CLASS believes "responsible innovation" is the focus of fashion.

Combining firsthand knowledge in raw material development, ingredient branding for leading international organizations and 30 years of experience in the textile sector, Giusy Bettoni, already envisioned fashion’s future. It’s one where smart choices — and responsible innovation — propel a more holistic fashion industry.

So, Bettoni created an international platform to connect all the key players in fashion, providing the resources they need to realize sustainability and redefine the conventions of “sustainable fashion.” CLASS — an acronym for “Creativity, Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy” — was born in 2007, and over a decade later — it’s considered the go-to global resource for smart material innovation, education, marketing and communication,” the organization said.

Today’s “conscious consumer”

“The consumer, is for sure, more demanding about ethical and sustainable issues. But the question is: ‘How is the market responding to this?’” said Bettoni, who also pointed out rising eco-fabric sales, revealing “one of the fastest growing areas.”

Bettoni believes “responsible innovation represents the core interest in the fashion industry in 2019,” and it’s no doubt fueled by this consumer demand, citing the rise of the “conscious consumer” identified in reports from Euromonitor International, and more. But instead of using terms such as sustainable or ethical fashion, Bettoni prefers to talk about responsible innovation, which encourages new business models and businesses to take a broader approach at all phases of fashion creation. This ensures responsibility is embedded at every stage of fashion development and production.

In such a climate, the circular economy crowns responsible innovators with a distinct competitive advantage whereby resources are folded into the supply chain (minimizing waste while maximizing utility), and the consumer applauds brands for their sustainable agendas. This, too, became part of the foundation and continues to be at the core of CLASS in conveying the importance of being responsible. As familiarity with concepts such as the circular economy, “design waste out” and sustainability grows, so does the demand for technological innovations to engineer smart materials. With that understanding, responsible fashion collections are achieved, and at a scale indicative of the breakneck pace of consumer demand.

Through customized consultancy programs, CLASS engages and guides clients through its integration process — introducing a new generation of responsible smart values for fashion and businesses. At the core of Bettoni’s company is access to the CLASS material hub that showcases materials that inspire creativity and are backed by sustainable credentials. CLASS works with brands, retailers, universities and fashion newcomers to encourage them to embrace “responsible design,” so they can, as Bettoni says it: “reap the rewards of infusing innovation into their DNA.” Through a dedicated team and the resources to match, the goal of responsible innovation is realized. Responsible innovation to CLASS means integrating a new dimension of quality, performance and value that is beautiful and innovative into all products created.

“It is important that brands and retailers adopt a new way of design thinking that represents a shift in culture. They need to recognize that fashion has a new conscientious consumer that is knowledgeable,” reiterated Bettoni.

New generation of innovation

With the assistance of CLASS, a new dimension of quality, performance and value is rendered, so that sustainability is a reality, visible in every product output.

To meet the needs of the contemporary consumer, CLASS believes that the transparency of the supply chain together with clearer communication about new smart certified values (including use of water, chemicals, energy and ethical policies) “could be something really fundamental for consumers to judge and value products in a more complete way.” Thus, its partners are at the forefront of materials technology and innovation. Innovations include “smart silk” Bacx by Centro Seta; cupro fiber Bemberg; premium stretch fiber Roica by Asahi Kasei and Tintex Textiles, among many more.

CLASS provides expert solutions in eco-smart innovation through strategic communication, education, corporate training and material innovation. It has created an exclusive library of select eco-smart materials representing the latest innovations. From there, designers can seek inspiration and create with a new intention.

“At a professional stage, we are engaging daily with brands and retailers, trying to inform and push them as much as possible toward smart materials, processes and smart production,” said Bettoni. And in 2018, CLASS launched its education platform aiming to foster the creativity of responsible fashion newcomers and students.

It’s not just about sustainability, but about “adding a new generation of values that speaks to the consumer.” These values mean “fashion needs to be beautiful, innovative and responsible” without compromise. And for the collections that integrate those values, there is a competitive advantage. With technology, there’s a possibility to optimize processes further and deliver a new level of economy of scale.

Fashion’s eco-frontline

Bettoni sees a bright future ahead, citing fashion brands striding ahead and leading change in regards to sustainable practices, which includes:

• Swedish sustainable brand, Filippa K’s journey toward sustainability is guided by “Front Runners” — garments developed as sustainably as possible today. The Front Runners go thorough sustainable life-cycle assessments, where every phase of the garments’ lifecycle, from raw material to afterlife, is examined and adjusted with minimal ecosystem impact in mind. The plan is to make all collections sustainable by 2030 and “Re.Verso,” a certified Italian-made, transformed wool, perfectly fits into this plan. Filippa K was awarded with the Design Challenge prize during Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2016.

Stella McCartney has replaced all of its virgin cashmere knitwear with the Re.Verso re-engineered cashmere yarn. The fabric is made in Italy from pre-consumer waste and has a 92 percent reduction in environmental impact compared to virgin cashmere. By using solely Re.Verso regenerated cashmere for its cashmere needs in 2016, the label estimates cashmere impact to be as low as 2 percent.

• Eileen Fisher has committed to use only eco-preferred materials by the year 2020. Eileen Fisher is championing the use of recycled fibers, among other sustainable fibers.

Patagonia has been using recycled materials in its products since 1993, turning plastic soda bottles into fleece. Since then, Patagonia has incorporated recycled materials into its apparel and equipment including recycled nylon, wool and fleece. For fall 2017, Patagonia worked with Re.Verso to introduce a recycled cashmere sweater collection, collected from factory scraps.

• Knowing the transformative power of fitness, Daquïni was founded in 2012 to help women bridge the gap between how they feel and how they think they look when they are working out. Each Daquïni item is made in the E.U. from the highest quality Oeko-Tex-certified materials.

• Founded a decade ago, Ecoalf is today an international reference for sustainable fashion, and the latest spring 2019 collection perfectly depicts the intersection between design, quality and innovation. One long-sleeve T-shirt from the collection is made out of a premium Bemberg fabric, providing exquisite comfort and upholding circular economy credentials.

• The New York-based brand Erin Snow creates chemically safe, circularly designed and socially fair luxury performance apparel. “The Teri pant” is Erin Snow’s most innovative and highly anticipated pant to date, made from the finest “bluesign”-approved Schoeller 4-way stretch fabric containing Roica V550 premium stretch sustainable fiber. The pant is insulated with PrimaLoft Gold Luxe and repels water and dirt without PFCs, thanks to Schoeller’s “ecorepel bio” finishing while giving maximum freedom of movement.

• Ilaria Nistri, the Italian brand of the namesake designer. Last year, the brand selected several Infinity Bemberg fabrics for “poetical and essential styles.” One of the brand’s strengths is its deep knowledge of fabrics and its ability to combine contrasting materials, overlapping or inserting them to create a fluid silhouette that appears elegant yet edgy at the same time.

Whistles launched a capsule collection of sustainable cashmere jumpers in collaboration with Re.Verso by Filpucci and CLASS in December 2018. Whistles aims to weave sustainability through the fabric of the company’s corporate strategy, while staying rooted to the brand’s core values of integrity and collaboration.

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