Fashion goes green with emerging designers using recyclable materials for garments

PARIS: From couture gowns made from coffee sacks to sequins laser-cut from recycled bottles, fashion’s newest recruits are trying to turn their back on the industry’s polluting past and competing for a prize which rewards sustainability.

In a Paris apartment during Haute Couture fashion week, ten emerging designers presented their latest looks to industry insiders hoping to win mentoring and the chance to showcase at Milan Fashion Week, based on their green credentials.

The competition comes at a time of growing awareness of the footprint of the global fashion industry, worth 2.4 trillion dollars a year according to consultancy firm McKinsey.


Research published in November by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, set up by the record-breaking sailor, found that less than one percent of clothing is recycled and that half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are released from washed clothing annually, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.

Among the designers in the running is 43-year-old Gilberto Calzolari whose CV lists stints at some of Italy’s biggest houses including Miu Miu, Valentino and Armani, where he helped create couture gowns for the likes of Lady Gaga.

His proposition to the judging panel is a mid-length gown with a plunging neckline embroidered with crystals and made of Brazilian coffee sacks.


“I used Jute coffee sacks as if it was a couture fabric. I placed each part as if it was a print, this is the sack’s natural print. I fell in love with it straight away, with the colour, the natural aspect,” Calzolari told Reuters.

Across the room, 25-year-old Davide Grillo is showing off a pale blue gown, embroidered by one of Italy’s master craftsmen with green sequins which he explains were cut from recycled bottles.

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Of the ten designers competing on Tuesday, five were ultimately picked by a panel of judges which included British Vogue editor Edward Enninful for the mentoring scheme and among those one will clinch a spot at Milan Fashion Week.


The competition is part of Milan’s ‘Green Carpet Fashion Awards’ where major brands are awarded prizes according to their green credentials.

Organiser Livia Firth said the time when the fashion-conscious had to pick between style and sustainability had gone and that even major brands were now trying to do more.

“We proved that aesthetics and ethics co-exist. So you don’t have to compromise your aesthetics just because your silk is organic or GOTS-certified rather than normal silk. It’s still silk,” she said.

In May, brands including Nike, H&M, Burberry and Gap announced they had signed up to the MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular scheme to reduce global waste from fashion by recycling raw materials and products.

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