IN FOCUS: Put It In Neutral

CARBON NEUTRAL WAS THIS SEASON’S NEW BUZZ WORD. HERE’S HOW THE INDUSTRY IS MAKING GOOD ON THAT PROMISE

Carbon neutrality is the new black in the fashion world. Achieving a zero-carbon footprint by balancing emissions with carbon removal (eg. by planting trees) or eliminating those emissions altogether has gone from the noble aim of a few brands to the new way of doing business.

Among the most committed? Gabriela Hearst, whose SS20 show was the first to be carbon neutral. Sustainability has always been a cornerstone of Hearst’s brand, whether she’s sourcing merino wool from her family’s ranch in Uruguay or overhauling her packaging with fully compostable Tipa bags. Working with consultancy group EcoAct and production company Bureau Betak, the designer took stock of all emissions for her show, from power usage to transportation to catering. The offset amount was donated to the Kenya-based Hifadhi-Livelihoods project, which provides cookstoves that reduce wood usage. Hearst also created scarves featuring insects that have recently gone extinct and made a separate donation to Our Children’s Trust, which takes legal action for climate change and promotes youth advocacy and public education.

Then there was Burberry, which offset guests’ flights through VCS-certified REDD+ projects. The VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) ensures projects that claim to be reducing greenhouse gases are legit, while REDD+ (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is an initiative by The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, whose projects include planting trees and working to conserve tropical rainforests in the Brazilian Amazon. In a further effort to encourage shoppers to be more sustainable, the brand announced a partnership with TheRealReal to offer an exclusive shopping experience in its US stores to anyone selling pre-loved Burberry garments on the site.

Over at Gucci, creative director Alessandro Michele announced — as thousands of trees were being planted in Milan for each of the guests and staff in attendance at the house’s SS20 show — that the brand had achieved carbon neutrality.

This is, of course, part of much broader initiatives by Gucci’s parent company Kering (which spearheaded The Fashion Pact, a commitment to help stop global warming) as well as LVMH (which owns a minority stake in Gabriela Hearst’s business and whose board member Antoine Arnault has said, “We prefer acts to pacts”). Both luxury conglomerates plan to radically shift their standard operating procedures, scrutinizing everything from fabric sourcing to delivery methods, for an impact that goes far beyond simply planting a few more trees.

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