Sustainability at Pitti
Part Two
Edition 102
Sustainability at Pitti is a two-part series that celebrates fashion’s climate-conscious innovators. At Pitti, we want to shine a spotlight on the brands that are truly putting responsible practices first and proving that prioritizing the planet doesn’t mean compromising design. 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 the other five brands selected by Giorgia Cantarini for S|STYLE: Philip Huang, MAXIME, Junk, Dhruv Kapoor, and Connor McKnight.

Philip Huang

Philip Huang has been merging indigenous knowledge with contemporary design since 2016 when he joined forces with Chomwan Weeraworawit and artisans in Northwest Thailand. Drawing from generations of knowledge, the brand’s work explores how fashion, the earth, and communities can operate in harmony, and provides real inspiration for what a positive impact in the fashion industry can look like. 
What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year? 

We will be showing our Spring Summer ‘23 Collection, Depth of the Sea. Our journey started with admiring the beauty of the seas, [which] led us to the ongoing demise of the marine ecosystem as a whole and that we must do something about it. Our collection explores the depth of the sea, the colors of sea life, of coral in its living glory — as it glows, as it fights to survive — and how we can raise awareness of the beauty of the seas and the urgency of its demise, to help its survival. The sea is all of us and water is life.

How do you ensure a responsible production process? 

Transparency is key for us — knowing who our producers are, not just by name and where the factory is, but by understanding their process and production ethos. It’s like an extended family. We work in the Northeast of Thailand with artisans that live in remote villages and factories in Bangkok and elsewhere. We work with textiles that are handspun and handwoven in the villages by artisans who work exclusively with plant dyes, from indigo to mud, dyeing by hand. Each group [consists] of multiple generations of [mostly] women that specialize in different colors and techniques. Plant dyes are seasonal and take time, so depending on what is available, we have different colors in each collection, except for indigo which requires a natural fermentation process, or mud which is available all year round.
We also work with some incredible ateliers — a Japanese atelier that makes the most incredible workwear, Nori-san, The Fatima Centre for our embroidery and hand needlework (founded in 1956 by Sister Louise Horgan as a training center for at-risk women),  and Pinky the Tailor who has been around for 40 years, [And we collaborate] with smaller factories in Bangkok that can do mini-batches for us thus enabling us not to have deadstock and inventory. This means very little waste, and should we need to scale, it just takes a little planning.
Do you have any advice for budding designers/brands hoping to create a positive impact?

Don’t let anyone tell you that sustainability doesn’t matter and that it is a trend. It is not a trend. How we design and produce is key to who we are and what we leave behind. If we do not consider the impact that we leave behind as designers and makers, where does that leave the future? It is important to know where you stand and be firm with this. Do the research and speak to people. Building a community is so important. To make an impact and to create a movement that can keep going, we need to work together, we need to build a community and we need to share.


Maxime Fruit founded MAXIME in 2020 after cutting his teeth at a number of industry favorites such as A-Cold-Wall* and VETEMENTS. Maxime draws on the stylistic queues in object, furniture, and architectural design, resulting in collections that are subtle and elegant, focusing on timeless contemporary cuts and exceptional fabric curation.
What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year? Can you talk us through your collection?

The main premise of each edition of MAXIME is to explore the many elements that make up a home and the feelings of serenity, comfort, and security that come with it. A home you can take with you anywhere. At Pitti, we will be presenting Edition 4, which takes this concept on a journey via ways of escapism to and exploration of the countryside home, and the re-connection with oneself that ensues. This translates into a mix of relaxed comfort wardrobe and workwear items in artisanal materials. One element that is dear to my heart is the raschel fabric we used throughout, which takes inspiration from crochet napperons my grandmother used to make by hand. 

How do you ensure a responsible production process? 

Responsible design is etched into the brand DNA and translates naturally into a responsible approach to our production. We don’t believe in overproducing, so we’ve committed to releasing a maximum of two collections per year. Edition 4 is made up of 90 percent of existing fabric. At the beginning of each design cycle we look at what is available and how we can fit it into the story we’re trying to tell – it’s challenging sometimes, but also incredibly rewarding.  

In the end, what we’re trying to do is to give people food for thought around their own consumption and the longevity of clothing. The best architecture, furniture, or objects have been created to last for centuries, and it comes as no surprise that we draw our main inspirations from those fields to create for longevity and hopefully see our creations be passed on through generations.
How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts?

We can see a lot of positive effort from many players, brands, and organizations, especially on the grassroots level, but also with our suppliers who have adopted sustainable practices such as solar panels, reduced water consumption, new developments, and techniques. But we also feel much more can and should be done. Fashion is such a big machine with so many moving parts and so many livelihoods attached to it — change won’t come easy. 
If we can take one thing away from the last two years, is that if necessary, people will adapt very quickly. In 2019 only a minority could even imagine WFH was a viable option for business, now in 2022, it’s a minimum requirement to even be able to retain people. We just need to make decisions and then go for it full force, the rest we’ll figure out along the way.

Finding a home for waste materials is so burnt into the core of Junk Eyewear’s brand ethos that it’s even part of its name. The Italian eyewear brand collects discarded plastic waste and transforms it into pieces with value — specifically, a stylish range of glasses and shades, all enhanced with precious metals.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year? 

JUNK is showcasing its second fully eco-sustainable eyewear collection made from 100% regenerated waste, uniquely enriched with precious metals, and entirely made in Italy. Sun and optical styles take inspiration from much-coveted eyewear icons from across the decades redesigned with today’s aesthetics in mind. Our signature Fluid Design Code distinctly marks each pair, [which feature] pure silver logo branded details.

How do you ensure a responsible production process? 

As a green label paradigm, we strive to do quite a unique thing by making sure that our entire process reflects our extravagant planetary respect. The core sourced material we use is Econyl ®, a 100% regenerated nylon made from recovered waste otherwise destined to pollute our Earth in its gradual decomposing — fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, etc. The frame molding process and dyeing are carried out locally in Cadore, the renowned eyewear Italian production district, where there is a concentration of eyewear know-how. Keeping this stage of the process local and native to us means that we can closely and easily monitor the production of each item. Last, our favorite part, we optimize each pair with pure silver trims, always entirely handcrafted by Italian artisans.
Do you have any advice for budding designers/brands hoping to create a positive impact?

Do not give up hope, no matter how hard the times are! We are facing one of the worst socio-economical scenarios possible, simultaneous financial inflation and recession with a post-pandemic mindset, and a completely senseless war at our doorstep. It is crucial to not lose our faith and determination in striving for positivity. Our highest human and planetary values need to remain close to our hearts, and minds, and ultimately to our creative process.

Dhruv Kapoor

Empowerment is central to the message Dhruv Kapoor stitches into each collection, whether that be through playful garments that question gender roles and blend traditional aesthetics with modern tailoring, or his collaborations with diverse cultures, rural artisans, and various social projects. 
What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year? 

Our SS23 collection titled “The Seeker” offers an experience as it propels our eternal and infinite nature forward. An army of explorers, energized by their desires on the quest for self-discovery, exploring new worlds within our 3-D reality construct. These productive dreamers envision, strategize, execute, and commit to their highest potential, featuring an intangible passage of time into a new terra and new geology to plant our feet on.

How do you ensure a responsible production process? 

My team and I make a conscious effort while designing and preparing each collection. From zero-waste patterns to ensuring 40 percent of all materials including our leather accessories are upcycled (surplus stock from big textile manufacturers in India) and occasionally using handmade textiles. The brand adheres to azo-free dyes and seasonally repurposes deadstock. Our team consists of skilled artisans from varied regions and remote villages in India, who we work closely with to update their traditional skills for a more contemporary approach. Through our design process, we incorporate versatile pieces, promoting re-wearability. All textile waste (small trims, fabric cuttings) is segregated and sent to recycling units to convert into new materials.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in regards to producing responsible collections?

It is important for us to curate a group of like-minded individuals. My team and I personally enjoy the challenge and look forward to adopting new approaches. Sometimes the costs are much higher, or the minimum quantities are too large and we need to tweak a new path, but, it’s a consistent reminder to ourselves that there is always a way out!
Connor McKnight

Brooklyn-based Connor McKnight launched his eponymous luxury label during the pandemic, designing, cutting, and sewing his way through lockdown. His work became a way of reconnecting with his roots, a way he describes as representing “a beautifully mundane childhood as a Black person of color in a society that continuously struggles to recognize the nuance within the Black community.” This season, McKnight has focused on workwear and trade silhouettes as commentary on “Black communities develop[ing] across the country where we were able to learn new trades and support our own. In some instances, I’ve elected to let the cold in as a reminder that we aren’t quite there yet. Still progressing in spite of or because of.” 
How do you ensure a responsible production process? 

We have been taking steps each season to further the depth of our sustainable offerings. In the first season, we began by only producing what was on order using a made-to-order model. We sourced only organic cotton and used natural dyes. Since then we've been able to incorporate recycled nylons and polyesters in substitute for our synthetic textiles that are central to the outdoorsy nature of the brand. We work closely with all of our factories worldwide to ensure they are able to produce in small quantities with sustainably sourced materials in order to maintain our ethos and partner with like-minded businesses. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face in regards to producing responsible collections?

The most difficult aspect of producing responsible collections has been minimums! Many places require that you produce a certain quantity of each piece. This directly leads to overproduction unless you have extremely high quantities of every single item in your collection. Some brands will produce these additional units because it may end up being cheaper than producing fewer at a higher cost. It's extremely difficult to meet demand and never have inventory, but we do everything we can to at least minimize the number of extra pieces we make.
How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts?

I feel the industry loves to use sustainability as a buzzword but doesn't acknowledge it as a standard. Now that manufacturing has evolved to offer sustainable options in just about every category, there is no reason why this should not become the only option. It truly hasn't been that difficult to improve each season, and without sacrificing the design or aesthetic of our brand.
Visit the business pages of the featured brands on Pitti Connect: