Ecofriendly fashion is invading the market with loads of new products. Not only premium denim connoisseurs look for vegetal indigo dyed, organic or BCI cotton denim jeans. Many fabric manufacturers are regenerating pre-and post-consumer waste materials into new top quality fabrics. Chemical substance manufacturers, finishers and dyers - but also footwear and eyewear brands - are betting strongly on sustainability. Though are consumers ready for buying such products? And is the industry mature enough for reaching such different standards? By Maria Cristina Pavarini

Freitag F-ABRIC, ecofriendly jeans
Freitag F-ABRIC, ecofriendly jeans


Even if fashion has always been conscious – though not changing its attitude - about how environmentally damaging most of the products and production techniques might have been, a true turning point came with the year 2011, when Greenpeace launched its detox campaign aimed at encouraging some of the world's most popular clothing brands to eliminate all employs and releases of hazardous chemicals in their production processes and in the selection of materials.

Over half a million designers, fashion fans and activists started supporting this cause and most sensitive brands and manufacturers joined the detox protocol. Right now over 30 global fashion leaders have made a commitment to detox their clothes, though Greenpeace’s next expectation is a toxic-free future in fashion to be reached by 1st January 2020. Among the most virtuous brands that are considered as detox leaders by Greenpeace are Adidas, Benetton, Burberry, C&A, Esprit, G-Star, H&M, Inditex Group, Levi’s, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, Patagonia and Valentino. Although there is still much left to do.

Italian fashion: the next new level
Also in 2011, the Italian Fashion Chamber also took into consideration the importance to free Italian top quality fashion products and brands from most hazardous substances, chemicals and dangerous to health production techniques, practices and materials. For these reasons, they not only started to engage and push Italian fashion to the next new level, but will also soon involve other international fashion chambers in a project that Italy started some years ago. “Since 2011 we opened a table attended by most important Italian luxury brands. We have been working in order to involve as many insiders as possible, and fashion chambers from France, UK and the US,” explained Carlo Capasa, president of Camera Moda. “

GStar RAW for the Oceans, made with recycled PET-bottles
GStar RAW for the Oceans, made with recycled PET-bottles


By end 2015 we will publish a first document that defines a common standard about substances that can be dangerous for the environment and are employed by the apparel, leather and footwear industries,” he continues while explaining that Italian fashion pret-à-porter brands were already in line with international eco-friendly standards, and started working even more towards them in the last years in order to compete with low-cost and harmful low quality products. Their aim is to guarantee the highest level of sustainability in terms of materials, chemicals and treating substances and assure the consumer with the lowest levels of health risks and allergy problems. “Then throughout 2016 we will focus on other agreements about sustainability related to working environment, raw materials and social impact. All this is meant to defend consumers even if not all of them are already considering it as a crucial matter.”

When fashion meets food
Other aims of this operation are meant to show most demanding consumers from all over the world how top quality fashion from Italy – and hopefully from other countries - is valuable and forward thinking, thus worth its premium prices. “Guaranteeing the consumer such high, above-the-line, sustainable and overall safe standards can really make the difference when educated luxury consumers will be requesting the best from the market,” explained a spokesperson for Camera Moda.

Amazonas, made with organic substances
Amazonas, made with organic substances


“Considering a trend happening in bio food purchases, for instance, in Italy in the last few years the demand for bio food has grown enormously year after year because they have become more conscious, educated and demanding about what they eat. Similarly this is what will be happening soon in fashion. We notice this because all of our associates are showing always more desire to learn and experiment in this field,” continues the spokesperson. Among the targets Italian brands want to reach – in order to differentiate themselves- is to print, for instance, on each garment’s label all chemicals employed for that product.”

New paths to tread upon
Other parallel phenomena are also happening in the denim and textile market. Apart from the various vegetal dyed indigo denims made with organic or BCI cotton, or employing substances that need less quantity of water, energy and chemicals, denim producer Orta Anadolu and garment maker M&J Group have recently distinctly signed an agreement with Garmon, a chemical substance manufacturer, as part of GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals, a methodology approved by Greenpeace for certifying non-harmful chemical and substances. It is based on toxicology analysis basis and aimed at identifying safer chemicals. GreenScreen, for instance, has approved 40 of the chemical products employed by Garmon specifically in the textile field.

New fashion perspectives
More innovative technology and new fabrics are being produced with these aims in mind: bamboo, recycled wool, cypress, hemp fibers, nettle and milk fibers are employed by fabric manufacturers as well as recycled PET, which is no longer simply employed by denim weavers, but also by brands. Among some of the newest ideas and developments come from Re-Bello, a new brand that employs most of these innovative fibers for its young total look collection.

Orta Mavi T-Shirt
Orta Mavi T-Shirt


The El Naturalista footwear brand has just launched a line of vegan shoes made without employing any animal origin substances such as, for instance, leather, threads, linings or finishing substances. Freitag also launched F-Abric, its new ecofriendly five-pocket jean series without rivets or any polyester threads, all made in Europe using European fibers out of true hemp and linen that are 100 % compostable. Amazonas offers a line of flip-flops made with organic substances that destroy themselves and can be recycled after four years. Also the eyewear market is fascinated by sustainability.

The newborn Oblò brand not only offers cool design glasses whose lenses can be easily replaced, but all glasses are made with Grilamid, a completely eco-friendly substance that is made with 58% of renewable resources. All frames are lightweight, highly resistant to impact, chemicals and water.

Telling different stories
Also new stories to tell consumers and insiders can help increasing awareness for the environment. Some textile manufacturers are merging such causes. Both Orta and Eurojersey, for instance, have just launched initiatives aimed at defending endangered species such as Caretta turtles. Orta, for the second year, is supporting baby turtles and has launched a line of T-shirts in collaboration with Mavi Jeans to be sold through Mavi Jeans stores in Turkey and their US website (http://www.mavi.com). Italian knit fabric manufacturer Eurojersey partnered with WWF while implementing projects aimed at the conservation of the Mediterranean coasts and Caretta turtles.

Re-Bello. made from bamboo recycled wool and other alternative fibers
Re-Bello. made from bamboo recycled wool and other alternative fibers


Are consumers ecofriendly enough?
Getting more specifically into what the consumer is ready to buy or not is another point that cannot be forgotten. On one side the number of products and different categories of eco-friendly lines is vertically growing and a sign that the market is getting increasingly sensitive to these issues. Despite this, not everyone believes consumers are ready to spend more or simply look for such products. According to Claudio Toson, consultant for various denim manufacturers, it is a matter of local sensitivity: “In Northern Europe, for instance, there is greater sensitivity for eco-friendly products, therefore consumers understand why they have to spend more. Differently in countries such as France, Spain and Italy where consumers’ main concern remains the price. Here, the environmental friendliness becomes less relevant.”

Similarly, Stefano Calzolari, sales consultant, believes that the problem continues to lay in price sensitivity and in retailers, most of whom are suffering: “I think only higher-end consumers are ready to buy such products. More generally ecofriendly fashion requests a special assistance and great explanation about qualities and productive process details from retailers’ side. Despite stores have other more urgent priorities right now. Retailers prefer to sell fast fashion products which can be bought in faster times and bring cash faster – while helping them reach the end of the month without risking losses in their accounting balance.”

El Naturalista, vegan shoes
El Naturalista, vegan shoes


A different point of view comes from Ara Blu, a newborn consulting studio for the fabric market founded by two expert insiders - Dalia Benefatto and Federica Albiero. They explain: “Eco-friendly fashion needs to be offered in a daring new skin, able to provoke positive influence. Consumer awareness is not there yet, but desirability is the ‘new black’. The important fashion names should start arousing consciousness and make fashion become the new ‘perfect wave’ everyone is waiting for.”

Therefore the approach Italian fashion brands want to spread is the right one because consumers, if taught and fascinated about fair causes, can appreciate true eco-friendliness. And Italy can become a “healthy carrier” of sustainability.

Nudie Jeans, organic cotton denim jacket
Nudie Jeans, organic cotton denim jacket