By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Milan Fashion Week is notoriously unsustainable. Fendi, Prada, Versace, Miu Miu and other top Italian brands consistently rank an E grade for transparency and eco-friendliness, with the only exception of Gucci, thanks to the Kering Group’s (formerly PPR) strong sustainability policies.
There is one other happy exception to this rule, however: So Critical So Fashion is a parallel fashion event during Milan’s Fashion Week that showcases brands that have come to the ‘Green Side’ of fashion. These labels incorporate natural materials into their products and natural innovation, along with reestablishment of traditional techniques, such as upcycling and creative recycling. This year’s edition will focus on the Made in Italy concept, emphasising the traditional creativity and craftsmanship of this designing nation.
This year the event will host 60 brands and will be located in the prestigious location of ‘Frigoriferi Milanesi.’ While ‘So Critical So Fashion’ was once a small event, it has currently become a very important appointment to fix on the calendar, especially for eco-chic addicts: a three-day full-immersion on current ethical standards, through a series of events, lectures, workshops and planet-friendly products.
Some examples of what’s on show are sophisticated creations by Mieko: bangles, earrings and necklaces created out of old images of the Lupo Alberto and Diabolik comic strips, as well as maps, yellow pages and newspapers. Giovanni Scafuro’s jewels are also noteworthy: he takes common objects such as forks are transformed in exquisite art pieces. For creative recycling the Berlin designer Feine Hüte proposes the hat collection ‘Coffee to Go’ where he re-invents classic designed hats, using jute bags that used to contain coffee, along with other fabric leftovers.
One artisan in the show, Tatiana Stoppa of the Artedi label, expresses the beauty of working ecologically: “I love to give a new life to objects that would usually get thrown away, because I see in every piece the potential of a new beginning. It’s a very spontaneous process.”
At ‘So Critical So Fashion’ you may share Stoppa’s creative thrills through different activities: you could participate in a professional photo shoot, complete with a personalised organic make-up session, accompanied by live performances by visual and musical artists, or make your own accessories or outfit in workshops and classes that teach you how to sew recycled materials into clothing, or how to create jewellery from recycled brass and copper.
Indeed, the eco-credentials and savoir-faire of all the brands here are impressive, and they have much to share. Cinzia Mauri of the Amano label explained to me how she makes her line sustainable: “The choice of the materials I pick is in full respect of the environment: the wood I select has a low environmental impact and is recycled, the prints use nontoxic dyes, just at the resins used for buttons and jewels have a zero emission. Besides the dyes I use also focus on diminishing the waste of water, which is usually a delicate issue during this process. Every step is monitored in accordance to eco-standards,” she says.
Surveying the myriad other eco-brands on display at the show, Mauri didn’t feel ‘threatened’ by the ‘competition’ the way that mainstream brands are when they discover which designs and materials their contemporaries are using. What’s more, she didn’t feel that the recently-implemented sustainability policies of better known brands, such as Gucci, would diminish niche brands like hers. On the contrary, she stated: “I’m glad to see that in the past few years also mainstream brands have discovered the importance of sustainability.”
Mauri’s attitude sums up the generally supportive, positive feeling in the eco-fashion world; a sharp contrast to the competitive, bitchy backstabbing so often seen in mainstream fashion. Yet another reason to join the Green Side.
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