On the closing evening of Milan Fashion Week, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and Eco-Age hosted the Green Carpet Fashion Awards. Spearheaded by Eco-Age co-founder and creative director Livia Firth, the Awards celebrate the commitment of fashion houses to sustainability and showcase the innovation and human craftsmanship of the Italian fashion supply chain. During its third edition held at Teatro alla Scala, the awards show honored fashion veteran Valentino Garavani with the Legacy Award. “We have turned a corner finally”, Firth announced, reflecting a positive outlook despite warning that greenwashing is on the rise. As president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, Carlo Capasa, who spoke at the event, sustained his focus on making brands, established and novel, completely sustainable over the next decade. “Our goal is to make Milan the sustainable fashion week,” he explained. The question is, what does the next decade look like?
We are about to embark on a new era, and environmentally speaking, we’re at a tipping point. As established by many in media, fashion has yet to define what it means to be sustainable: Is it using responsibly sourced materials? Is it focusing on social handprint, or reducing the industry’s carbon footprint? What’s certain is that everywhere you look, fashion is being held accountable for its massive impact on climate change.
The earliest psychological research on environmental issues originated in the seventies, alongside the rise of the Counterculture of the 60s that the gained momentum from mid-sixties throughout mid-seventies. The cultural phenomenon praised the merits of love, spiritual imagination and sensibility, and condemned the mechanical society and materialistic consumption. Cultural movements developed like civil rights, free speech, anti-war, anti-nuclear, feminism, environmentalism, sexual revolution, hippie and alternative lifestyles, use of recreational drugs, alternative media, and avant-garde art. Sound too familiar?
At Etro, Veronica Etro reconnected with the travelling hippie vision of her Resort 2020 collection. For spring, the designer married together “posh pirates and aristo-groupies” and based the collection on the wardrobe the imaginary pairing would’ve potentially collected along their travels. With a bohemian-on-the-road, less-is-more mentality, Etro fusioned seventies menswear-inspired tailoring with ruffled, flowy dresses and kaftans. Tailoring and artisanal elements were the focus. During the finale, models wore paisley jeans and oversized shirts. The latter was a node to Gimmo Etro’s first shirt for the house, created in the late sixties.
A wedding party took place at the MM6 Maison Margiela runway show. The collection explored the idea of “Betterhalfism,” as printed on several pieces, while channeling John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s marriage and bed-in for peace that the pair staged in 1969, during the rage of the Vietnam War. The newlyweds used performance art to deliver a message of world peace through inescapable heavy media coverage. A play on word of the “Just Married” colloquialism was transformed into “Just Margiela.” Menswear suits contrasted beautifully with women’s lingerie details. Layered ruffles and tulle complemented opera length gloves, veils, and portable speaker “bouquets” that the models wore.
The spirit of the seventies also moved Alberta Ferretti. For Spring 2020, Ferretti envisioned a warmer set of colors: pinks, ochres, blues, and blacks. Soft tailoring and denim appeared in the mix to appeal to the active, modern woman of today. Separates and daywear were also the focus of the collection, new to the designer famed for her evening wear appeal. Additionally Ferretti included leatherwork, handcrafted embroideries, and dip-dye techniques for the season.
Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos designed a simplified collection of practical separates. Their Spring 2020 woman will have an ample variety of textures and color to choose from: silk, glossy satin, terrycloth jacquard, lurex, and washed denim, for instance. While this season Pilotto showed menswear for the first time in its history, there were ample boxy, almost gender-neutral, silhouettes in the women’s collection too. Big, smudged-floral prints and acid colors, mostly green and blue, and the movement from asymmetry and draping, reflected the psychedelic atmosphere of the collection.
A counterculture movement expresses the ethos, aspirations, and dreams of a specific population during a certain period of time. Successful countercultures invoke social change. We yearn for a future different from our present but we underestimate the effort that it requires. Why is change so inconvenient? Major life changes are never easy because today’s immediate concerns work against us. However, future thinking leads to better decisions in the present. Research suggests that it is possible to increase environmental engagement by promoting a future orientation. Caring more about our future self can also help us counter the tendency of embracing immediate gratification instead of long-term rewards.
Environmentalism is concerned with the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment, such as with the conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and certain land use actions. At Marni, Francesco Risso staged a set surrounded by reclaimed plastic and cardboard benches. On the runway, Risso and his team produced a collection made out of up-cycled textiles, organic cottons, and reclaimed leathers. He referred to his spring collection as a “joyous protest… an homage to nature and our sense of humanity.” The collection was rich in hue and meaning. The prints were made in-house by the creative director et al. The exploration of color and texture on the clothing evoked in the viewer a trancelike experience.
Nevertheless, looking at the past for answers on how to build a future with new potential won’t help. It’s fine to some extent, but we can’t stay in the past expecting to find new futures. Some argue that environmental problems are actually behavioral problems since there is a deep mismatch between the ways we meet our needs and wants and our desire to maintain an ecological identity. We’ve all been guilty for discounting future pay-offs for immediate gratification. “The feeling in today’s world is that everything is too much. Overproduction, overconsumption, overspeed. This makes a harsh contrast with the need we have to consume and pollute less,” said Miuccia Prada before her runway show.
Prada produced a joyous, versatile runway show for Spring 2020, where personal style took center stage. Grounded on the idea that quality beats quantity, Ms. Prada presented a collection of long lined, tailored suits and skirts, and draped, easy dresses. While the collection looked fresh in style, the brand never lost its peculiar pretty aesthetic. Skin-tight knits in graphic patterns made their standard appearance. Linens, silks, velvet, straw, macramé, and rope were protagonist textures for the season. Prada aims for its clients to invest in their clothing to wear anytime, anywhere. Hints of seventies fashion agreed with the set design, while Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and other psych-rock hits, complemented the ambiance.
Titled ‘Earth,’ Giorgio Armani paid homage to the planet. He further explained, “This is my way to remember all the natural elements and their importance.” For this collection, Armani concentrated on utilitarian daywear for the modern woman. He envisioned her in grays, browns, navy paired with subtle hues of pink and blue. While pants were the main focus for ready to wear, the Italian house also re-introduced ‘La Prima,’ a handbag once launched back in 1995. The set featured a jungle themed backdrop, similar to the natural atmosphere he used for his second label, Emporio Armani. Akin to jungle nuances were Dolce & Gabbana. Theirs, however, was “The Sicilian Jungle.” For their Spring 2020 collection, the pair looked back into their history and brought out archival pieces to present times in an effort to owning their heritage. Natural raffia pieces (crocheted, embellished, and woven) completed the looks.
“Using fashion psychology, clothes rooted in an earthy mood like the ones we’ve seen in Milan this season, can serve as a daily reminder to act towards our environmental goals. “
Meaningful change begins with individual change. Silvia Venturini showed her first solo collection for Fendi after Karl Lagerfeld’s passing earlier this year. A rising sun as the backdrop set the mood for the show, perhaps signifying reinvention for the house. Reinvention is challenging; it does not mean pressing the reset button and eliminating everything we’ve learned so far, it rather forces us to question and never accept there is only one point of view on any given matter. This is also known as creative unlearning.
For her Spring 2020 collection Venturini was inspired by the outdoors, and the emotion that summer holidays evokes in her. It is known that staying close to nature has proven to help reduce of stress, improve focus, increase attention span, and help alleviate symptoms of depression. Camping was the theme for Venturini’s spring offering. Walking into a late-sixties state of mind, the models wore floral and micro-checked printed designs in organza, Lycra, fur, knits, and washed cottons. Venturini’s idea of camping also included quilted ensembles, woven handbags, and fur accessories. To close the show, the creative director unveiled a set of pastel shades of pink, green, and blue ensembles, some sheer, some embellished.
Cultivating the personality trait of conscientiousness, we ought to break down a reinvention plan into actions we can do everyday, to integrate long-term goals into our present. But it is a matter of aligning our daily behaviors with our values that will result in greater sustainable community action. We often forget that the environment is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. Using fashion psychology, clothes rooted in an earthy mood like the ones we’ve seen in Milan this season, can serve as a daily reminder to act towards our environmental goals.
Missoni held its Spring 2020 runway show at Bagni Misterosi. Creative director, Angela Missoni, presented a collection of bohemian dressing. In her mind she had couples that exchange and borrow clothes from each other, more specifically, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. The collection was filled with simple and easy silhouettes in a mix of textures, fabrics, flower prints and patchwork in vibrant color ways. The house’s signature knits will be offered patch-worked, striped, polka-dotted, zigzagged, ombréd, and dyed for the season to come.
A highlight at Missoni was the Little-Sun portable solar-powered lamp given to every single guest and carried by models during the show’s finale. “Join us in holding hands with the sun, we’re at a crucial point for our planet, and we need to take action,” stated an accompanying card from Angela Missoni and Olafur Eliasson, the designer, and creator behind Little-Sun’s organization. For every Little-Sun lamp purchase, another one is given to one of the organization's partners in rural Africa in need of solar energy.
We leave Milan anticipating the positive outcome of our future created by environmental actions of our present. But as the costs of altruism increase, the status rewards also escalate. As we enter fashion’s final round of the season, all eyes will be on Kering and LVMH’s competitive altruism in Paris. One just hopes that generosity in economic games will not only translate into benefits in social contexts, but will prove powerful in bringing environment concerns to the forefront of youth culture.