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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
A few seasons ago at Milan Fashion Week, Greenpeace distributed ‘The Fashion Duel’ survey, to find out if 15 of the top luxury fashion brands in Italy were respecting our planet.
The aim was for the labels to eliminate toxic substances from their manufacturing processes as well to help stop deforestation by using recycled paper in their packaging. According to Greenpeace, Roberto Cavalli, Prada and Dolce&Gabbana were amongst the very worst polluters, and frankly, it seemed they couldn’t care less. Gucci didn’t make the cut either, but they were quite upset about this, and a response from the Florentine brand’s headquarters came promptly:
“Gucci has been proving for many years the serious intent of committing to sustainability, through a series of initiatives that are often certified by independent corporations, as concerns both the products and the processes of manufacturing. These initiatives have confirmed that Gucci is one of the current fashion world leaders in the field of sustainability. Our research and investment in this field is continuous and we keep in high value our collaboration with Greenpeace, and every consideration from the organisation will be received as an incentive to improve.”
Though this was a public statement from the company, off the record, a senior manager told Eluxe that not only is Gucci focused on sustainability, but the parent company of the brand (Kering) has been working on the greening of Gucci and all its brands (which include Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, to name a few) for almost a decade; the problem is that the larger the company, the slower the change. But on the positive side, the more profound those results will be overall for the planet. With revenues over 3.1 billion Euros, more than 8,000 direct employees and over 370 directly operated stores around the world, eco-friendly policy changes at the Kering Group represent a serious plus for us all.
A Long History of Working Towards Change
Gucci’s dedication to sustainability goes back as far as 2004, when the Italian label launched a voluntary certification process in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility to be applied to its entire production chain. Three years later, in August 2007, Gucci was the first to achieve such official certification in the field of luxury goods for the supply chain of its leather goods and jewellery. What that means is that no toxins are used in the tanning or dyeing of Gucci’s leather goods, and all their jewellery is ethically mined. In fact, rather than relying on the word of mining companies, Gucci has become involved in the process of extraction themselves, to be 100% sure this is as ethically and environmentally friendly as possible.
In 2010, Gucci changed its packaging, producing it exclusively from either recycled materials or paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is 100% sustainable and recyclable. Gucci also subscribed to a moratorium with Greenpeace that ensures consumers their leather doesn’t come from cattle raised on former rainforest in the Amazon-and in the same year, they also opposed the eco-harmful practice of sandblasting jeans.
In 2011, the label launched a design contest in sustainability,where 18 participants were asked to take inspiration from Gucci’s famous Bamboo bag (the original design dates back to the 1940s!), with the criteria of using bamboo to design a bag while taking into account minimum environmental impact. The winner of the sustainability contest was Laura Popoviciu, who created a chic white tote with bamboo eco-handles. The Ever Manifesto Bamboo Bag was a huge hit.
The use of bamboo spun off to the jewellery department, when Gucci turned to Chinese actress and Environmental Goodwill Ambassador at the United Nations, Li Bingbing and her charity organisation L.O.V.E., revealing a limited-edition watch and bracelet made from natural bamboo and tagua nut (the plant-based alternative to ivory). The 35mm timepiece’s stainless-steel and bamboo link bracelet lends an exotic spirit to the watch, while paying homage to the fashion house’s iconic horse-bit in its intricate design. In honour of this collection, Gucci Timepieces & Jewellery supports a reforestation program in the Ningxia region of China, where a special plant, ‘Clematis canescens,’ capable of surviving droughts, will grow to revive the ecosystem in the area.
2012 was the year for green Gucci eyewear, with the launch of eco-friendly sunglasses made out of biodegradable material known as liquid wood. ‘Sustainable Soles,’ shoes made out of a biodegradable material as an alternative to petrochemical plastic, was also launched. The collection included the Marola Green ballerinas for ladies and the California Green sneakers for gentlemen. The eco-friendly material biodegrades much faster than industrial plastic, and makes a much lighter environmental impact.
In March 2013 Gucci launched the Green Carpet Challenge Jackie Handbag in collaboration with Rainforest Alliance Certified Bamboo, with the aim of fighting deforestation in Brazil. Gucci made a generous donation to the National Wildlife Federation to safeguard the Amazon rain forest. Each bag produced in the collection came with a ‘Gucci passport’, that detailed the history of the sustainable production process for these bags. The artisanal burgundy leather on the outside and bio-cotton interior made the bag a favourite with Hilary Swank, Livia Firth and other major celebrities.
May 2013 saw Gucci attending the Copenhagen Fashion Summit to present the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility policies and sustainability strategies and to introduce the development of new eco-products. One of highlights of the summit was the introduction of a metal-free tanning process that Gucci is patenting under the Kering Group umbrella (formerly PPR). This technique is not only non-toxic, but it will greatly reduce the waste of water, energy and metal that normally goes into leather tanning techniques.
These are just some of the more exciting initiatives undertaken by Gucci. We could go on at length about Kering’s dedication to lighter packaging to reduce waste and transport emissions; their promise to phase out harmful materials like PVC from all the group’s lines by 2016; the eco-friendly office policies they are implementing such as replacing all lights with eco-friendly LED bulbs and low-flush toilets, and much more. But the fact of the matter is that for Gucci, Green is without a shadow of a doubt the new Black, and although they may not have received the thumbs up from Greenpeace yet, we are sure that as soon as the fashion giant’s wheels are in motion, it will act as a true example for all other global luxury fashion brands. Are you paying attention, LVMH?