How Kering Got Worn Again

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Kering boss Francois-Henri Pinault makes no bones about his position on sustainability in fashion. It is “not an option — you do it like this or you don’t do it at all.”

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.

Kering's Worn Again

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.

Kering's Worn Again

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's Worn Again

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.

Kering's Worn Again

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.”

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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