On the heels of the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which saw Kering and H&M become part of a year-round initiative for sustainability in fashion, the companies have further cemented their dedication to finding more sustainable avenues for apparel production by joining the Fashion Positive Plus initiative.
The initiative, created by Amsterdam-based non-profit Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, is essentially a commitment by Kering and H&M, along with Eileen Fisher, Loomstate and Zero + Maria Cornejo, to collaborate on the development of “circular” commonly used base materials for the broader apparel industry.
A circular material is something that goes beyond recyclability, according to Annie Gullingsrud, director of Cradle to Cradle’s textiles and apparel sector, who said recycling is only one aspect of a truly circular product.
“A product that is recyclable is not necessarily always sustainable from the standpoint of holistic environmental and human health, safety and responsibility,” Gullingsrud said. “A circular material refers to safe ingredients, perpetually cycled, managed in ways that respect humans and the environment.”
Cecilia Takayama, director of Kering’s Materials Innovation Lab, noted that circularity has “endless possibilities and can truly change the industry as we know it today.”
“I am already envisioning the new, sustainably certified materials that our Materials Innovation Lab will be able to offer to all our brands,” Takayama added.
As for what specific base materials Kering, which operates the likes of Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, and the other brands are looking to first become circular, Gullingsrud said the Fashion Positive initiative is still at the identification stage.
“The group hopes to identify a first set of materials soon,” she said.
Once identified, the plan is for these materials to get a gold-level certification by Cradle to Cradle, which operates a third-party certification process that looks at a given product based on its material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.
After that, Gullingsrud is hoping that such certified base materials will “catalyze systemic change for the fashion industry.”
“Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that all materials used throughout the fashion industry are circularly designed and verified as safe and healthy for humans and our environment,” she added.
Cradle to Cradle lists 70 certified materials as either basic, bronze, silver, gold or platinum, including several types of cotton, building materials and cleaning supplies, among other products.
The institute was founded in 2010 by architect and designer William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, who created the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy and related assessment to in an effort to counteract the idea of the linear take-make-waste, or “cradle to grave,” paradigm they see as characterizing industrialized society.
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