It’s easy to forget that behind every one of our favorite red carpet moments, like Brie Larson’s blue, belted Gucci gown at this year’s Oscars, lies a painstaking level of craftsmanship and hours clocked in beneath the seams. And though the final results are well worth the work (who doesn’t love to gawk at an A-lister?), there’s rarely a focus on what’s perhaps the most important factor in design: its environmental impact.
In 2012, luxury lifestyle group Kering, which owns fashion brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Christopher Kane, and Stella McCartney, set out to challenge its houses and lead the path towards significant changes in production that, together, help make the creation of clothing more sustainable. The results of the targets they set four years ago were revealed Tuesday morning in Paris and while the results vary across multiple sectors, there have been improvements and innovation in where, exactly, the fine crystals, smooth leather, and intertwined skins you see on a finalized dress or accessory come from.
To put the findings of their research in layman’s terms—Kering released them in an 80-page report—their efforts zeroed in on the responsible gathering of raw materials (50 percent of the group’s impact comes from these) like leather, precious skins and furs, gold and diamonds, as well as the elimination of PVC and better usage of paper and packing. The company saw an 11 percent reduction in carbon emissions, along with a 16 percent reduction in waste.
Specifically, Kering has redefined its infrastructure to try and eliminate all hazardous chemicals by 2020, a goal best evidenced on a Bottega Veneta handbag made of chrome-free leather or an Alexander McQueen men’s T-shirt made of organic cotton. So what other goals have been met? A 99 percent improvement in the elimination of PVC was accounted for and represented by a spring 2016 Stella McCartney sneaker made of BioTPU and recycled micro-fibers.
“After four years, we have made significant progress but we also now have deeper knowledge of our supply chains, practical tools, and closer relationships with our stakeholders that will enable us to be even more nimble and effective in our commitment to become a more sustainable business and catalyze positive change more broadly, which we have supported by our open-sourcing philosophy,” Francois-Henri Pinault, Kering Chairman and CEO, wrote in the report.
Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, added, “We are very pleased with our overall achievement,” while answering questions during a live broadcast of the results.
Those achievements also include the creation of a materials innovation lab with more than 2,000 “innovative” and “sustainable samples.” Kering now works closely with suppliers, a practice they admitted still needs improvement, to ensure materials like precious skins and furs come from “verified captive breeding operations” or wild operations that make the livelihood and responsible treatment of animals a priority. For this particular goal, Kering found a 91 percent improvement in crocodilian materials, 41 percent in precious skins, 38 percent in pure fur, and 78 percent in shearling.
During the live chat, Daveu moved on to discuss the work that’s to come, explaining that next steps include a closer involvement with the food and car industries, as well as the implementation of new business models to further deepen change. Targets for 2025 will be announced later this year.