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Starting today, the online retailer is expanding its Net Sustain platform that highlights eco-conscious products and brands. The platform, which was launched back in June 2019 and featured 26 brands, now adds 45 more fashion labels and 27 clean beauty companies for a total of 100 brands. To celebrate this milestone, Net-a-Porter teamed up with a number of well-established names such as Theory, Gabriela Hearst, as well as newcomers BITE Studios and Envelope 1976 to create 17 exclusive capsule collections “inspired by the notion of sustainable fashion heroes.” The collections include versatile pieces such as a beige rib-knit sweater, a pair of black dress pants, and a gorgeous camel-hued coat that could be styled in a variety of ways.
“It’s all about making your wardrobe work harder for you, mixing one or two investment pieces into your existing collection,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-Porter’s global buying director.
The retailer is kicking off its sustainable beauty section with some familiar names such as Tata Harper, Aesop, and Dr. Barbara Strum, but it’s also adding up-and-coming companies like Cosmydor, One Ocean Beauty, Sana Jardin, and Seed to Skin.
And because sustainability can mean different things to people, Net-a-Porter has identified seven factors— considered processes, reducing waste, locally made, craft and community, vegan, and animal welfare—and has only selected products that fit within one or more of these categories.
“We intend to create and foster change that will be lasting and change perception throughout the industry,” told us Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-Porter’s global buying director. “So many new brands are able to start with sustainability at the core of their businesses and it is amazing to see—these are the designers of our future. Being a sustainable brand is certainly not easy, nor the most cost-effective. It is truly a huge commitment. We hope to see continued change and with more people on board, the more these costs to maintain a sustainable business plan will normalize.”
BITE Studios in one of these brands. The design collective based in Stockholm and London uses 95 percent low impact materials in their garments.
“We collaborate with our suppliers in developing high-quality organic silk, organic cotton, organic wool, and organic linen as well as recycled polyester and innovative fabrics such as bio-vegetable leather from pineapple leaves and corn. For us dressing sustainably is about knowing your personal style and building up a quality wardrobe over time, but equally about choosing products who are less harmful to our environment,” said William Lundgren, the brand’s founder and CEO.
The beauty industry, which often depends on plastic packaging and harmful practices such as animal testing, is also taking notice of customers’ growing demand for cleaner and effective ingredients that are gentle to the environment.
“Within the beauty industry there are various ways to be considered environmentally responsible, whether you are vegan, natural, organic, clean, considered or sustainable,” said Newby Hands, Net-a-Porter’s global beauty director. “There are so many layers of sustainability within beauty, and as such, each brand has different strengths. From environmentally responsible packaging and refillable to chemicals and ingredients and where they come from and how they affect consumers, animal testing, and much more.”
One of the brands Net-a-Porter is partnering with, One Ocean Beauty is founded by industry veteran Marcella Cacci, the former president of Burberry Beauty, and it sources the ingredients for its anti-aging products from the world’s marine environments but also uses sustainable technology to reproduce marine active ingredients in the lab. Its formulas are clean, free from GMOs, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, nanoparticles, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrance, and the brand has committed to using 100 percent recyclable packaging.
“Sustainability is no longer a choice but a necessity,” Cacci told us. “Both clean beauty and sustainable movements are gaining momentum. As customers become more aware and educated on both fronts, demand will increase, and I believe that these standards will become the new normal […] Net-a-Porter has always been on the forefront of luxury and One Ocean Beauty represents the next generation of clean beauty, which is luxury beauty.”
Of course, sustainability in fashion is nothing new but for a very long time, it was considered more of a niche movement rather than an issue of general concern. With the growing impact of climate change and environmental pollution, the big names in the industry are also starting to take notice.
In August 2019, as part of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, 32 fashion companies among which Chanel, Armani Group, Burberry, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, and Kering (owner of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and more), signed the “Fashion Pact”. As part of the agreement, the companies “commit to sustainability targets that are needed to bend the curve on climate, biodiversity, and fight against the pollution of our oceans.” Among their goals are reducing and avoiding carbon emissions, sustainable sourcing of key raw materials, eliminating the use of single plastics, and using 100 percent renewable energy across operations.
This agreement, while legally non-binding, shows an enormous shift toward more eco-conscious practices in luxury fashion. Just in the past couple of years, a number of companies (Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Burberry, Versace, Armani among others) announced that they are moving away from animal furs. The Humane Society estimates that there are now 300 brands and retailers in total that have adopted fur-free policies and “are now offering warm and innovative alternatives instead.”
In 2017, Gucci unveiled its ten-year “Culture of Purpose” sustainability plan which includes “energy saving in all its stores, offices, warehouses, and supply chain, use of paper and packaging sourced from certified sustainably managed forests, and sustainable sourcing and traceability of raw materials, in respect of nature, biodiversity, animal welfare, and local communities.” Last year, Gucci’s Milan Fashion Week show was entirely carbon-neutral, too. The catwalk was made from 70 percent recycled or reused materials and which were then re-used in the brand’s new campaign. The company also offset the travel emissions of its 1,000 guests and 900 workers including models and production staff.
Another industry behemoth, LVMH Moët Hennessy, the parent company of Christian Dior, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Loro Piana, announced in September last year that it was actually ahead of its 2020 sustainability goals. They launched a new Animal-Based Raw Materials Sourcing Charter which aims to ensure full traceability of its furs, full compliance with animal welfare standards, and a reduction of the environmental impact of processing animal-based materials by 2025.
LVMH also owns a minority stake in Stella McCartney, one of the pioneers of green luxury fashion. Ever since its founding in 2001, the “vegetarian brand” has been committed to “demonstrating how a luxury fashion brand can push the boundaries to make products that are beautiful, sustainable and cruelty-free.” The brand has stopped using virgin cashmere and has opted for a re-engineered version of the fabric, which has a high environmental impact due to animal rearing. Recycled nylon and polyester, organic cotton, and synthetic silk are now what McCartney uses to create her apparel and accessories.
As one of the largest polluters in the world, it will take a village to reduce fashion’s impact on the environment but all these actions are definitely a step in the right direction. Let’s hope sustainability continues to be a major force behind luxury companies’ every decision and practice.