Five ‘Vanguard’ Sustainable Designers Spotlighted at Milan’s WSM

Martino Carrera
·4 min read

MILAN — For the first digital-only edition of its WSM format dedicated to sustainability and held in conjunction with Milan Men’s Fashion Week, White Milano built a full schedule of activities intended to spotlight sustainability and artisanship.

The trade show, which ran Jan. 16 to 18 and is known for its scouting activities, gathered some 40 Italian and international up-and-coming brands all with an eco-friendly bent. In addition to a magazine-style showcase of the work and stories behind each label — including written interviews and video presentations — the platform hosted a business-to-business area.

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It also livestreamed a range of talks aimed at providing an identikit of what WSM labeled as the “advanced artisan,” a modern-day craftsperson who has embraced the digital and sustainable challenges needed to face the economic downturn.

“Our goal is to make sure that the 79,000 small and medium-sized [fashion] enterprises are spotlighted, I firmly believe we need to give voice to the thousands of Italian companies that consumers know little about,” said Massimiliano Bizzi, founder of White Milano.

This is crucial as in the first seven months of 2020, Confartigianato — Italy’s consortium of small artisanal businesses — reported a 24.3 percent decline in exports in the fashion category, which equals a loss of 8 billion euros.

While looking forward to September when he hopes Milan Fashion Week and its satellite events will be back in full force, Bizzi underscored the importance of pressing on.

Here, WWD picked the five most interesting fashion brands on show at WSM.

LUCQUES: Banking on the know-how of the storied Italian knitwear manufacturing district around Emilia Romagna’s Carpi town, Lucques designers Lorenzo Del Sole and Enrico Malavolta developed a collection of off-kilter and grandpa-chic sweaters that incorporated patterns such as cable knitting, jacquard and argyle. Foliage and a rich degrade autumnal palette that spanned from burgundy to dusty browns conjured a cozy vibe, especially when paired with corduroy and drawstring flannel pants. An aquamarine blue cardigan option featuring an embroidered cherub added a dash of romanticism to the collection.

PROGRAMMA: A dark mood informed Davide Gallo’s fall 2021 collection for Programma, the brand he established in 2018 with an ethical and sustainable bent. Drawing inspiration from architecture, the lineup comprised traditional tropes of formalwear revisited through a nostalgic lens. Suits with loose blazers and slightly flared pants were worn under oversize patchwork coats featuring prints nodding to illustrations in antique books, all coming from deadstock fabrics and the brand’s archives.

NTMB: Naples has been home to some of Italy’s key countercultures for decades. NTMB, which stands for Never Too Much Basic, celebrates the contemporary spirit of the city’s subculture that has transitioned from the punk-rock tribes of the late ’70s into the trap and streetwear enthusiasts of today. Designers Davide De Vivo and Matteo Paloni, who have collaborated with Faith Connextion and Wrangler, have taken that inspiration for their streetwear-infused fall 2021 collection, which is all about customization. Scraps are used for star-shaped embellishments on denim trucker jackets and pants, while deadstock fabrics are sewn together for a crafty hoodie or inserted as zippered side bands on tracksuits and hoodies, while graphic motifs nodding to graffiti art breathe new life into plain tops.

ARTICHOKE: What are the needs of modern days travelers — pandemic permitting? According to Lorenzo Scotto, a seasoned golfer and frequent flyer, available luggage was always too ugly, uncomfortable and heavy. He combined his desire to provide cool suitcases and backpacks with his penchant for sustainability. Since 2017, Artichoke has recycled 53,800 square feet of discarded sails sourced mainly from Trieste, Italy, to craft utilitarian one-of-a-kind bags, with plenty of inside pockets and compartments. In addition to materials, Scotto is focused on supporting Italy’s artisans by traveling throughout the country to find the ideal partners, which include factories in Padua and Val Zoldana, both in the Veneto region, as well as the Giglio Island off the coast of Tuscany.

SILVIA GIOVANARDI: The designer is not new to WSM as a cofounder of sustainable fashion brand Wrad, which was among the first eco-friendly Italian labels to be promoted through the trade show platform. With previous stints at Etro, Giovanardi launched her namesake label after attending a plenary session of the European Parliament that discussed the 2013 building collapse at Rana Plaza, which killed 1,134 workers in Bangladesh. Relying on new-gen fabrics derived from food waste and dyed with bio-based compounds, she claims her fashion collection is fully compostable and releases no harmful products. For her fall 2021 collection for men and women, she drew inspiration from a past trip to Japan, splashing comic strips and anime characters on unfussy fluid trench coats crafted from hemp and organic silk, kimono T-shirts done with organic cotton. Referencing traditional Japanese paintings, she enriched organic linen and cotton bomber jackets and short shorts with images of local landscapes.

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