By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
The all-or-nothing attitude of Kering’s executive officer is shown to be crystal clear in the mega-brand’s latest project: Worn Again.
Kering’s Worn Again is a British innovation that aims to eradicate textile waste from the global apparel and textile industry. This eco-model upcycling company established itself in 2005, in East London, and throughout the years has embraced partnerships with large brands such as Virgin Atlantic and the Royal Mail on a series of groundbreaking products and zero textile waste projects.
Now, Kering has joined forces with Worn Again to make the continual recycling of textiles a sustainable reality. Kering, previously known as the Gucci Group owns some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen to mention a few, and will now help these brands to reach their eco-potential via the implementation of new technology that separates and extracts polyester and cotton from old textiles and spins the materials into new yarns, thus reducing the amount of clothing that gets dumped in landfill sites every year. In 2020, the global demand for these fibres is estimated to be 90 million tonnes, and so far Worn Again is the first of its kind able to separate and extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles.
It’s not the first steps Kering has taken towards being more eco friendly, however. The group supports UNICEF, Bamboo growing projects in Asia, Women’s Aid (which aims to end domestic violence against women) and many other charities. Interestingly, Pinault claims that animal rights supporter and lifelong vegan Stella McCartney, whose label is also under the Kering umbrella, has been “one our best headhunters” to find cutting-edge research and companies. “She’s been doing sustainability in such a way that none of the other brands are even close to her. But no one knows. If you’re not involved with sustainability you don’t know that Stella is about that.”
Kering is also fully transparent with regards to its sourcing of gold and diamonds for its jewellery brands, and created a Material Innovation Lab that indexes 1,500 sustainable fabrics. To ensure their sustainable approach is always on target, the group has a 50-person in-house team dedicated to sustainability that works in part with a 15-person panel of experts hailing from nongovernmental organizations based in energy and other areas.
Each in-house brand is constantly challenged to make itself greener–Stella McCartney urges all her staff to take zero-emission taxis, uses only natural makeup and nail polish on her models and turns off all the lights in her offices and shops after opening hours (surprisingly, many shops don’t). Kering’s Puma provides another interesting example. It has joined forces with Professor Richard Wool, a 2013 US Environmental Protection Agency awardee, who developed an eco-friendly leather substitute made from chicken feathers. Not only does this method not involve the normally polluting process of tanning, but it uses far less energy and produces no hazardous waste. It will make a welcome addition as a material for Puma’s running shoes, bags and other products that normally use ‘dirtier’ leather.
But for now, Pinault is much more excited about Worn Again: “If we can recycle a significant proportion of (the fabrics used in creating fashion), that might change completely the impact we have on sustainability.”