COVID-19 has affected every segment of the suit and tailoring market, causing bankruptcy risks for some middle segment players. 
Tailoring and suit brands have demonstrated difficulty adapting their business models (still significantly linked to brick-and-mortar distribution) to a newer and more digital consumer, demanding the same in-store and online experience. 
Reacting to this revolution, Istituto Marangoni Firenze Fashion Business alumnus Niccolò Caperoni introduces the readers of I’M Firenze Digest to the brand-new world of digital tailoring.

by Niccolò Caperoni. Images by Roberto Corti and Lorenzo La Commare.

People’s ability to transform raw materials into finished products of incredible grace and quality has always fascinated me.
I honestly believe that the quality of goods reflects the quality of the work behind them.
At the same time, I think that the enormous growth of digital software and augmented intelligence allows tailors to blend the physical customer experience (CX in short) with the digital one, creating a whole new omnichannel experience. Although digital and fast delivery processes have always been in contrast with the craftsmanship and slow fashion values behind tailoring, I think the digital world and virtual and augmented reality are an opportunity to maintain a compelling value proposition and a high level of interaction with customers.
The pandemic has generated a global market recession due to the reduced use of occasion dresses and workwear during lockdowns. 
US market, the most performing market in the western region, has seen a contraction of its value, from $2.1 billion in 2014 to $1.9 billion in 2019.1 McKinsey highlights a post-pandemic market rebound, with a specific product category that will reach and overtake pre-covid volumes.2
During a recession, the middle class typically start looking more for more value for money when purchasing products, while the upper classes can still buy pricier products. This consequence causes a big piece of market shares to disappear.3 “There is no need for a mass option at all anymore because it’s not how people dress,” Lawrence Schlossman, brand consultant, explains.4
Digital transition during the pandemic has highlighted the industry’s need for renovation, transforming a totally physical customer experience into a phygital and omnichannel CX.
Most players, strictly linked with their historicity and heritage, couldn’t adapt their business model to digital value distribution channels.
Instead, the bigger market players, with their well-developed digital structure, could switch their CX online, launching virtual shopping projects and providing an incredible option to customers. However, according to experts, they could not replace the benefits of a physical experience.
All digital strategies focus on partially digitalising the user experience, allowing customers to pre-choose items and personalisation, reducing the number of people visiting the stores and the time they spend there.
The main focus was to find a solution for the temporary situation, promoting an omnichannel and phygital CX to develop a real value for customers, but failing to provide a long-term solution on how to integrate digital and physical experiences.
The second focus of key market players was speed. A bespoke suit can take up to eight months to reach a customer in another country or continent. One of the opportunities of digitalisation is the reduction of delivery time, delivering a faster and more efficient CX.5
Suitsupply CEO Fokke De Jong believes that “Anytime you are making a purchasing decision for something as personal as clothing, the best-in-class brands need to combine a streamlined digital offer with an experiential space and knowledgeable in-store teams”.6

Brands’ primary focus should be wise and balanced management of the digital touchpoint in their CX so that the technology can help the interaction without diluting the brand’s values.7
North Carolina State University has developed a technique called MonoCon, which relates to AI to recreate precise 3D objects from 2D images.8
This technology could allow brands to recreate a 3D avatar of a client, starting from simple photos or videos.
Once the avatar has been created, brands can develop a whole new digital bespoke experience, thanks to the support of digital software like Clo3D and Procreate.
Creativity phases could be handled internally, personalised for each customer by a tailor, and supported by a designer.
The Clo3D software allows tailors to realise a digital fitting of the suit, adjusting it directly on the customer’s avatar while producing the samples. At the same time, the designer can sketch some handmade drawings on Procreate, contextualising the garment and giving styling advice to the customer.

© Roberto Corti and Lorenzo La Commare, 2022

All the steps of this process can be easily shared through a computer or any digital device that can support video call software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, making it possible to create an immediate, immersive, interactive digital experience.
Digital support also reduces production timing since Clo3D allows the tailor to do all the fittings in a 3D reality, avoiding intermediate fittings (usually three to six), which can take up to eight months to complete.
Digital support is essential for the patternmaking phase, allowing the client to view the final product’s characteristics instantly.
Last but not least, the 3D rendering of the product reduces the fuel required to transport all the products for intermediate fittings.
The tailoring market has always been strictly linked to artisanal and handcraft tradition, without considering the new opportunities created by digital technology.
A pandemic and new generations could be the right occasion to combine physical and digital experiences, bringing the best of this marvellous world into the future.

Niccolò Caperoni is an Alumnus of Istituto Marangoni Firenze. He graduated in Fashion Business in 2022.
Roberto Corti and Lorenzo La Commare are undergraduate students in Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

1. Maida J. (2021) “$ 20.34 Billion Growth in Global Men’s Coats, Jackets, and Suits Market During 2020-2024”, Businesswire, February 2nd. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210202006010/en/20.34-Billion-Growth-in-Global-Men’s-Coats-Jackets-and- Suits-Market-During-2020-2024-Featuring-Key-Vendors-Including-Authentic-Brands-Group-LLC-H-M-Hennes-Mauritz-AB- and-HUGO-BOSS-Group-Technavio].
2. LaBerge L., O’Toole C., Schneider J., Smaje K. (2020) “How Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point and transformed business forever”, McKinsey & Company, October 5th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever].
3. Reuters (2022) “The fate of formal fashion hangs by a thread”, Business of Fashion, October 15th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/retail/the-fate-of-formal-fashion-hangs-by-a-thread/].
4.Nanda, M.C. (2020) “Where does the suit fit into the modern wardrobe?”, Business of Fashion, June 18th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/retail/menswear-suits-todd-snyder-suitsupply/].
5. Davidson J. (2021) “The outside view: long live the suit”, WWD, March 1st. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022,https://wwd.com/menswear-news/mens-retail-business/outside-view-strong-suit-long-live-jamie-davidson-1234737960/].
6. For more info about the opportunities of digital for tailoring brands, see: Rabimov S. (2020) “Suited for safety: Suitsupply is braving new retail realities”, Forbes, January 24th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022,https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephanrabimov/2020/06/24/suited-for-safety-suitsupply-is-braving-new-retail-realities/?sh=1c6f621719d6].
7. For more information on digital and omnichannel CX, see: Kotler P., Pozzoli R., Stigliano G. (2021) Onlife fashion: 10 regole per un mondo senza regole, Milano, Ulrico Hoepli Editore S.p.A.
8. North Carolina State University (2022) “Technique improves AI ability to understand 3D space using 2D images”, Science Daily, January 26th. Online [last accessed on 6/6/2022, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220126122501.htm].

A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, undergraduate students in Arts Curating in 2021-2022 at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.
The curatorial project A Feminine Lexicon took inspiration from Women in Balance, an exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri that will open at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo on May 20th.
Where Women in Balance celebrates the history of Italian women during the economic boom, a historical moment of rapid changes for women’s role in society, A Feminine Lexicon will continue the conversation of what is considered feminine today through the works of eleven international contemporary artists.

by I’MF Digest News Desk. Cover Image: Reba Maybury, Faster Than An Erection, detail, exhibition view at Museo per l’Immaginazione Preventiva, MACRO, Rome, 2021. Photo: Simon d’Exéa. Courtesy of the artist

The A Feminine Lexicon project results from a dialogue between the museum dedicated to fashion and art and the school of art and fashion. The project stems from a proposal made by Museo Salvatore Ferragamo to invite Arts Curating students at Istituto Marangoni Firenze to imagine a contemporary response to Women in Balance, the 2022 exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri, focusing on women’s role during the economic boom in Italy. They searched for a challenging balance between the traditional model of femininity and a newer identity in their private and public life, within the family and at work. 
The urgency of these themes, still relevant today, has allowed the Arts Curating students to create a new curatorial reflection, parallel to the exhibition held at Palazzo Spini Feroni from May 20th, to continue to observe the changes around female identity in the present.
The online exhibition A Feminine Lexicon gathers artworks from eleven international contemporary feminine artists to start a collective conversation on language and identity.

Stacey Gillian Abe, Coming of age, 2021, acrylic on canvas © Stacey Gillian Abe. Courtesy of the artist and Timothy Gambu

“What was really interesting about A Feminine Lexicon,” explains co-curator Elena Tortelli, “was the possibility of exploring the perspectives of different creative minds. The eleven feminine artists, with their different personalities, cultures and backgrounds, made a wide discourse around the topic of femininity. The explanations of the artworks come directly from the artists’ words and voices. And this opportunity to hear their perspective is what makes a difference in the exhibition experience.” 
By uniting different identities and individual stories within the same curatorial framework, A Feminine Lexicon is ultimately an attempt to create a transnational, heterogeneous lexicon, incomplete but capable of recognising multiple facets of contemporary female identity.

Haruka Sakaguchi, March 25, 2020, 2020, digital photography. Courtesy of Haruka Sakaguchi

As co-curator Pia Diamandis affirms, “this has been a gratifying experience early in my career, to learn hands-on what it takes to create an intersectional space, meaning a space that recognises the variety of experiences from different feminine identities and backgrounds. A wider public could perceive A Feminine Lexicon as a space that affirms the notion of womanhood, including everyone who identifies as one, to proudly embrace trans identities, indigenous identities, differently-abled identities, and so much more.” 

Monia Ben Hamouda, Night of Hinnā, installation view at Bungalow/ChertLüdde, Berlin, 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy of the artist and BUNGALOW/ChertLüdde, Berlin

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS

Monia Ben Hamouda (b. 1991, Milan, Italy) is a visual artist. She lives and works between al-Qayrawan and Milan.

Stacey Gillian Abe (b. 1990, Kampala, Uganda) is a visual artist. She lives and works in Kampala. 

Helena Hladilová (b. 1983, Kroměříž, The Czech Republic) is a visual artist. She lives and works in Tuscany, Italy. 

Lebohang Kganye (b. 1990, Johannesburg, South Africa) is a visual artist and photographer. She lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

ChongYan Liu (b. 1995, Guizhou, China) is a visual artist and filmmaker. She lives and works in Paris, France.

Reba Maybury (b. 1990, Oxford, UK) is a visual artist, writer, and political dominatrix. She lives and works between London and Denmark. 

Alfiah Rahdini (b. 1990, Bandung, Indonesia) is a visual artist. She lives and works in Bandung, Indonesia. 

Haruka Sakaguchi (b. 1990, Osaka, Japan) is a documentary photographer. She lives and works in New York City, USA.

Griselda San Martin (b. 1978, Barcelona, Spain) is a documentary photographer. She lives and works in New York City, USA. 

Johanna Toruño (b. 1989, San Salvador, El Salvador) is the visual artist behind The Unapologetic Street Series. She lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.

Alice Visentin (b. 1993, Ciriè, Turin, Italy) is a visual artist. She lives and works in Turin, Italy.

INFORMATION

A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. It will be available starting on May 20th at museo.ferragamo.com.

Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli are undergraduate students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

The I’M Digest presents a new column about the cinematic world as a mirror of society’s current aesthetics, full of fashion and artistic influences as portrayed in contemporary moving images and films.
For its first review, Multimedia Arts student Jessica García shared and illustrated her experience at a recent screening in Florence of the Oscar-nominated film, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza (2021).

Text and images by Jessica García

VISUAL APPETIZER

Gary Valentine is a big-hearted presumptuous boy who has a talent for blabbing and entrepreneurship. His multiple hobbies helped mask the insecurities of being fifteen years old.
All of which are only revealed to the surface by his ultimate crush Alana Kane, a girl who seems to be desperately looking for an exit ticket away from her hometown, teenage drama, and her parent’s obstinance.
This delectable pair completes and complements each other in one of the most unusual combinations for the spectator’s palate, sweet and salty: a Licorice Pizza
The film takes place under the warm Californian sun, where Anderson cleverly disguises current events of the mid-70s through anecdotes and a refreshingly unpredictable take on a romantic coming-of-age comedy.
It is brought to life with details that make the audience get a spoonful of the soul of the 70s, somehow craved to be trendy again today: reckless Hollywood stars, popular absurd inventions, consumerism, eating fast food in your car, awkward haircuts, and teenagers acting like grownups, always hinting throughout the film to the hidden economic and political happenings of the decade.
Subtle accessories support the cast by enhancing a nostalgic environment, including props as insignificant as a metal lunch box or the home phones that merge with the outfits and wallpaper backgrounds.

FLAVOR AND STYLE

The character’s styles echo their strong identities. Gary – played by Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman – usually wears warm tones and stripes, put together, and “professional” looks that occasionally get untucked and wrinkled to remind you he is still a young boy. The tacky mismatched white and pink suit he wears to impress girls and clients still doesn’t cover his actual age. On the other hand, Alana – played by Alana Haim –always wears cool tones, purples, and florals. Her intense looks mimic her organic and raw acting, from typical tight short-sleeved t-shirts and flares to flowy and braless two-piece halter sets that reflect a spirit trying to be set free. The two are opposites and often influence each other, creating a unique clash that captures the film’s soul.

Licorice Pizza
© Jessica García, 2022

Throughout the film, these two inexperienced daydreamers continuously get lost through alleys, San Fernando Valley diners, and the momentary stages of stupid young love – the best kind of love. Licorice Pizza has a breeze that carries you along with the two lovers’ roller-coaster-like relationship, lifting you from the edge of your seat with cluelessness (in the best possible way), letting you wonder and come back alive.
Curiously enough, this chaotically energizing film had the theater filled with people mainly from the decade portrayed on the big screen. In my experience, these people were the ones who had the best and loudest laughs, proving that this work is not only gratifying for young people but also makes some reminisce and fall in love again without cares or filters. 

Jessica García is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

 

Designer Roy Halston Frowick was the epicenter of 1970s New York fashion. He was the mirror of the city’s contradictions, excesses, and nuances. He was the epitome of how successful the States can be in style, charm, and disruptiveness. With his irreverent charm, he attracted the Big Apple jet set. He immersed himself in their cosmos, exalting it with creations that go beyond appearance. With them and thanks to them, he became the quintessence of a strongly American world, where art blends into fashion, excess meets business, glory contains defeat. Fashion Styling student Martina Lucchesi reflects on how Halston and his universe still viscerally attract today’s designers: he is proof that America can win and can lose its struggles on taste, but his psychedelia and glamour will always represent a mythical New York, highly desirable, built on the fury of the vanguard.

by Martina Lucchesi. Images by Jessica García.

Snow.
Ebony hair brightens a smile.
It is there, velvety like a petal.
The bold powder blue pillbox hat is a real coup de théâtre.
An elegant, irreverent spirit began to spread in the cold air of that January 20, 1961, during the inaugural address of the new president of the United States.
Hidden in her blue coat with sleeves and sable collar, Jackie Kennedy made a statement through her innovative “hat”.
It’s amazing how life can suddenly change.
And that’s what happened to Roy Halston Frowick, father of an intimate revolution hidden in the fabric of that tambourine hat.
Halston had designed the first hat for his mother, caressed by the Iowa sunshine. His eyes scrutinized out the windows, and the essential audacity that characterized him already flowed in him. He wanted to fly away from that house to be able to release his soul without fear.
He got to New York in the late 1950s, finally touching that irresistibly provocative world.
Year after year, Halston became a mirror of the American jet-set.
His magic sneaked its way into seduction; through their color, structure and fabric, his clothing fill that small space just behind the heart. And they never leave.
He had this ability to express himself without fearing other people’s judgment, with the only strength of being remembered.
He fed his soul constantly. He observed everything around him with meticulous attention, and nourished his creativity with the purple eyes of his muse Liza Minelli.
Those eyes helped him in his darkest days, when he would sit alone in his room, with no way out, suffocated by criticism and wounded feelings. He managed to overcome negative thoughts, but his biggest obstacle was still himself. He elegantly managed to identify with the essence of the personalities that accompanied him along his journey, but he forgot about that shy boy from the Mid-West.
Yes, that boy was often hidden under a treacherous blanket of snow, but he has always known how to get back to his starting point. He has never betrayed his essence.
That timid revolution has never ceased to exist.
And it won’t stop despite everything.
Despite Halston.

© Jessica García, 2022

Defined as the first American couturier, designer Roy Halston Frowick embodied 1970s fashion and irreverent New York.
Halston burst in, obviously without knocking on that damn door.
A futurist vision flows through his creations, with no room for uncertainty, fear or doubt. The frenzy of seduction and attraction leads anyone in front of his pieces to say, “That is a Halston!”.
Halston is an aesthetic, a lifestyle, whose rhythm is marked by an unstoppable desire to reach the sun, despite having wings made of wax.
The essence of the Midwestern designer has now almost totally vanished, and all that is left is crumbs of his past. Criticisms and clichés take over and only a blurry image remains, characterized by excess and vices.
Halston used to hide behind a pair of dark glasses and an enveloping scent of orchid, but that doesn’t mean Halston is dead.
Still, he craves the purest desire to be alive and not suffocated.
Experiencing him means nothing more than acknowledging his enigmatic vision, freeing him from those impertinent chains.
It is vital to rediscover Halston’s greatest gift: the desire to express his identity, regardless of other people’s judgment, an aspect that is now more important than ever before.
Young designers must clear up their blurry vision to try and get to the heart of Halston’s magic.
Only then, when Halston’s soul will inevitably be born within them, will they be able to see the regeneration, the raw and often uncomfortable certainty of identity.
Halston is.
Silence.

Martina Lucchesi is an undergraduate student in Fashion Styling and Creative Direction at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Jessica García is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

As we transition into a completely digital society, new ways of owning digital content are being pioneered. Over the past year, NFTs have gained extreme popularity. Celebrities such as Quentin Tarantino, Grimes, and even Logan Paul started selling their own NFTs at exorbitant prices. The rise of NFTs has been beneficial to many digital artists selling their art online, as there was no real market for them before. However, because this phenomenon is still in its infancy, there has been a lot of experimenting and misuse. This calls into question whether people really understand what NFTs are, their purpose, and if that purpose is the only option.

By Adan Flores and Marcella Olivieri. All illustrations © Adan Flores, 2022

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which means that each token created has a different value. This is different from fiat money, where any one-dollar bill can be exchanged for another. Each non-fungible token is unique and one of a kind, thanks to the solid authentication process of blockchains.
Non-fungible Tokens can be associated with anything that is digital, whether it be music, videos, or even tweets, if paired with a new token, that due to its uniqueness can provide proof of authenticity and therefore proof of property. 
Currently, their most popular use is to sell digital art. For these reasons, NFTs can be very beneficial for artists, who can use them to sell their work directly instead of through a proxy. Now creators can also make a profit every time their work is sold. 
However, the rise of NFTs has also caused a big misunderstanding. Damian Hirst confused everyone when he announced that we would be selling 10,000 NFTs in a collection called The Currency1. These NFTs would be digital pictures of actual paintings by Hirst. After purchasing said NFT, you would have the option to keep the digital version and destroy the painting, or vice versa. This whole concept was extremely confusing as it totally failed to understand the purpose of NFTs. Differently from a physical object, digital art is that it can be identically replicated infinite times, so you need a digital verification process. What Hirst has done is simply jump on the bandwagon of selling NFTs without actually creating a fully digital piece.
Non-fungible tokens come with benefits for buyers and collectors as well, such as the ability to easily verify and transfer artworks. Collectors will usually buy a piece in hopes of the value increasing over time to sell it for a profit. Most importantly, the biggest benefit from buying NFTs are bragging rights, that is, it grants the buyer the ability to say that a piece of digital art, like an image by digital artist Beeple, is now theirs. 

© Adan Flores, 2022

Their appeal is easy to understand; just imagine owning the Nyan Cat gif, or even the first tweet ever tweeted. It essentially boils down to humans’ inherent psychological need to own things, despite these things being easy to view, download or reproduce infinitely by anyone for free.
Galleries are acutely aware of this, with a great many of them venturing into the NFT space. A prime example is the König Gallery, which hosted a digital art exhibition called “The Artist Is Online”2 on March 2021. The exhibition showed 70 artworks that challenged contemporary art and its market. This was a bold move from the König Gallery, but apparently not bold enough as they quickly launched their own NFT marketplace five months after the exhibition named “Misa Art”3. The König Gallery is clearly making a big wager on NFTs and it’s paying off, with many NFTs continuing to sell for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
NFTs may have many benefits, but they also have drawbacks. One of the main concerns is their negative environmental impact. The backbone of NFTs is the Ethereum blockchain, which relies on computers making little calculations of every transaction ever made. These computers work all day and night, meaning that Ethereum uses a tremendous amount of electricity which is generated by burning fossil fuels and releasing large quantities of pollutants into the atmosphere.

© Adan Flores, 2022

Earlier this year, Nyan Cat, which is a gif of a cat on a rocket flying to the moon, was sold as an NFT. Memo Akten, a digital artist, analysed that Nyan Cat’s carbon footprint was equivalent to that of an EU resident’s electricity usage for two months4. Not all NFTs have the same carbon footprint, of course, but by using the Ethereum blockchain, they are causing a lot of harm to the environment. 
Another big problem with NFTs is the lack of curated platforms and strategies, which probably comes from a lack of understanding of the actual purpose of an NFT. Yes, an NFT can be anything that is digital, but should youtuber Logan Paul really be selling clips of his videos, that you can still watch online for free, for up to $20,000?
This lack of care has filled the NFT market with people selling absolutely anything for high prices, making the market look lackluster. Another drawback to NFTs is that they are also likely to end up as scams. In these schemes, scammers ask buyers to provide them with their crypto wallet access codes in order to deliver the NFT and then steal all their assets. This obviously discourages buyers from buying NFTs, but also artists from posting their own art online.
The popularity of NFTs has grown extremely fast over the past year, but they can still be hard to understand entirely. Despite them being talked about literally everywhere, I believe a lot of us still don’t understand exactly what they are and what their purpose is. Sadly, this is also the case with many of those who are now selling them. NFTs have been able to give value to the work created by digital artists, but that value comes at the cost of the environment.

Adan Flores and Marcella Olivieri are undergraduate students in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

  1. Salapa, G. (2021). Ok, NFTs are too hooligan even for Damien Hirst. [Online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/thatmeaning/yes-its-fine-to-hate-modern-art-dac77ed08daf [Accessed 13 November 2021].
  2. Artnet (2021). As the Market for Digital Art Heats Up, König Galerie Is Hosting a Show on the Virtual Blockchain World Decentraland. [Online] Artnet News. Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/konig-gallery-decentraland-show-1953730 [Accessed 15 November 2021].
  3. Art Rights (2021). Misa Art, König Gallery’s new NFT marketplace – Digital Art Rights. [Online]. Available at: https://www.artrights.me/en/misa-art-new-marketplace-nft-of-the-konig-gallery/ [Accessed 15 December 2021].
  4. Calma, J. (2021). The climate controversy swirling around NFTs. [Online] The Verge. Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/15/22328203/nft-cryptoart-ethereum-blockchain-climate-change [Accessed 4 November 2021].

Yes, the fashion industry has come up with another way to look sustainable: QR codes, the now common black and white puzzled squares that can be scanned with any smartphone camera and connect us to any virtual space. Ads use them to reach out to consumers. Now it is even called revolutionary, as fashion brands are using them to prove their eco-friendliness. Just by scanning a QR code, a website can pop-up and tell you how a brand’s products are made and what footprint their materials are leaving behind. Sounds amazing. But can we really trust them?
To try answering these questions, Istituto Marangoni Firenze student Jasmin Kusumaningsih opens a speculative investigation into this new trend.

Text and illustrations by Jasmin Kusumaningsih.

Amidst the Covid pandemic, QR codes are rising in popularity for contactless information sharing; it originated in Japan1 as an upgraded version of bar codes, increasing their efficiency. One could easily find a few brands that use them; most of them even have their own recognisable QR codes for three reasons: advertisement campaigns (to access their online stores), proof of authenticity, and, most importantly for our research, sustainability.
Proving sustainability through QR codes is supposedly great, but how much can we be sure that it isn’t used falsely, just for the sake of marketing? Or for corporate greenwashing, a popular term used from the 1960s to address false claims about environmental sustainability. If this is the case, this action is highly unethical. It goes against the morals of loyal consumers who buy products from brands they believe are doing environmental good.
Curious about these new sustainability trends, more fashion brands are being surveyed from a customer’s perspective.
The earliest brand that used this QR technology was Levi’s in 20162, a company that has already demonstrated a clear interest in the environmental impact of the fashion industry, as we surveyed in a previous article. Many other brands soon followed with the purpose of promoting product transparency. 
Yet, it is odd that some of them are using QR codes only, without a certified green label on their products or websites. Since the information provided by QR codes can be less easily verified, their claims became intangible. On the other hand, the information provided by companies with certified green labels is harder to falsify because of the process required to get certified by a third party. It traces how much a brand does to be sustainable in a statistical, verifiable way.

© Jasmin Kusumaningsih, 2021

To avoid common greenwashing trickery, consumers may need to watch out for false green labels and look for official green monitoring or collaborations. These include GOTS (The Global Organic Textile Standard), Fairtrade Foundation, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), and others3. These organisations are usually nonprofit and easily available to companies. They track their products from resources to production processes, through to whether they are wasteful or not after reaching consumers. So, if a brand is as sustainable as they originally declared, certifications should not be so hard to obtain.
Among the few brands that claimed to use QR codes at their flagship stores in Florence during our research4, only two of them were actively using them.
The first one stated that these product lines are limited and need to be pre-ordered. However, to understand how this method works, consumers should be able to look into a product’s green passport before buying. The fact that consumers need to buy before being able to learn more about a product’s journey is not logical in terms of sustainability: these items need to be pre-ordered, meaning that the brand will not reduce the amount of waste created for their newest collections.

© Jasmin Kusumaningsih, 2021

The second brand had a different set of issues. This time, they already had their QR-coded products in store, with a green QR code sticker on each piece of their sustainable collection. However, when the codes were scanned, the URL page was nonexistent and redirected users to their brand homepage for more online shopping. This would raise suspicion, as we couldn’t know whether it was done on purpose or was just an honest mistake.
At the end of our research, no working QR code was found that could prove a brand’s commitment to sustainability. Even if it is impossible to draw any general conclusions from the few stores surveyed, we did learn that is important to be aware of how we can avoid greenwashing by doing our own part. First, we need to be able to have a product’s data before buying for transparency. Second, we should try and scan the QR codes to make sure they work. Lastly, check whether the brand has a green certification. Although not all forms of green labels can be trusted, it is still a great concept to develop and apply to future digital tools by sustainable fashion brands. Hopefully there will come a time when suspicion will not be necessary, but that time is not now.

Jasmin Kusumaningsih is an undergraduate student in Fashion Design & Accessories at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

1. The Japan Times (2021) Japan-Invented QR Code Wins Award for Global Impact in Electronics. Online. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/18/business/japan-qr-code-award/ [Accessed 23 November 2021].
2. Wilson, G. (2021) QR Technology: The Bridge to a Sustainable Fashion Industry. Online https://supplychaindigital.com/technology/qr-technology-bridge-sustainable-fashion-industry  [Accessed 9 November 2021]. 
3. Barelli, B. (2021) Eco Labels in Fashion: Three Certifications to Know. Online https://taliacollective.com/2021/05/05/eco-labels-in-fashion-three-certifications-to-know/ [Accessed 10 November 2021].
4. The research was done during the months of October and November 2021 in Florence.

In the beginning, fashion was a celebration of beauty. A coalition point between technical skill and immense artistic sensibility. A true artistic language. In this era of overconsumption, humanity has become detached from the original purpose of what ‘fashion’ was. It started to lose its meaning, as well as to decrease its value. As time went by, each piece lost its worth, and quantity became more important than quality. What used to be an intense, creative, and immersive form of expression, was erased. It was replaced by the constant mindset that it’s never enough. A habit of over-consuming just because. It’s been a long time since humanity has stopped and asked themselves: is it ever too much? To reflect on this, Istituto Marangoni Firenze student Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo shares her experience through a unique reportage in the Amazon Forest, to capture other forms of relationships with nature and textiles.

By Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo. Images by Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo with interventions by Abraham Yael Pérez Mosqueda. Cover image: Baby resting up in my chest, 2021

Peke-peke: the first word I learned in the Paicoca language since my annual trip to the Amazon. It is a wooden canoe, which served as our main means of transport during our stay. It takes a total of sixteen hours and the crossing of two rivers by peke-peke to reach Lagartococha. Sixteen hours sitting in a canoe with nothing but miles of nature around you.
The foundation I am part of, Beyond Lagartococha, works with small indigenous communities called the Secoyas deep in the Amazon jungle, in the frontier between Ecuador and Perú.
The Secoyas had never had access to any type of what we call “education” on our side of the world until our foundation was able to change that back in 2015. These two rivers look umber brown due to the nutrients produced by the soil and fallen leaves, which creates a highly reflective, mirror-like surface. At the back of the canoe was a box filled with nothing but fabrics.
Before the trip, the community leader asked us to bring them some textiles so they could make their traditional costumes, which had worn out over time. I instantly thought that, in what we call the “educated”, “civilised” world, fabrics became extremely cheap, almost unwearable. Their life cycle is now so short that from the very moment a piece is created, it is just a matter of days before it ends up in a landfill. It is everywhere, you see; fashion has become more accessible than ever before, normalising buying frenzies. It is so ironic. Antithetical.

Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo, Secoyas using the peke-peke to get from Mañoco to Paikenape, 2021

Now people shop for more clothes and wear them for a shorter time. This mindset has resulted in ceaseless clothing disposability becoming a behaviour. So here is the current pattern: wear it once, throw it away, repeat. And that is what has led to overconsumption becoming the biggest enemy of sustainable fashion. When having that much is not an option, the little you own is worth everything. We brought very simple items from the city: a soft lavender-pink for the girls and bright orange for the boys. We didn’t bring actual ready-to-wear pieces since the Secoya would make their own attires, as they have been doing for years. Our purpose was to allow them to continue to dress in typical clothing without invading their culture, but still helping as we could.
As we arrived, the box was delivered to the women who knew how to sew and work with textiles. One of them was Yadira.
Her long hair reached down to her hip. Thin and wavy, imitating the flow of the river. A young, charming girl, her kindness reflected in her tender eyes. The way she treated the fabrics was so soft and graceful, almost ethereal. Like works of art. Like they deserved to be treated.
After a while, Yadira came out of one of the huts with the garments folded up in a pile. Ready to wear. Instantly, all the kids ran towards her, eager to finally wear their long-awaited costumes. She placed the pink and orange piles on the ground, one next to the other, and waited to hand out one to each.
From that moment on, no one took them off until the very last day.
The way the process was unveiled was crazy to me. So foreign and unfamiliar. Almost alien. For them, dressing up was such an untainted, harmless action. I hadn’t seen it in a very long time. I felt very distant from the situation, but completely in awe. Encouraged to learn from their behaviour, I felt as if it was going back to our origins. To why and how we dressed before consumption plagued our minds. It started from a purely artistic and decontaminating viewpoint. Picking out colours, sewing fabrics together by hand, and most importantly, knowing their worth when wearing them.
This one piece of clothing would be worn every day for months; they didn’t need more. They didn’t want more. Their necessity was fulfilled. Why have more if it would serve the same purpose?
It was the opposite of excess. The concept of using more resources than an ecosystem can regenerate was unknown to them.

Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo, First day of school in the new building, 2021

Somewhere in the world – I thought – ‘dressing up’ had preserved its meaning. A form of expression. A way to communicate. A tool to share talent, taste, and culture – sustainably. There are places in the world where the definition of ‘want’ and ‘need’ has not yet been corrupted. Where that ceaseless human urge for buying more does not exist. Their habits are based on necessity. On the last day of our stay, I was sitting next to Fedelina, one of the kids who live in the village. Her legs hanging off the canoe edge, toes grazing the cool surface of the river like a vinyl needle, and birds singing loudly. She was silent, gazing at her own reflection, while softly playing with her feet on the water.
“What are you staring at, Fede?”, I asked.
Es que me estoy viendo en mi espejo!” – “I’m looking at myself in my mirror!” she replied with a soft, giggly voice.
Mi espejo…

Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo, Fabian wearing the Secoyas typical clothing, 2021

The reflection in the water was so unflawed and impeccable that it served as Fedelina’s mirror. A mirror that had seen her come of age and grow into the smart little girl she is today. A mirror that seemed infinite, that beautifully reflected the colours of the jungle, and she got to call it hers.
How could Fedelina ever comprehend that she risked losing it due to our levels of overconsumption? That one day she could wake up to find out that her mirror was gone. She would approach it, as usual, only this time there would be no reflection to see. What used to reflect the intense pink and orange colours of their clothing would now be painted pitch black. What used to echo her tiny kinetic silhouette on the water would be oily and filled with chemicals. Toxic. Stained. Diseased.
It is in our hands to maintain those colours alive and those reflections in motion, in this kind of mirror.

Macarena Arias Silva del Pozo is an undergraduate student in Fashion Styling & Creative Direction at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Abraham Yael Pérez Mosqueda is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.


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