Sustainability has not, historically speaking, been fashion’s strong suit. The industry’s standard practices are notorious for their negative impact on the environment, from overproduction that sees around 70 percent of textiles wind up in landfills or flames to textile manufacturing that requires excessive amounts of water while yielding significant pollutants. While the blame is often placed on fast-fashion retailers (and they are certainly the biggest offenders) these are issues that even the biggest names in luxury have to reconcile. But, particularly as global warming becomes an unavoidable crisis, some brands are taking a different approach entirely.
That’s one of the reasons why Pitti Uomo—menswear’s most important trade show—is using its virtual format to highlight a new guard of designers for whom eco-consciousness is a guiding principle. The Sustainable Style is a series of videos on Pitti’s digital platform profiling 14 young brands taking a greener approach in everything from choosing buttons to packaging. The diverse, international group, curated by Italian fashion journalist Giorgia Cantarini, demonstrates the many guises that sustainable fashion can take. Here, meet a few of menswear’s up-and-coming eco-warriors.
Since he began as creative director in 2013, Glenn Martens has made Y/Project one of Paris fashion’s buzziest brands (including winning one of the industry’s top honors, the ANDAM grand prize, in 2017). Martens’s signature is experimental designs that are often transformable. In this video, he introduces “Evergreen,” a collection of the brand’s greatest hits produced exclusively using 100 percent sustainable materials, down to the copper rivets.
British designer Christopher Raeburn has championed re-purposed materials since he started out in 2009, transforming surplus military textiles into modern menswear with a utilitarian edge. In this video, he elaborates on the three R’s that define his brand: reusing existing materials, reducing waste and recycling existing garments—most notably in his new collection of re-worked vintage military gear.
Philip Huang’s route to sustainability is very personal; his designs celebrate (and employ) people who practice traditional crafts in his native Thailand, particularly the indigo dyers of the Isan region. In this especially eye-opening video, Huang provides a tour of the rural community he works with and their techniques for using centuries-old plant-based dyes and old school weaving.
Young N Sang
For South Korean designers Youngshin and Sanglim, sustainability translates to a dedication to upcycled fabrics. This duo hand-weave their own textiles from erstwhile garments, creating artful new materials. In this video, they show how they craft their unique textiles and preview their latest collection, photographed on one of their grandfathers.
Based in Budapest, Nanushka does decidedly contemporary fashion with a reverence for vintage style. Inherent in that aesthetic is an appreciation for timeless design, which is just one of the sustainable practices that, along with things like eschewing plastic for organic materials and employing women in a rural Hungarian village, make Nanushka a model of conscientious design. Here, designer Sandra Sandor describes her approach.
After beginning his career working for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten, designer Spencer Phipps launched his owned label in 2018. Since then, he’s built a reputation for masculine designs that tread lightly on the environment. In this video, he discusses how his personal passion for outdoor adventuring fuels his sense of responsibility to nature.
As its name suggests, Kidsofbrokenfuture has a youthful, rebellious streak. Designers Marta Sanchez and Elbio Bonsaglio mine subcultures for inspiration, proving that sustainable fashion can be cool, first and foremost. In this video, they describe their brand and practices including donating a portion of proceeds to Street Child, an organization that provides education and essential services to at-risk youths.
Italian brand Myar is, in concept, similar to Raeburn in that it specializes in revamping existing military apparel. The results, however, have an entirely different attitude. Here, designer Andrea Rosso describes how he sources his vintage materials and employs further sustainable initiatives like using natural dyes and biodegradable packaging.
Parisian brand Uniforme is dedicated to reinterpreting utilitarian workwear staples, refining the silhouettes and elevating them with thoughtful craftsmanship. Here, designers Hugues Fauchard and Rémi Bats discuss how they prioritize sustainable choices throughout the production process, including utilizing workshops within three hours of their headquarters and recycled fabrics like Econyl.
Vitelli marries traditional Italian craftsmanship with the irreverence of the nation’s street culture. Focused on knitwear, the brand almost exclusively uses repurposed and deadstock materials—but in surprisingly unique ways, like embroidering an existing silk fabric to create a new kind of knit. In this video, designer Mauro Simionato articulates his vision.
The husband-and-wife team behind Ukrainian denim brand Ksenia Schnaider comb the secondhand markets of Kiev to source materials for their own collection—recycling around 10 tons of fabric each year. Here, the designers explain their process.
Flavia La Rocca
While production choices play a big part in sustainability, they’re just one piece of a larger move toward a greener lifestyle. Italian brand Flavia La Rocca emphasizes the role of design in sustainability, promoting a modular wardrobe of pieces that can be mixed and matched ad (relative) infinitum. Here, the designer explains how her designs inherently cut down on waste.
Nous Etudion‘s Argentinian designer Romina Cardillo favors a futuristic, genderless aesthetic produced using responsible, cruelty-free materials. Her commitment to sustainability earned her a collaboration with Nike, which saw her design the sportswear titan’s first pair of vegan shoes. In this video, Cardillo outlines her approach and goals like establishing a research center for bio-textiles.
French footwear brand Virón utilizes plant-based materials to create fashion-minded kicks that’ll sate sneaker-heads with a conscience. While this video doesn’t have much as far as the brand’s backstory, it succinctly captures Virón’s hip, punkish vibe.