Sustainability at Pitti. Part 1
Edition 101
Sustainability at Pitti is a two-part series of interviews that celebrates fashion’s climate-conscious innovators and provides a platform for the designers that put responsible practices at the core of their brand. Through this, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

Below you’ll find our first five brands selected by Giorgia Cantarini for S|STYLE Sustainable Style: JUNK, Maxime, Umoja Shoes, KSENIASCHNAIDER, and Waste Yarn Project. While all their work is unique in its own right, it’s united by a common thread of putting people and the planet first.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
JUNK is showcasing the first eco-conscious eyewear collection made from 100 percent waste regenerated nylon, uniquely enriched with precious metals, and entirely Made in Italy. The offer features a wide range of sun and optical styles taking inspiration from pop eyewear icons across the decades redesigned with today’s aesthetics in mind.

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a brand in regards to creating responsible collections?
We strive to do a unique thing by making sure that recovered plastics find their final home with our eyewear once and for all. The first challenge we faced was identifying the precise type of recovered plastic for high-grade eyewear: flexible, durable, and thermo-resistant. Once we nailed that we had to address how we could justify putting one more product to a market that is already saturated with consumables. We put a lot of effort into ideating and producing an eyewear offer that is subjectively timeless in terms of design, undoubtedly valuable, and unique enough to justify its raison d'être on the shelf.

Where do you source your materials?
The core material is Econyl, a regenerated nylon made from waste such as fishing nets from the oceans and aquaculture, fabric scraps from mills, and carpets destined for landfills. It’s exactly the same as virgin nylon but optimally it can be recycled, recreated, and remolded infinitely.

How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
The pace of fashion production is widely based on the satisfaction of frenetic trend cycles generating endless amounts of consumables with little ethical or social value. We want to see more green labels like ours that are not devoid of aesthetically radical solutions, where good intentions meet the problem-solving capacities of timeless iconic design. We welcome everyone with that mind frame to join us in our model of plastic rehabilitation where eco-consciousness comes with an appetite for the unique and the extravagant.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
Each edition of MAXIME explores the different elements [that make] a home — Edition 3 is a celebration of wood. Wood represents man’s connection to nature, it’s a material that has a predominant place in our homes and runs through generations. Wood represents calmness, serenity, and warmth, which all link to the values of comfort; MAXIME's fundamentals.

Can you talk us through your production process in regards to sustainability?
For Edition 3, 85 percent of the fabrics used are stock fabrics. It's important to look for what's already available before producing more and more. There is already enough out there and we need to do everything we can to reduce any waste. All of our suppliers and manufacturers are based in France, Italy, and Portugal — we want to produce the best quality products while making sure we maintain the lowest carbon footprint possible. We also commit to producing a maximum of two collections per year; this is something we will ensure to keep as the brand grows. Our mission is to encourage slow fashion and revise our consumption methods by finding the time to truly appreciate products, moments, and emotions for their real value.
What are the biggest obstacles you face as a designer in regards to creating responsible collections?
Sustainability comes at a cost. It's incredibly difficult as a small business, but we prefer to sacrifice our margin and have a positive impact on the planet. When it comes to raw material sourcing, sustainable options are not always the most qualitative or creative, which can become an obstacle.

How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
I would like to see the pace slowing down. There is too much happening, too fast, which doesn't give time to truly appreciate products and moments. There is still a long way to go, everybody has its role to play; from the suppliers to the brands down to the final customers by buying responsibly.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
Our collection is called “MMEA” which means “plant” in Swahili. Its vintage style was inspired by the sneakers of the ’90s and all parts showcase the quality of each material and natural color, that’s why each pair is unique and authentic.
Since the beginning, our goals have been to promote traditional African textile and craftsmanship. We have worked for five years with the craftswomen co-operative Adaja, based in Burkina, which is made up of spinners, weavers, and dyers who make the textiles that we use. The other parts of our sneakers like the soles, laces, or inner soles are made in France, the assembling is done in Portugal. We always work directly on-site, without intermediaries, to ensure that the working of all partners is in line with the values upheld by the brand.

How do you ensure responsible production?
Our shoes are 100 percent plant-based, [they] are totally environmentally friendly. We don’t use synthetic materials, plastic or recycled plastic, or chemicals, or metals. We only use biological cotton, linen, hemp, and hevea milk from the rubber plant, [and dye the shoes]with plants and minerals.
We [are] fair trade — we meet farmers, weavers, and workers to ensure the provenance of each material we use. We create our product by taking into consideration all stages of production including cultivation, spinning, dyeing, weaving, assembling until the end of the final product’s life, following the logic of nature. We provide green alternatives in the very opaque textile industry.

How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
I think people are becoming more aware of sustainability and fair trade. Consumers are choosing fair and ethical fashion [that] preserves traditional craft and makes their clothing more sustainable. Even governments are taking initiatives to make the fashion industry wholly fair and ethical with a transparent supply chain. I hope in the year 2022, sustainable fashion will be a fashion regulation.


What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
To mark 10 years of KSENIASCHNAIDER, we decided to revive all [our] cult looks in the FW22 anniversary collection. We will present an updated version of our patchwork denim and reworked sportswear. The majority of KSENIASCHNAIDER signature pieces are upcycled and naturally, it is this heritage [that] the brand is proud to build upon in the new collection.

How do you approach sustainable production?
We have our own production based in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am very proud that we are able to produce thousands of totally upcycled garments; we built an upcycle mass production atelier with a lot of unique techniques and innovations. We practice a Zero Waste philosophy and manage to rework our own leftovers and fabric swatches into patchwork.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in regards to creating responsible collections?
The main obstacle in terms of sustainability is to create a product that is safe, respectful to our team and customers, and not motivated by a desire to sell. Sustainability is our responsibility.

How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
I am grateful for any effort in this direction. Of course, it is not enough, but it is better than nothing. I am waiting for the moment when we will be able to satisfy our spontaneous desires to buy something trendy in the virtual world, [we can] make our avatar look fashionable [while] here in the physical world we will have a very limited wardrobe. I wish all fast fashion brands could exist only in virtual reality without harming our planet.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
We will show our ONE & ONLY pieces of knitwear. We don’t really do seasonal collections, we started with two different style sweaters and have added a few pieces along the way.

How do you source your yarns?
What happens after the yarns have been selected? All yarns are sourced from the leftover of production and sampling from the fashion industry. [Then] they are organized into our specially designed knit system, so the knitter can easily find the different qualities and colors she needs to use.
How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts?
It's moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. I am not a big fan of all the greenwashing that is happening, and the overuse of the word “sustainable” — what does that even mean for the fashion industry?

What change would you like to see?
That a more considered and responsible way of working becomes the norm — something that is expected! Then there is no need to shout about being “sustainable.” I'm also excited about all the new research and development around a more circular system!

Do you have any top tips or words of advice for brands and designers looking to be more responsible in their work?
I think it is important to not do something just because it is a responsible or sustainable way of doing it — it needs to be a good product. At the end of the day, I think the most sustainable garments are the ones we cherish, wear, keep and repair.
Visit the business pages of the featured brands on Pitti Connect: