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Sustainability on display in Milan
Milan Fashion Week is a time when “all of the world’s attention is on our industry,” according to Sharon Denise Pérez Arevalo, senior business development manager at the Austrian textile company Lenzing Group.
But it’s also a time when brands and designers have their attention on each other, seeing what the competition is doing that will inform their own decisions. For that reason, Pérez Arevalo said, MFW is a great opportunity for fashion brands to show off their sustainable innovations. Lenzing is in Milan this week showing off its sustainable Tencel material offered in collaboration with Natural Fiber Welders, a company that provides textiles for brands like Allbirds, Reformation, H&M and Richemont. Pérez Arevalo said MFW is a time when Lenzing makes connections and finds new clients for its sustainable wood pulp fibers.
But, she said, even with all the interest in more sustainable practices this season at MFW — like the third installment of Milan’s Ethical and Sustainable Showroom — it’s ultimately not enough.
“I’ve worked with brands who are genuinely trying to do what they can to lessen their impact, and I’ve worked with brands who just want to follow what’s buzzy and trendy,” Pérez Arevalo said. “Unfortunately, our industry is very trend-driven. And even though being more sustainable is trendy right now, there’s so much we’re not doing.”
Vera Giusti, one of the three Giusti sisters behind the Italian footwear brand Attilio Giusti Leombruni, was an early adopter of sustainable practices among the Italian fashion industry. The brand started using solar power for its manufacturing in 2006. Last year, it doubled the number of solar panels it uses, reaching 100% reliance on solar power for all of its production.
AGL was in Milan hosting a presentation of its new collaboration with model Kristen McMenamy, a capsule collection of punk-inspired black boots and heels.
“The new generation is much more sensitive to the issue of sustainability than generations in the past,” Giusti said. “We spent a lot of 2022 reinventing our packaging, and our goal is to make it entirely recyclable this year.”
While founded in Italy, AGL’s new collection was designed in London. Giusti said bringing some of the British punk aesthetic to the brand’s classic Italian manufacturing techniques is part of AGL’s international strategy. And, while Giusti said AGL will “always remain 100% Italian” at its heart, the brand has a significant presence in the U.S. — its largest market — and a newly established business in China, thanks to a partnership with Tmall.
“All the buyers at New York Fashion Week and now Milan Fashion Week are very optimistic,” Giusti said. “They had very good sales this year, and I’m hopeful that department stores will be a more positive thing this year for brands. We’re going to be in Saks this year, which is new for us. It’s good to increase our distribution.”
5 Questions with James Long of Iceberg
Italian sportswear brand Iceberg held its MFW show on Wednesday, showcasing a number of monochromatic black leather looks inspired by a 2001 campaign image the brand shot with Pamela Anderson. Following the show, I caught up with James Long, creative director at Iceberg, just before he flew home to London from Milan, to talk about inspirations for the collection and how he approaches design.
What were some of the inspirations for your fall collection?
“We started with this 2001 Pamela Anderson campaign where she’s wearing this high boot. It’s one of her iconic moments. I wasn’t really trying to reference 2000s fashion beyond that particular moment, and when I’m designing, I have a lot of influences and inspirations. I look at what the brand does best, which is things like leather and knitwear, and what I do best, and I try to combine them. So in this collection, [the focus] is a combination of leather and faux fur or knitwear and different contrasts of materials. It’s kind of punky but very Italian, as well. It’s always about the contrast and the old meaning of sportswear, which is something stylish but wearable.”
Is there a modern celebrity who fills the role that Pamela Anderson did back then? Do you have a celebrity muse?
“We live in such a different world now, where there’s so much exposure to celebrity that it would be hard to have the global image that Pamela had. She was very misconstrued, as well; she was a lot more than just an iconic image in fashion. But I do tend to stay away from wanting specific celebrities or specific people in my work. I don’t really believe in that. I’ve always been interested in how different people wear the clothes and interpret them. That’s what matters to me.”
I noticed lots of monochromatic looks in black. Do you think there’s a turn away from bright colors in fashion?
“I hadn’t done a show for two-and-a-half years, so I had a lot of time to consider this collection. It was a palate cleanser. I didn’t want to confuse it in any way, so I just wanted [to do] something simple. I was feeling like I wanted something dark. But color is important to me and it’s in the Iceberg DNA, so we will do more with color, too.”
Iceberg is a quintessential Italian brand, but do you design for an international audience?
“Iceberg turns 50 next year, so they’ve been doing this for a long time. My view is always international. I’m from London, working with an Italian brand that does a lot of business in the U.S. and Korea. I want it to be as international as it can be. But I don’t design with a specific market in mind, no. I do like to see how people in different countries wear the clothes, though. Because Iceberg has this long history, and people see it in different ways. Some people think of it as this classic knitwear brand, some people really remember the use of cartoons. [Iceberg has released several collections over the years featuring cartoon characters like Popeye.]
Everywhere you go, there are different vibes and different interpretations. I want the brand to remain Italian — there’s a pride there — but be free to incorporate other ideas as well.”