It can be hard to have a sensible conversation about sustainability while wading through a sea of factory-fresh menswear at Pitti Immagine Uomo. Yet that was the rhetoric that prevailed at the industry’s major trade show, which ended yesterday in Florence.
The complexity of the issue is illustrated by a new shoe from one of our footwear favourites, French brand Paraboot, known for creating beautiful products with meticulous attention to detail. Going beyond the oft-heard refrain “it’s a design that lasts a lifetime” (which doesn’t explain why we need an incessant seasonal turnover of new products), the company pushed its manufacturing team to produce a beautiful shoe with components made from recycled rubber and scrap leather. It’s a beautiful shoe that goes hand in hand with the rest of its line in terms of quality and style. The trade-off, however, is the cost. This new part is simply more expensive to manufacture, and while it will be priced in line with Paraboot’s other products, the brand will lose the biggest profit margin.
This highlights the problem that resonates in the halls of Pitti: producing clothes in a greener way, in a fiercely competitive market, is not always good for business. Yet he also underscores its importance. While the primary purpose of the event is commercial, its secondary role is to act as an international forum for debate. And, while some here might be accused of greenwashing, real solutions for smarter ways to manufacture and better ways to buy have also been introduced to an increasingly sustainability-conscious audience.
Listen to our full report from Pitti Uomo on yesterday’s edition of “The Briefing” on Monocle 24.