It is undeniable that consumers have been re-considering their carbon footprint and their environmental impact as of late. Whether we want to call this the Attenborough Effect, or a widespread generational questioning of values, there has definitely been a shift. This shift has been well noticeable within the fashion industry, with many brands aiming to distance themselves from ‘fast-fashion’ and try to be seen as taking steps towards sustainability. But are these brands taking the right steps?
A brand that has recently been making news for efforts towards sustainability is Prada. They recently released their Re-Nylon Collection for Selfridges, after success with the project in 2019. The premise of Re-Nylon is of course to become more sustainable in their operations. Prada’s head of marketing, Lorenzo Bertelli, stated that the “ultimate goal will be to convert all Prada virgin nylon into Re-Nylon by the end of 2021”. By setting this goal, Prada can still create items, but can also be seen to appear sustainable. The best of both worlds.
The Prada Re-Nylon collection consists of a variety of popular items that are sure to go down well with customers. They have produced recycled versions of classic products such as the Bauletto Shoulder Bag, puffer jackets, and even a water bottle. The collection is an excellent step toward making their operations sustainable, but how do they produce the recycled materials, and is it as sustainable as they say?
Prada works in partnership with ECONYL. ECONYL is a company that aims to solve our desire to buy new products in a world with finite resources through a circular production model. They aim to use a regeneration system that acts as a loop; recycling old products into new pieces. There are three steps that Prada take in their process. First, they gather old material such as fishing nets, discarded nylon, and other waste which can be reused. Then comes the regeneration; this is a staple of ECONYL in which nylon waste is brought back to its original purity and quality. Finally, comes creating the pieces. The created material is transformed into the garments that go onto be sold by Prada.
Looking at the numbers, this seems to be a process that is working. According to Prada, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL created 70,000 barrels of petroleum are saved, and environmental emissions of CO2 are reduced by 57,100 tons. Using these regenerated fibres is an incredibly innovative and responsible way to create new clothing in a way that does not add extra strain to an industry already responsible for a huge impact on environmental issues.
Looking at the wider industry, Prada is by no means the only company looking to appeal to the new green marketing trend. There are two key ways we can break down companies and their tactics towards sustainability. There are pioneers and then reactionary players in sustainability within fashion.
Pioneers are companies who paved the way for sustainability in fashion and who made sustainability a key part of their brand early on. This includes companies such as Patagonia and Stella McCartney. Patagonia wanted to be a sustainable company due to their connection with nature and interest in preserving the heritage and the environment. They cared about sustainability in what they did because it was so key to the brand. Similarly, with Stella McCartney, the idea of being sustainable and ethical was never questioned due to McCartney’s passion for being vegetarian and cruelty-free. Pioneers are companies that made early strides in sustainability and whose work has been crucial to influencing the situation we are in now.
Next are the reactionaries. These are companies who have reacted to a shift in the market. This is what we are seeing a lot of now, and arguably this could categorize the Prada Re-Nylon collection. Although the reason companies are reacting to the demand may be mixed -some may be simply aiming to profit off the trend whereas others may have a genuine interest in becoming more sustainable- any push towards a greater emphasis on sustainability is better for the industry.
Prada’s collection may be a reaction to an emerging market but that does not make this collection an example of ‘greenwashing’ for profit. The Prada Re-Nylon collection and their work with ECONYL is a great step towards sustainability and is proof that a circular production model can work for a luxury brand.
You can find out more information about the Re-Nylon collection here or, about the work ECONYL does here. You can shop the complete Prada Re-Nylon collection here and will see global release mid-September.