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As the whole fashion system is in flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are reevaluating their priorities — and putting sustainability at the core of their activities.

Como, Italy-based silk specialist Mantero Seta SpA has found more than one reason during lockdown to step up its sustainable commitment, as part of its Respect program of social corporate responsibility initiatives.

Four years in the making, the company has introduced the Resilk regenerated fabric developed in partnership with solution provider Marchi & Fildi. The idea stemmed from the need to upcycle pre-consumer deadstock coming from the fabrics’ selection, as the company’s clients — including luxury fashion brands, which often ask for exclusive textiles — would not accept those with flaws, consequently forcing the brand to burn them.

“The project has a sustainable silver lining in all its aspects, preventing us from burning economic, ethical and environmental assets,” noted Franco Mantero, the company’s chief executive officer, and the fourth generation of the founding family.

Unwanted 100 percent silk fabrics are destroyed through mechanical processes to obtain a new yarn that is GRS-certified and weaved into new textiles that boast the same gleam of silk but feel like cashmere for their softness. The Resilk fabric is suitable for women’s and men’s wear as well as for upholstery and Mantero said its price is in line with similar textiles.

The fabric is employed for a capsule collection of garments within the fall collection of the company’s owned Mantero 1902 brand.

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A scarf crafted from Mantero Seta’s Resilk upcycled fabric.  Courtesy of Mantero Seta SpA.

“The pandemic has convinced us that we need to reevaluate the way we live and the way we do business, which might be in sharp contrast with the essence of luxury itself, in which the goal is to obtain a product that is as perfect as it can be,” noted Mantero. To this end, he added that the eco-friendly component should come hand in hand with a good design and quality, as commercial success cannot rely on the green aspect only.

Mantero’s eco-friendly efforts are extended to the entire production process — of regular silk for scarves and ties that are ZDHC-certified — by avoiding harmful chemicals and relying on a system that reduces CO2 emissions, as well as photovoltaic panels, currently supplying 20 percent of the company’s energetic needs. A cogeneration system will bring the quota up to 80 percent in the next few years.

All these measures are “even more important in the wake of COVID-19, which forced us to reevaluate our priorities, keeping the same goals we already had but giving a different priority to each of them,” Mantero contended.

The company’s broader CSR program is intended to promote a sustainable and responsible way of doing business across finance, workforce, the environment and the products, in sync with the United Nations’ SDGs.

To this end, Mantero has brought on board a younger workforce with 100 employees under 30 especially in the design department coming from fashion schools such as Milan’s Naba and Istituto Marangoni and London’s Royal College of Arts, among others. It has also partnered with the U.N.’s UNHCR program aimed at offering a chance and job to refugees coming from Ethiopia, Syria, Pakistan and Mali, with “personal stories that are very different from what we’re used to,” Mantero said.

In 2019 the company generated revenues of 97 million euros, up 10 percent compared to 2018.

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