MILAN — An unusually bare, simple black men’s jacket is about to set a milestone for Italian and European fashion: its makers claim it is the first outerwear garment with a traced and measured environmental footprint.
The world’s first Made Green in Italy garment will be presented at the Pitti Uomo trade fair in Florence this month by Italian outerwear maker Herno, textile producer Eurojersey and petrochemical specialist Radici Group — covering the production cycle from fiber to finished garment. It will be delivered to stores before the meaning of the tag has been made official with a legislative seal, as the tag itself is a work in progress.
“The tag ‘Made Green in Italy’ will be instituted,” said Claudio Marenzi, president of Herno. “It is still early to put on clothing. We do not yet know the rules for it. In terms of communication, we are still waiting for details.”
Marenzi said, “The objective is that the European Commission will [eventually] require a tag on every garment that explains the environmental footprint of each. The consumer will be able to choose a garment also based on the environmental footprint that it has.”
For now, such efforts are voluntary. The 16 environmental parameters scrutinized over the course of the jacket’s production were defined by an EC directive that sets a standard methodology for measuring the environmental footprint for all products, not just fashion. It is called the Product Environmental Footprint, or PEF.
Herno, Eurojersey and Radici Group said they jumped on the chance to collaborate alongside the 26 working groups tasked across a range of sectors with testing the method.
“We responded immediately in 2013 as one of the companies, letting the inspectors in to take measurements,” said Filippo Servalli, corporate director for marketing and sustainability at Radici Group. “We are acting as the pace-setter for outerwear.”
The standard was legalized in December 2015 and is set to be adopted by Italy in its budget for next year, which usually passes in December.
While other product-cycle tracing methods exist, such as Mode Tracker, Cradle to Cradle Certified, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index and the Environmental Profit & Loss, the Herno jacket adheres to a governmental standard and quantifies the impact of an individual garment. Its makers can say with certainty that a jacket’s manufacture caused water resource depletion that is less than 0.4 percent of average annual consumption by a European citizen. They also claim comparable articles made in China come with a 165 percent higher cost to the environment.
“I think [this] is really a big step forward for everyone on an international level,” said Giusy Bettoni, head of C.L.A.S.S., a worldwide multiplatform network that promotes fashion, textiles and materials created using sustainable technology. “On the one hand, it serves to seriously clarify the history of the production process, and on the other, it finally offers to the consumer a product that speaks in a simple, concrete way of new generation values that this garment is able to offer.”
The unstructured, soft sports jacket appears to have less than four ingredients: soft nylon fabric, two buttons and thread. There are no shoulder pads, no lining, no embellishments. It may be plain, but its minimalism makes it easier to track its PEF, and ensures less environmental impact once it hits a consumer’s closet.
“More than 50 percent of the environmental impact of a product is on the shoulders of the consumer,” said Andrea Crespi, general manager of Eurojersey.
He asserted that this burden is relieved by the jacket’s stretch nylon fabric that requires no dry-cleaning, no ironing and is particularly long-lived, defying the disposable economy in favor of a circular one, as simple construction will also make the jacket easier to recycle down the road.
With a retail price of about 550 euros, or $627, Marenzi said “the price is in line” with comparable garments.
“The future of sustainability tomorrow will be that any garment bought must have its environmental impact declared,” said Crespi. “It will give consumers the ability to choose what they want and on what conditions, such as its environmental impact and at what price.”