicated to sustainability who’ve worked on previous projects such as teaming up with Rainforest Action Network. The union ensures that the fashion house does not contribute to rainforest destructions – and any human rights violations that go along with that – in the production in any of its garments.
As well as following suit when it comes to going fur free, Versace has been making a conscious effort to contribute to the wider sustainability movement, too. In 2017 the Italian fashion house announced their environmentally friendly operation changes. And for Versace, it begins with the people. They state: “A more sustainable Versace means that each employee and collaborator will be informed and empowered to be a change-maker.” And to date, they have trained hundreds of their employees on how to think and work.
As well as implementing changes to save water and energy behind the scenes, Versace also launched a boutique in London’s Sloane Square in December 2017 which was the first LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified boutique in the iconic street. The same concept has applied to new stores in Miami and Munich and will also be featured in an upcoming Beijing opening. All are constructed and decorated with a conscious focus on the materials use, opting for recycled, recyclable, and responsible materials where possible. Donatella Versace said: “There’s no bigger luxury than our future. The new Versace concept is a commitment towards Versace’s sustainable legacy.”
In September 2018, Burberry made an announcement that they will no longer destroy their luxury good that didn’t sell throughout the season, after previously doing so in a bid to protect the brand. But with the news to ban the bonfire, the British company also revealed it will be putting a stop to using fur in their fashion designs. Overall, the 1856-founded fashion house has promised to become more aware of its social and environmental impact. Burberry’s chief executive Marco Gobbetti said at the time: “Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible… This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products.”
Simultaneously, the Burberry partnered with Elvis & Kresse, a luxury company that will help reduce waste by transforming offcuts of leather into new items rather than become waste. Burberry also established the Burberry Material Futures Research Group with the Royal College of Art to explore new sustainable material.