Gucci Sustainable Collection? – Here’s The Issue With ‘Off the Grid’

Ana Alves

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The idea of a Gucci sustainable collection raises serious questions how the company defines sustainability.

And here is why…

Back in 2017, in an attempt to create (to read, ‘market’) a more responsible business Gucci launched Gucci Equilibrium.

Gucci Equilibrium was promoted across the entire fashion media, as the most up to date sustainability plan, in luxury fashion.

A Century of What?

According to Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri, the brand’s sustainable plan was innovative and aimed to propel the Italian fashion house into the ‘next century’.

Gucci Equilibrium

Bizzarri’s speech took place at at the London College of Fashion, on the International Day of the Girl.

There, Gucci’s CEO outlined the brand’s ten-year ‘Culture of Purpose’ sustainability plan:

Gucci is committed to a culture of purpose by putting environmental and social impact at the heart of the brand,” said Bizzarri.

At the time, we couldn’t stop asking:

Propel the brand into ‘a next century’ of what?”

“Better be a century of ethical manufacturing rather than sales.

Gucci – ‘Off the Grid’

Three years later, as the Italian company has just launched ‘Off the Grid,’ one could say that the plan has begun to yield results.

‘Off the Grid’ is Gucci’s sustainable collection made only recycled, organic, bio-based, and sustainably sourced materials.

Promoted by Jane Fonda, Miyavi, David de Rothschild, Lil Nas X, and King Princess, Gucci’s sustainable collection is comprised of accessories, footwear, ready-to-wear apparel, and even pieces of luggage.

But Gucci sustainable collection has reminded us about Bizzarri’s speech, three years ago.

Propelling the Italian company into the next century of what?!

Sales or ethical manufacturing?

Looking back to the initial sustainability plan, Gucci made two main commitments:

1. To join the Fur Free Alliance eliminating animal fur from all collections beginning with Spring Summer 2018.

2. To donate 1 million euro as a founding partner of UNICEF’s Girls’ Empowerment Initiative.

And they did.

Well, part of it…

Gucci did join the Fur Free Alliance, and since SS18 there were no further fur collections.

Yet, the company is still to donate its million to UNICEF, so we’ll keep an eye on that.

Moreover, Gucci’s initial plan towards sustainability was criticised for not having sufficient substance.

Consequently, the plan was improved and more recently, Bizzarri talked about three main pillars that represent Gucci’s sustainability plan.

1. Environment

According to the revised plan, Gucci is committed to preserving the environment by reducing its environmental impact.

For that, the brand is setting ambitious targets to create a new standard in luxury fashion.

One of the targets that the company mentioned was guaranteeing the traceability of 95 per cent of its raw materials.

2. Humanity

Again, according to the new plan, Gucci recognises the value of its employees.

Thus, the company is dedicated to enhancing the lives of the people who make its products.

Also, the company supports diversity, inclusion and gender equality by empowering girls and women to take management roles.

3. New Models

This is a bit trickier as it relates to material innovation and future business models.

According to the plan, Gucci is developing new technological solutions to improve efficiency in its production and logistics.

For example, the Italian giant is supporting incubators and start-ups to foster innovation within the company.

Now, there are some problems with Gucci’s sustainability plan:

More Likely A Pseudo-Environment

Guaranteeing traceability is ensuring the origin of materials.

It is great for Gucci’s business as it ensures its customers of the genuineness of materials.

It helps Gucci combat counterfeiting and increases sales.

Sadly, it does nothing for the environment and its inhabitants.

It makes no reference to the use of cruelty-free materials.

For that, there’s no eco-friendliness or preservation of biosphere by continuing to sacrifice animals for their skins.

Humanity, but Not For All

It is good to hear that Gucci recognises the value of its employees.

Gucci sustainability

But it does not mean that Gucci recognises the value of local craftsmanship and heritage.

It also does not mean that Gucci helps small, emerging fashion designers.

Quite the opposite, as the company has been caught red-handed several times before for stealing designs without reimbursing or even giving credit back.

The Italian company was accused in the past of ripping off iconic Harlem couturier Dapper Dan and the artist Stuart Smythe, who took to Instagram to write:

Gucci has copied the combination of elements together that create my logo. Moreover, when I overlay my snake illustration on top of the copy, the scales even line up perfectly.

New models – not yet

Scouting incubators and start-ups can change things for good, from a sustainability perspective.

Yet, despite experimenting with 3D technology and the production of natural materials in its newly-built ArtLab, according to Bizzarri, innovation remains an ongoing process at Gucci:

We are not there yet. However, we are making great strides to get there.

In some ways, ‘New models’ is the only functional part of Gucci’s sustainability plan.

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Thanks to this initiative, the company has finally managed to become carbon neutral across its entire supply chain.

According to a recent press release, Gucci’s carbon-neutral achievement offsets all greenhouse gas emissions from the brand’s operations and across the entire supply chain.

The company will be contributing (annually) to four UN-backed REDD+ projects around the world“, said Marco Bizzarri president and CEO of Gucci.

The REDD programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) protect and restore the world’s forests that play an essential role in mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity.

Gucci sustainable collection – Conclusion

Gucci’s sustainable collection shows (once again) that the Italian fashion heavyweight understands how trends and influencer marketing works.

However, it also gives us the answer to the question of which kind of ‘next century’ the company is pushing forward.

Three years and a sustainable collection later, it is evident that to Gucci:

  • Sales first, people second.
  • Sales first, the environment after.
  • Sales first, animals and biodiversity…we’re not there, not yet.

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A decade of fashion; here’s to the next one.

The past decade has been turbulent – and defining – for fashion: child labour, climate crisis, gender inequality, animal cruelty, and reckless plastic pollution, just to name a few.

At the beginning of this decade, the COVID-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse into the future of fashion:

If not ethical and sustainable, it will soon be ‘all-digital’.

That’s why finding media that covers the intersection of fashion with innovation for a sustainable future is so critical right now.

Finding media that informs all, without paywalls, is even harder, especially now in times of social media misinformation.

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