Much like the “slow food” wave that preserves the traditional prosciuttos and mozzarellas for which Italy is famous, the apparel industry’s slow-fashion movement is in full effect.
At the heart of it: the yarn industry.
Collections from the nation’s top yarn firms at the 79th edition of the Pitti Filati fair, which will run from June 29 to July 1 at Florence’s Fortezza da Basso fairgrounds, will be based on local craftsmanship, sustainability, high quality and slow production.
Premier firms like Cariaggi, Filpucci, Tollegno 1900, Lanificio dell’ Olivo and Safil have been producing yarns under the “artisanal” and “eco” ethos for several seasons, but the upcoming Pitti Filati fair will see even more ethically conscious collections.
One such example is the Filmar “Cotton for Life” project that will be presented by Marina Spadafora, creative director of Auteurs du Monde, a fashion collection entirely produced by artisans in South East Asia, Africa and South America. Filmar is pioneering a project in Egypt that involves the transparent and sustainable production cycle of organic cotton.
“Fashion has to be correct. There are no benefits for anyone to produce in unethical sweatshops in developing nations,” said Federico Gualtieri, vice president of Filpucci.
Gualtieri recently enhanced the family-run company’s reputation on a global level with the launch of a cashmere line called Re.Verso, a certified process that resurrects unused offcuts made available by top Italian and international fashion brands and producers.
Industry leaders said sustainability is key in the quest for a slow-fashion system.
“Sustainable and slow fashion go hand-in-hand. Slow fashion definitely takes into account the appropriate timing, appropriate way of doing things, but you need a sustainable approach,” said Giusy Bettoni, founder of CLASS Eco Hub, a leading proponent of recycled yarns and fabrics.
Among its many partnerships, the organization has teamed up with Filatura C4 for furnishings fabrics and Lanificio Stelloni for fashion textiles that were used in Gucci’s fall collection.
Marco Ricchetti, senior economist of Blumine, a network specializing in the economy, production, communication and culture of sustainable fashion and design agreed that slow fashion within the yarn industry is championing sustainable fashion.
Specific to the yarn industry is the debate regarding raw materials that have a small impact on the environment and the use of non-chemical dyes.
“There are several companies that use bio or natural colors, but until four or five years ago, there weren’t any that were high-quality,” Ricchetti said.
On the other end of the slow yarn spectrum is storytelling and building a sense of place and highlighting the hand craftsmanship Italy is known for. In part, this has been driven by Italian fashion leaders whose goal is to forge a sustainable creative fashion industry.
Brands like knitwear maker Cividini have hosted live performances of ancient hand-knitting during fashion week, while Brunello Cucinelli frequently hosts journalists at his Umbrian headquarters to showcase rolling hills and medieval homes and farms where his wool comes from and where his future artisans are being schooled.
Textile makers that produce their own yarns, like Reda 1865 and Ermenegildo Zegna, have been successful selling their luxury wool fabrics alongside images of their idyllic wool farms in Australia and New Zealand.
For historic firms like these, owning their farms allows them to have a close relationship with farmers and the raw materials, even though it doesn’t necessarily satisfy all of their production.
Smaller firms like Lanificio Botto Giuseppe, which will show at Pitti Filati, have also asserted their relationship with farmers in Australia to enforce their dedication to the slow-fashion trend.
The Biella-based firm is expected to introduce its Naturalis Fibra collection made with “Slowool yarns,” which is a part of its Fair Cashmere family of yarns.
Naturalis Fibra’s wool comes from sheep reared by the Australian Congi company that specializes in superfine wools. One key aspect of the exclusive partnership is that the sheep have not been subjected to mulesing, a stripping technique criticized for the practice of ripping the wool off animals at the buttocks.
In addition, Naturalis Fibra’s yarn is dyed in accordance with standards set by Cradle to Cradle to guarantee that the yarns are totally sustainable, ethical and rigorously natural.
“The idea behind the Slowool line is to remind everyone that in the past few years, our industry has been dominated by fast fashion,” said Botto Giuseppe chief executive officer Silvio Botto Poala. “We want to return to a more humane industry that is more in touch with the artisanal side, and is more in tune with nature. That’s really the ethos behind slow fashion.”
Wool, by definition, is sustainable and biodegradable and is why in recent years, some sportswear brands have been opting for wool as a natural performance material over synthetic, petroleum-based fabrics, explained Fabrizio Servente, global strategy adviser for The Woolmark Co.
“Luxury isn’t just the name of the designer, it is about the contents of the products they produce,” Servente said. “Slow fashion means returning to artisan craftsmanship and authenticity.”