By Giulia Piceni. Images by Francesco Agazio for I’M Firenze Digest.
Sustainability is one of those big words that has made its way into the fashion vocabulary, especially for brands that strive to bring a greener approach to the industry. Loewe and Bottega Veneta took this input quite literally by respectively letting grass grow on clothes and colour garments with a hypnotic green hue. For the two bands, style and sustainability go hand in hand. Still, as this article uncovers, sometimes it can be hard to reconcile business strategies and design with environmentally conscious choices.
BOTTEGA VENETA: THE MASTERY OF MAKING GREEN A “IT”
Going green in 2021 was made so easy under the now ex-creative director of Bottega Veneta Daniel Lee, now succeeded by Matthieu Blazy1. The tremendously trendy, captivating and highly noticeable Zoomer Green developed by the above-stated creative director shifted Bottega Veneta from a silent luxury brand to a GenZ-friendly label. Resembling the green of traffic lights and its implicit meaning – “go” – this particular hue symbolised the craving for freedom after the pandemic. An artificial shade almost impossible to find in nature, Bottega’s Green paradoxically became a symbol of the ongoing sustainable economy thanks to its similarity to the colour of the universal recycling symbol with three spinning vectors2.
Bottega Veneta hasn’t simply shown to care for the planet through a captivating colour choice but through materials as well. For the brand’s already iconic Puddle Boot (a pair of seamless ankle-length rain shoes) from FW 2020, the design team opted for a specific type of rubber made of a biodegradable polymer3.
Also, the Kering Group, to which Bottega Veneta belongs, has recently launched an initiative that leans towards sustainability: The Certificate Craft4, a life-long warranty that sees the brand eternally committed to fixing its leather items. A generous act for the planet and a well-executed attempt to reshape clients’ approach to luxury.
However, according to Good on You, a trusted sustainability rating5 platform for fashion brands, at the end of February 2022, Bottega Veneta earned only 41-50% in the Fashion Transparency Index6 due to its high use of leather7. Nevertheless, the brand’s objective for the future is to minimise CO2 emissions and adopt a more sustainable approach8.
Overall Bottega Veneta seems to manifest a genuine interest in the environment, and it is indeed the leading brand in sustainability.
LOEWE: DON’T BRING ME FLOWERS. DRESS ME IN GRASS INSTEAD
Jonathan Anderson, creative director of Loewe, showcased the brand’s SS 2023 Menswear in a vivid atemporal white setting accompanied by a futuristic melody made of clicking, chiming and piping9. The event aimed to trace connections between technology and nature, underlying the recallings between these two worlds. The invitation was a pot of watercress shoots: quite an undeviating anticipation.
Chia plants appeared on the multiple items displayed on the runway paired with padded nappa bomber jackets and ozone-treated cotton shirts. The brilliant intersection of nature and artificial was orchestrated by Anderson and the bio-designer Paula Ulargui Escalona, who started to grow plants on the garments twenty days before the show in a greenhouse outside Paris10. Unavailable to purchase, the grass-covered items were the tangible proof that fashion delivers ideas first of all, and garments accompany them, animating these concepts to please the eye.
With this incredible initiative straddling art, fashion and science, Loewe spread a positive message on several fronts. On top of that, the brand has always proved sensitive to the environmental issues that jeopardise our present. As stated on their site’s Sustainability section, the menswear permanent collection “features a range of functional essentials in low-impact performance fabrics”11.
As with Bottega Veneta, leather has always been a critical point for the brand, and for Loewe in particular, being it one of the leading brands under the “it bag” radar. To upcycle, in 2021, the company launched the Surplus Project12, an initiative that aims to reuse exceeding materials from previous collections to create low-impact accessories.
According to the Quality and Sustainability Policy, the brand offers the recipe for a greener future, pursuing excellence and a responsible environmental approach: both aspects starting from the sourcing of the raw material and ending in the retail13. Furthermore, it is essential not to let these values be dispersed in the process but to keep them in mind at all times. How can we do this? In Loewe’s words, it is vital to develop “a corporate culture of sustainability that benefits the company in the long term and continuously improves [its] performance overall”14.
Nevertheless, according to good on you, Loewe has been rated in 2022 as “not good enough”15, highlighting that there is still a long way to go to achieve a good sustainability rating. The reason behind it remains the use of leather which, after the previous considerations about Bottega Veneta, seems the major discriminating factor when it comes to sustainability.
To conclude, it is undoubtedly true that Loewe’s environmental concern is honest. Since Jonathan Anderson was appointed creative director in 2013, the brand has pursued an ecological breakthrough through projects such as the Craft Prize16. Launched by Loewe Foundation, the contest calls for artists and designers of different backgrounds, including ceramics, jewellery, bookbinding and obviously fashion, to submit a recent work that has been able to rethink traditional techniques for a more sustainable future made of high-quality craftsmanship17.
Giulia Piceni is an Arts Curating undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Francesco Agazio is a Multimedia Arts undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
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2. Nast, C. (2022). Zoomer Green: il colore di una generazione. Online. Available at: https://www.vanityfair.it/gallery/zoomer-green-verde-bottega-veneta [Accessed 3 Jan. 2023].
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12. LOEWE. (n.d.). LOEWE | reinventing craft and leather. Online. Available at: https://www.loewe.com/eur/en/stories-collection/surplus-leather-project.html.
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16. Loewe.com. (2022). Online. Available at: https://craftprize.loewe.com/en/page?fdid=craftprize2023.