What does being sustainable even mean today? By now, the adjective has become part of our everyday language – whether fashionable or not – in relation to behaviours, uses and purchases. Sustainability has become a synonym of everyday life for most fashion creators who, forcibly or not, must consider it as a prerogative of their designs. And not only them: photographers, stylists, producers and marketing officers have come to terms with a world that until a few years ago was considered of minor importance. Today, the abused term sustainability is vague.

The issues that fashion must face are not only related to the production of clothes or environmental impact; they have multiplied, become increasingly refined and sometimes subtle, often related to social matters and sometimes to what is politically correct. It would be better to use the broader word responsibility, which is directly linked to ethics. Sustainable is that which we can find, that which is offered to us; responsible is what arises from an intrinsic need within humans. The substantial value is the awareness we bring to everyday gestures and, more specifically, to design and creativity.

Fashion between speed and the disastrous impact on the environment: analysis by Maxine Bédat

The speed of the fashion world and the disastrous impact on the environment: analysis by Maxine Bédat Obviously, it is essential to start from the basics, as Maxine Bédat explains in her book Unraveled. The Life and Death of a Garment. Readers’ eyes are opened by the author to a fast-fashion industry that is too fast, but cannot be eliminated for personal reasons (product feasibility, the competitive price) but which remains one of the evils of the world due to the disastrous impact on workers’ conditions and the environment.

We are increasingly realising that responsibility is closely linked to working conditions in the fashion system that are often forgotten. Bédat strongly insists on the human side of the investigation, analysing the unfortunate protagonists that the spotlight never illuminates. We’re not only talking about China, India or African countries, but also about American ones. Regardless, the analysis takes on even more value as Bédat illustrates how the system can be improved horizontally: from transparent marketing to essential production, up to explanations of what happens to our clothes when they are thrown away. This leads to the last chapter that opens the doors to a possible change, a new deal necessary to ‘create a vision for the future’.

Fashion Environment
Cardigan Dhruv Kapoor, shirt Cavia, skirt Phipps, choker LEONARDO VALENTINI, shoes Marsèll, socks model’s own

From Lessico Familiare to Marcello Pipitone: creativity, sustainability and craftsmanship

In fact, Bédat’s positive approach can be found in almost all designers who address the issue of responsibility. Designers issue very few apocalyptic warnings, and the most famous and popular examples – such as Demna’s show for Balenciaga Fall 2020 – are also the furthest from what happens in reality.
Generally, the world’s fate could be improved by responsible fashion. It’s enough to start from scratch, to build a new, conscious fashion.

Fortunately, Italy is a great example. Milan and its designers have always positively responded to responsible creativity, strongly desired and supported by Sara Sozzani Maino, Orsola de Castro and Matteo Ward, who in turn educate about conscious fashion and analyse the current state of the system (Junk, Ward’s docuseries on the impact of fashion in the world, can be found on YouTube). A new generation of sustainable designers has arisen: Vitelli, Lessico Familiare, Garbage Core, Florania, Cavia, Marcello Pipitone, Simon Cracker. There are so many names, more and more, and each of them addresses the subject in a very personal way.

Through extreme upcycling and punk, Simon Cracker (Simone Botte, Filippo Biraghi) criticises fashion itself in a dada key, mocking it without ever taking it seriously. Garbage Core (Giuditta Tanzi) creates a cool wardrobe starting from what remains of previous productions or from the remnants of fabric, indeed what is improperly considered garbage. Marcello Pipitone, recent winner of the CNMI Fashion Trust Grant, took inspiration from the popular game of football and Milanese youth culture to create patchworks of almost random fabrics which, once recomposed, come to life. Lessico Familiare uses fabrics, existing clothes, unusual materials to sink its roots in memory and popular and family culture, just like Natalia Ginzburg’s famous novel, showing a glimpse of reality. In any case, the element that all the youngest Italian creatives who approach sustainability have in common is craftsmanship. All of the designers have a workshop and keep their production in-house.

Fashion Environment
Polo shirt Marcello Pipitone , shirt Lessico Familiare, pants Floriana, headpiece Lauribusters

Fashion and environment beyond the borders of Italy: Alfredo Piferi and Niccolò Pasqualetti

Then there are those who have moved from Italy, such as Alfredo Piferi and Niccolò Pasqualetti. Both are winners of the latest edition of Who’s On Next, both designers of responsible collections, yet on divergent plans. Based in London, Piferi makes sensual and refined shoes that are entirely vegan, offering an alternative to the flourishing market of women’s shoes. The transparency of the production and materials, described in detail on the website, have brought the brand success and acclaim, now distributed in the best stores in the world. Pasqualetti is instead on another level: the sustainable approach being a given, from his first collections the designer approached gender fluidity, becoming the standard-bearer in alternative fashion. Unlike Alessandro Michele’s approach, Pasqualetti narrates poetic fluidity in an essential, almost poor, elegant and reductionist key. Today he has runway shows in Paris on the official calendar of Fashion Week.

Fashion Environment
Cardigan Floriana, pants Niccolò Pasqualetti, hat Stetson , shoes Marsèll

The role of the designer: addressing social issues through clothes

Designers who address the social issues of rights, gender and body positivity are also responsible. After all, fashion is political: every attitude, every affirmation, every dress becomes an act that is reflected in society, and it is also through the work of designers that the greatest changes take shape today. Which is why the word sustainable is once again too reductive.

Recently, Karoline Vitto told the story of ‘new’ bodies through upcycling (for the summer of 2024, she uses Dolce&Gabbana deadstocks that support her along with Katie Grand), approaching other brands such as Ester Manas or Collina Strada in New York, which inspires new generations through hippie and green visions, involving minorities that are often excluded from the image of societies in their shows, such as people with disabilities or the homeless.

Kevin Germanier creates entirely sustainable fashion by conveying queer, exasperated and eccentric fashion visions between modernity and retro looks, recovering his materials all over the world.

In London, Matty Bovan continues with the wonderful and aestheticizing creations made entirely through recovered materials: his is a projection of past fashion images, from Galliano to Westwood to Gaultier, revisited through the eyes of a queer boy who sees fashion as a moment of joy and celebration of beauty.

Environment-friendly fashion around the world

What is happening in the rest of the world? If our story is mainly Eurocentric – since the fashion market still resides in Europe – responsibility has permeated creatives around the world, turning an approach that until a few years ago was unthinkable or unpredictable into a global one. The Ukrainian company Ksenia Schnaider works with upcycled denim to make perfectly wearable garments: its production does not waste even a single element. Jeans – among the most polluting products in the world, as demonstrated by the sandblasting and dyeing factories in Bangladesh, India and Turkey that cause irreversible damage to workers’ health and water are recovered by Schnaider and their team to offer the material a new life.

Also originally from Kyiv is the designer and fashion editor Julie Pelipas, a recent finalist for the LVMH award, who through her brand Bettter has identified a system of upcycling technologies whose objective is to help the transition to a sustainable society.

Sleeveless jacket and sweatshirt DHRUV KAPOOR 
Sleeveless jacket and sweatshirt Dhruv Kapoor, skirt Marcello Pipitone

Dhruv Kapoor, an Indian designer whose collections are shown in Milan, works with the textile production waste and the surpluses of Indian companies, collaborating with the philanthropic organisation Hothur Foundation which helps victims of acid attacks. The opportunity to help survivors of such atrocious attacks is also offered by Ara Lumiere, an Indian-based brand, which employs the affected women.

Joao Maraschin, of Brazilian origin, supports local artisan workshops through his own fashion that is designed and made in collaboration with marginalised communities, giving them a real voice in the creative process.

Li Edelkoot: return to craftsmanship for truly sustainable fashion

Li Edelkoort, trend forecaster and fashion consultant, wrote a pamphlet in 2015 entitled Anti_Fashion Manifesto. In only a few pages, Edelkoort tells how fashion has reached a breaking point from which there is no going back, caused by all the frenetic elements that traditionally make up fashion (marketing, advertising, design and production) and by incessant communication. This point of no return has defined the so-called death of fashion that would mark an entire decade, at least. Today, almost ten years after its publication, we can only confirm the points that Edelkoort had analysed. Among the most important are certainly the return to craftsmanship (and haute couture) towards which the true sustainability of fashion had been directed at the time: quality, unique products, purchase only if necessary.

Cape worn as skirt LESSICO FAMILIARE X FONDAZIONE SOZZANI Who cares about others project
 Shirt Cavia, cape worn as skirt Lessico Familiare x Fondazione Sozzani Who cares about others project, cycling shorts Marcello Pipitone

Sustainable means quality

Today, radical thinking suggests that true sustainability in fashion would be to no longer create fashion. But if we wanted to find an alternative to all the elements analysed so far (sustainable design, upcycling…), we should take refuge in what Italians know well: quality. A product of fashion is sustainable if it is of quality. If it survives the passage of time. If generations can afford to pass it on. Marsèll‘s refined products confirm how this can exist: created in 2001, the brand is an expression of Made in Italy craftsmanship. The key product is the shoe, which is deconstructed and redesigned in the laboratories of Riviera del Brenta, near Venice, bringing the tradition of the Italian shoe factory back to the present.

This is fashion: a handing down of traditions, visions, products that adapt to the contemporary in balance with the world around us, formed by individuals, sociality, awareness.

Fashion Environment
Poncho sweatshirt Simon Cracker x Raged Kingdom, headpiece stylist’s studio, socks and shoes model’s own


Photographer: Paolo Musa

Stylist: Riccardo Terzo

Grooming: Cosimo Bellomo

Photographer assistant: Carlo Carbonetti

Stylist assistant: Julia Ponomarev, Sofia Minafra


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