One of the images of the #Redaway exhibition during Pitti Uomo.

MILAN — Reda Group, the Biella, Italy-based woolen mill, will take over the spaces of Fortezza da Basso in Florence during Pitti Uomo, staging a photo exhibition focusing on sustainability.

Starting from today through Friday, 10 billboards portraying natural landscapes are featured at the venue, inviting the audience to reconsider the relationship among men and nature, as well as highlighting the urge to preserve the ecosystem.

Dubbed “#Redaway: Sostenibilità, Trasparenza, Sopravvivenza,” or “#Redaway: Sustainability, Transparency, Survival” in English, the initiative will be flanked by a cocktail party hosted in partnership with Pitti Immagine on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

“For us, the word sustainability has become a synonym of survival. The textile industry’s increasing demands make raw materials scarcer and scarcer and the need to optimize production processes and cycles can’t be ignored anymore,” said Reda Group chief executive officer Ercole Botto Poala, adding that “a company can’t be competitive and therefore survive if it won’t be sustainable in the future.”

The initiative is in sync with the commitment to sustainability the group has been endorsing for 20 years.

The company is the world’s only full-cycle woolen mill to have received the EMAS certification, back in 2004. This stands for Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, a management instrument developed by the European Commission that enables organizations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. Participating companies voluntarily commit to both evaluating and reducing their environmental impact, providing public information on their performance and achieving greater transparency and credibility, as their constant improvement is verified.

“Sustainability can’t be seen in a fundamentalist way because if you want to be 100 percent sustainable, you must live in a forest and even in that case you would have an impact […] But in our industrialized world, what we have to do is to waste less and consume better,” said Botto Poala.

Over the last two decades Reda — whose sales rose to 115 million euros in 2018 compared to the 108 million euros registered the previous year — invested about 100 million euros in implementing strategies to reduce its environmental footprint, with the ultimate yet impossible goal to be a zero impact-company.

In particular, its Biella headquarters have been equipped with a photovoltaic system to produce electricity through renewable sources; heat recovery systems; LED lights, and a waste water treatment system allowing the recovery and reuse of waste water in the work cycles.

“Producing a kilo of wool takes about 300 liters of water, but we are able to use only half of it,” said Botto Poala. In addition, according to its circular business model, the company recycles and repurposes waste elements of its textile production, including materials from the recombing stages of the yarn-making process that are turned into other yarns.

Founded in 1865, the company annually produces 7.5 million meters of fabric, divided into two different merino wool lines supplied to international luxury brands. The Reda 1865 line offers high-end classic fabrics designed for tailoring cuts while Reda Active collections are developed specifically for technical sportswear and trendy leisurewear, featuring breathability, easy drying, comfort and biodegradability as assets.

“We have also to think about the collections in a sustainable way, wasting less fabric, making our machinery more efficient and conceiving more sustainable presentations,” said Botto Poala. “Imagine a client doing 70 percent sellout, which is a good result, yet the remaining 30 percent he produced is going to be wasted. That’s where we have to improve and I believe technology will help us to be more efficient.”

Another key challenge is the educational one, according to the executive. “Clients are still in the early stages: Some of them like sustainability because it’s right, others because it’s in-trend but they are still not fully aware that it has a price. They want to be sustainable but don’t want to pay for it, yet they have to understand that if they want a better product, they have to invest in it as we do.”

In particular, the executive cited that in fast fashion there are standards of sustainability applied on products but not on the environmental impact generated during the production process.

“This is the message we want to give because there’s a craving for sustainability, especially of the easy type, the one communicated through the use of organic cottons or recycled polyesters, but the real impact is in the transformation of raw materials,” continued Botto Poala, urging “to focus on how things are made rather than where they are coming from, which is only a tiny part of the problem.”

To reinforce its commitment to transparency and its educational mission, last year the textile company also introduced the Reda Sustainability Award to recognize and honor its best farmers in New Zealand and Australia.

The two winning farms, which received a prize in money to be reinvested in sustainable activities, respected a range of criteria, including the welfare of animals and cultivation, the traceability of the raw materials and the respect of the high-qualitative standards demanded by Reda.

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