I was happy to wake up to another beautiful morning in Milan! Once again our group ventured to the mystery of the Italy metro to take us to the university. I was excited to be back at the university and be reunited with the students for the last time. However, before having lunch with the students we had a lecture on sustainability. It was interesting to learn about sustainability in the fashion industry, the only thing I really know about sustainability is from the article we read in our pre-departure class. I think sustainability is getting more and more imperative to the industry every year; I don’t know any industries who do not practice some form of sustainability. What I found particularly interesting was the talk about Patagonia. Our group was lucky because our professor was almost an expert in Patagonia, she had written a whole book on them and their sustainability. Patagonia would actually be considered one of the most sustainable companies. They are really in a new category of corporations: benefit corporations. These benefit corporations operate not only for profit, but to also give back to the community. Ben and Jerry’s is an example of a benefit corporation. Patagonia chooses to give back to the environment as their community outreach. I remember they once had a sale where all of their revenues went solely to the environment. Customers, for the most part, want their retail stores to be sustainable. However, they also want their clothes cheap and they want them fast. It is currently the era of fast fashion, this means that there are new clothing products as often as twice a week. The trends are getting faster and the seasons are loosing meaning. The collections are being restructured on a month to month basis based on these trends. Although the fashion is fast and cheap, it comes with an environmental cost. The supply chain of products is much more intricate than what meets the eye. The inputs of fabrics actually has a chemical and agriculture base. Not only can certain chemical runoffs be bad for the environment, so can the agriculture material bases. Products such as cotton are actually extremely harmful to people who work with it. More than 40,000 people die every year from the rigors of producing cotton. I was shocked to learn that fact. I hope that companies can find ways to make their inputs more sustainable. However, this will be quite the challenge to be both sustainable and cost efficient.
Big brands are taking note on the growing sustainability motive; H and M gives one million euros a year to sustainable starts up. One start up in particular was particularly interesting to me, there was one that used orange waste to make fabric. H and M even pledged that by 2030 they will be completely sustainable. I am curious to keep tabs on them and the steps they will take to make that goal. I say steps because sustainability is not a one day venture but rather an entire journey. There are so many different aspects and goals of sustainability to meet that it is difficult to just finally declare yourself sustainable. A long journey, but well worth it. Other players are using sustainability as a tool of communication. They “green paint” to put out a perception of good environmental factors. It also helps get talented new employees who share the same values. Companies are taking a triple bottom line approach to help accomplish this. This means that not only will companies focus on profits, they will focus on customers and the environment. Fair trade laws help the corporations practice this way of business.
Even though I enjoyed the lecturer greatly, my favorite part of the day would have to have been the Armani museum. It was fascinating to see not just different styles but evolutions of styles. For example, I never knew that Armani created the women’s business jacket. To be frank, before the trip I never really liked fashion. However, as the trip draws to a close, I can say I have a much greater appreciation for the evolution and process of fashion. I am very sad that the trip is drawing to a close, I have enjoyed not only Italy but the great people I have met on this trip. Still, I am looking forward to what my last day will bring me.