Over the past few years, Redemption has shown that rock ’n’ roll, sexy and frisky can coexist with conscious, aware and socially responsible.
Bebe Moratti is someone who likes to state his case and do it his way, but always with an eye on what he considers good and right. For this reason, when the shy and reserved entrepreneur, scion of one of Italy’s most powerful families, decided to translate his passion for music, cinema and photography into a fashion label, Redemption, he immediately set special values at the heart of the label. One of these core values is that when the company reaches breakeven, half of its profits will be donated to support those who need.
In the meantime, Redemption, which produces 100 percent of its collections in Italy, continues to develop projects aimed at supporting nonprofit and charity organizations — most recently during the COVID-19 emergency, it decided to donate all the proceeds from its e-commerce sales to Best Buddies and Meals on Wheels America, as well as to Action Aid in Italy.
To combine the brand’s social responsibility commitment with a green strategy, Moratti also teamed with Livia Firth’s Eco-Age consultancy to develop a program to accelerate the transformation of Redemption into a true sustainable brand.
Ahead of a digital dinner where Moratti will discuss the collaboration with Eco-Age, he connected with WWD via Zoom for an exclusive interview about his company’s green transition, the importance of rediscovering true luxury, the relocation of his show from Paris to Milan, and how he hopes to trigger a positive change in the industry.
WWD: Let’s start from this collaboration with Eco-Age — why did you decide to team up with them?
Bebe Moratti: The collaboration with Eco-Age was born by the pragmatic awareness that you cannot be an expert on everything. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room, right? So we wanted to create a team with the right expertise to develop a project focused on sustainability, even if I’m not the biggest fan of this word.
B.M.: Over the past couple of years, it became a very popular word. And if there is something positive about this — that is the fact that consumers became more aware of the issue — at the same time I have the feeling it was used to do a sort of brainwashing. It’s definitely a concept that gives me mixed feelings. However, in my idea, sustainability is not a target but it’s an attitude, a vision to walk a path with people that are able to guide you. With Eco-Age, we started with an assessment to have a clear view of where we currently are. Then we made a list of priorities and we set short-, medium- and long-term goals. I want sustainability to become a mantra resonating in everything we do. With Eco-Age, we are developing a prolific, almost quotidian exchange and they will also support us in the creation of an efficient way to communicate our business model. This is something that we haven’t done until now, because when we launched the brand I wanted to realistically see if there was space in the market for my style. Now it’s becoming crucial to create awareness about the way we operate, not because we are vain, but because we hope to trigger a snowball effect, which might generate a positive avalanche.
WWD: Tell me more about your business model.
B.M.: Since the beginning, Redemption has been founded on a very peculiar business model, based on social, more than environmental, sustainability. I always wanted the brand to be fully Made in Italy because I believed that could have had a positive impact on the supply chain and on the people behind it. The actual goal has always been to create an environment, which could take into account those people left at the margins of society. From this, I started feeling the desire to embrace a more holistic vision, which considers both people and the environment. In this evolution, we aspire at becoming leaders in the segment we operate, developing a business model, which is open source, sharing our results, our suppliers and protocols. We hope that our accessible platform could serve for other brands to make important steps toward sustainability.
WWD: It seems that the coronavirus is making everyone more conscious and attentive. Do you think there are actual chances for true change to happen?
B.M.: I hope this, because if not, I would not do what I’m doing. At the same time I’m very realistic. We live in a world where the market is extremely polarized: there are brands that are really interested in becoming more ethical, while others couldn’t care less. I think this decade is really defined by a strong polarization in all the fields. I belong to a generation that is probably less opinionated than others, but when we were younger we used to be very reactive to what was happening around us. For example, in the Nineties, when the world discovered that the products of a super famous brand were sewn by kids in Indonesia, we actively reacted, we felt shocked. In 2013, the Rana Plaza tragedy shocked many, but many others couldn’t care less. And the same thing happens with companies. I have the feeling that this crisis will inflame this polarization: some will try to regain what they lost whatever it takes, others will realize that something has to definitely change.
The business model of the majority of the companies in the world is based on a model dating back to the end of the Seventies and the early Eighties, which was demonstrated to be unsustainable at a social and environmental level. If Redemption’s example becomes glaring, we have the chance to make the difference and trigger a positive copy and paste process.
WWD: You mentioned the fact that you want to develop an open-source platform. This is pretty uncommon in the fashion and luxury industry, which is dominated by patents and unrevealed secrets.
B.M.: I’m not scared at all to develop an open-source system. I really believe that the added value of a brand is its unique style. You may like it or not, but I think that Redemption has a very individual style. Not being a fashion insider, when I launched Redemption I was not aware of trends, and I just relied on my passions, including music, cinema and photography, as the sources of inspiration. I really believe that our authenticity is our strength. The fact that many collections are now developed from mood boards downloaded online is another problem of the industry. So many copied products circulate and the problem is aggravated by the fact that brands are pushed to do four or six collections a year, launching more and more products.
WWD: Do you think fashion will actually slow down, as many forecast?
B.M.: I hope companies will go back to a more romantic concept of fashion, to an idea of atelier, which works slowly but is able to deliver a real concept of heritage. I think that the luxury industry followed the model developed by fast fashion, which forced stores to anticipate sales and brands to continue launching collections and drops, most of the time with delocalized productions.
WWD: Are you considering cutting the number of collections you present every year?
B.M.: We are considering developing only two collections a year with the deliveries of pre-collections and probably with men’s. I think that considering the current situation, cutting the number of collections is a duty. I think we will unveil the next women’s collection with men’s in September in Milan.
WWD: You have always presented or shown in Paris. Why are you deciding to relocate the event to Milan? Is it a way to support the country?
B.M.: I think that the decision to produce all the collections in Italy since Day One is the biggest form of support to our country. I always considered the decision to present and then show in Paris not as a whammy for Milan, but instead as a way to be ambassador of the Made in Italy on the French catwalks, showcasing the identity and excellence of the Italian supply chain. In addition, personally, presenting in Paris, I wanted to take a step back from the Milanese scene, where I would have been judged, negatively or positively, because of my last name. I wanted an impartial feedback. I now feel it’s time for us to present the collections in Milan.
WWD: How do you expect to unveil the collection? Are you thinking about the format?
B.M.: The day of the show is my least favorite day of the year, because I’m shy and because the show lasts between seven and 10 minutes and after that, you know, you have to start over again. What I like about my job is the creative part, sharing ideas with my small team and creating the images to communicate the collection. In light of this, if because of the coronavirus we are not able to show, I definitely won’t miss it. Luckily, today technology, which I’m not a super fan of, gives us incredible opportunities and enables us to give visibility to the brand in many different ways. I’m not really focusing on the way we will show the collection in September, I’m more focused on the creative aspect now.
WWD: You mentioned that ideally the collections will be delivered, according to pre-collection schedules, so when do you expect the spring 2021 lineup to be ready?
B.M.: The idea is to be ready in July, even if most probably we will wait unit September to present it. We would like to be ready earlier for the American market, our biggest one, and maybe we will ship the collection there for the buyers who won’t be able to travel. We are trying to detach ourselves from the noise and do what is right for Redemption.
WWD: It seems that the digital fashion weeks will be accessible to the big public. I have the feeling that this might cause a further increase of the speed of the whole system. What do you think?
B.M.: The idea of shortened space and time makes me feel really scared. I think that excessive speed is one of the biggest issues of the economic cycle of the past 40 years. I believe that, especially now, you cannot take shortcuts. In order to return to be more creative, we all need more time. I think people have to get back to wait for what they desire, which for me is the heart of the idea of luxury. I see luxury as a vintage car from the Sixties, that you polish in your garage and you are happy to bring out for a ride. I highly value the importance of taking care of the things we love. This is true luxury. Like it happened in the Sixties when our fathers used to go to the tailor for their customized suits…in the Nineties, my first suits were my father’s, which he treated with care and love.
WWD: Redemption is very much focused on evening attire for special occasions, which might be significantly reduced this year. Do you expect this to have in impact on the brand?
B.M.: The current situation will definitely have an impact on our collections, which will be rationalized and will be smaller in terms of sku’s. The situation of the markets is uncertain and what we can do is navigate by sight. For example, we don’t know if the buyers from the U.S., our first market in the past seven years, will come to Europe and we don’t know what’s going to be the foot traffic in the stores. Since a big part of our brand awareness has been built through the endorsement of celebrities who spontaneously decided to wear our creations — we never paid anyone — the fact that almost all the big international events have been cancelled is expected to impact our communication strategies.
WWD: At the same time you recently introduced athleticwear, which is seen as a growing category in the different markets.
B.M.: Athletix is the fruit of my high passion for the world of sport. I have been addicted to sports so much. I was pretty reckless when I was younger, now my body is paying the dues of that — and I really believe in the social power of sports. Also, if governments would develop serious education strategies related to sports, they would prevent people from growing sick and they would have a direct financial benefit since the costs related to health care would be much lower. The idea behind Redemption is really connected to this concept of investing to see direct benefits getting back to you in a virtuous circle. With Athletix, we wanted to launch a fully sustainable product line, so we took two years of research and development to find the right materials and techniques, aimed at delivering products that are sustainable, stylish and functional. Athletix was born to be competitive in the athleticwear segment, but at the same time it can be easily mixed and match with the Redemption line. We launched with mainly leggings and bras, but the goal is to expand it to develop items for multiple sports, as well as leisurewear pieces.
WWD: With all the stores closed, including your flagship in New York, how did e-commerce perform?
B.M.: Because of the lockdown we couldn’t ship for a few weeks, but about two weeks ago the e-commerce went back to be fully operative and we made some sales. Athletix is especially giving positive results. At the same time, we see that our users’ carts are full, so we hope that they will soon finalize the orders.