BERGAMO — “I’m upset,” admitted François Girbaud. The founder of French cult brand Marithé + François Girbaud was among the guests of the Denim Day organized on Friday by Italian textile machineries manufacturer Itema.
“It’s been 25 years I hear people talking about sustainability and I still don’t understand what we are talking about. I don’t see any progress. I think we need to understand what sustainability means,” he said during a panel on the evolution of sustainability in the denim chain. “They pretend to save the planet with circular economy, or with recycled plastic, but it’s just bulls–t. We need to educate people to make the difference.”
According to Girbaud, who around 1989 kicked off a journey aimed at making the denim industry more ecologically and socially responsible — for example, he boosted a battle against stone washing, a practice he actually invented — companies and designers should rely on creativity to find new solutions in terms of materials and machineries to reduce the impact on the environment, but most of all “to save people from slavery.”
In addition, Girbaud attacked the established fashion industry and the runway show system. “During the Paris shows, there are influencers, like Cara Delevingne, with billion of followers, who walk the catwalks wearing acid washed denim…they should say ‘no,’ because they have people looking and listening to them,” said Girbaud, passionately.
According to Federico Corneli, founder of sustainable denim brand Haikure, educating people to sustainability is key for brands. In order to reach that goal, the company, which 12 years ago introduced a tracing system enabling customers to have full transparency on the brand’s garments, activates educational programs across its social media platforms and also recently launched a magazine promoting a sustainable lifestyle.
“I think the challenge for the industry in the next five years is to increase the demand of sustainable products in the market,” he said. “In this perspective it would be helpful if the world of politics and governments could develop dedicated programs.”
“I really believe that consumers do care about sustainability as long as it’s embedded in a company’s value proposition,” said Marco Lucietti, senior adviser Copenhagen Fashion Summit, putting the focus on the importance for brands to build a full strategic vision around sustainability. “Embracing sustainability for a company should be like launching a new business. All the functions should be aligned in order to create a sustainable business which is profitable.”
Fashion giant Guess approached the sustainable theme only in 2016, according to Guess Europe merchandising director apparel Alessandro Bondavalli. “For us the sustainable journey started with empowering people, which means educating people on sustainability inside and outside the company. “In keeping with this vision, we started with a sustainable denim capsule developed in collaboration with Candiani, which we were selling with a sustainable kit pushing people to integrate more responsible practices in their everyday life.”
If in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the percentage of sustainable products manufactured by Guess accounted only for 0.1 and 0.3 percent of the company’s total offering, in 2019 this is expected to increase to 3 percent.
“Our target for 2020 is to have 15 percent of our collections sustainable and in five years is to bring the percentage to 50 percent,” Bondavalli said.
Finding solutions which are sustainable in the long term is the goal of Itema, according to sales and marketing director Christian Straubhaar. In particular, the company continues to invest on research & development to deliver machineries able to reduce energy consumption. In addition, according to Straubhaar, Itema is working to make machineries more and more efficient with recycled fibers.