Meet The Italian Innovators Making Sustainable Textiles Super Stylish

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Italians have always been the makers of the finest fashions, from the time of the Romans to today, and any garment hailing from this boot-shaped land is synonymous with elegance and quality. Now that sustainability has become a key theme in the fashion industry, Italians have embraced the challenge to create more sustainable textiles and eco-friendly designs.

Today the Italian textiles industry has developed numerous intriguing and innovative low impact fabrics such as:

  • Orange Fibre, a patented material produced from hundreds of thousands of tons of citrus juice byproducts
  • Apple leather (by Frumat), a uniquely Italian material created in Bolzano. It is a leather alternative created from apple waste from the food industry, which is often discarded for landfill, or burned.  
  • NewlifeTM, engineered from 100% post-consumer bottles which are sourced, processed and spun into yarns using a mechanical process, with a fully traceable Italian supply chain. 
  • Milk fibre, derived from milk casein. It was originally invented in the 1930s in Italy and the USA, to compete with wool. Milk fibre has the advantages of a natural fibre combined with a synthetic fibre, and has continued to be developed by Italian mills since its original inception. 

These fabrics aren’t just great ideas sitting in labs or shown for special exhibitions; they’re actually being used right now by these innovative, eco friendly Italian designers.

Matea Benedetti 

This designer is a fond fan of apple leather, but is also passionate about other sustainable textiles, such as Pinatex, organic wool, recycled yarn, hemp, and organic cotton, to name a few. Each design Benedetti creates grasps its inspiration from new fibres from around the world. All material is carefully selected and Fairtrade certified. Every collection uses unique cuts, gathering and tailoring to blend classical dressmaking techniques with avant-garde fabrics and silhouettes, resulting in works of great beauty.

Sustainable Textiles

Sustainable Textiles


CO|TE is a Milan-based womenswear and accessories brand founded in 2010 by designers Tomaso Anfossi and Francesco Ferrari. The duo chose to use ECONYL, a yarn made from recycled fishing nets and carpets, in their collections. ECONYL is the ideal sustainable material for creating delicate lace, and plastic-like detailing and accessories. CO|TE’s collections exalt geometric forms and flowing silhouettes, emphasising the natural and refined sensuality that is ingrained in every woman.

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Vegans rejoice! Milanese designer Daniele Calcaterra is the founder of a fabulous eco-friendly label that creates realistic looking “feathers” and “fur” by weaving hemp rope, organic cotton organza and silk.

Besides coming up with ways to save animals from dying for fashion, Calcaterra is also a fervent fan of sustainable materials like TENCEL®, a fibre made from wood pulp, sourced responsibly from sustainable forest plantations and produced in a closed loop process to ensure that all water and solvents are continually re-used. Rich volumes and sleek lines distinguish Calcaterra’s designs from the rest, along with a heartfelt love of avant-garde fibres that are beautifully dressing both men and women of the 21st century.

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Leo Studio Design

Leo Studio Design’s signature looks can be described as ‘cheeky pop culture meets conscious production’. A sense of humour pervades this label, but one thing they take very seriously is ethical production. Their printed skirts, tops and trousers are made from sustainable fabrics, including organic cotton, natural hemp and the innovative Milk Protein Fibre, which is healthy for the skin, soft and comfortable, whilst their backpacks, shoes and accessories are based on ECONYL.



Tiziano Guardini

Guardini is probably the utmost Italian genius of ethical Italian fashion. His creations seem to be sculptures that emerge from the earth. ECOuture is his motto, and has led him to search for the most sustainable materials and production processes on the planet. For example? One of Guardini’s most innovative pieces was made from organic peace silk and recycled nylon. The dress featured hand embroidered sequins which were created from upcycled seashells and discarded CDs. No wonder he has won so much praise from fashion luminaries like Franca Sozzani, Livia Firth and Anna Wintour!

Sustainable Textiles


Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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