Gucci, Ancient Greek Sandals & How the Pandemic Is Driving Sustainable Fashion

The COVID-19 pandemic has already proven to be an agent for dramatic change. It has shaken the fashion industry to its core from the show and retail calendars to bigger issues of diversity and digitization. And now brands big and small are increasing their focus on sustainability as well.

Today Kering announced the appointment of Emma Watson as chair of the sustainability committee on its board of directors while the group’s cash cow label Gucci has launched new circular initiative, Gucci Off The Grid part of its continued commitment to responsible fashion. Likewise, brands like Ancient Greek Sandals are stepping up.

The debut collection from Gucci’s new line comprises footwear, accessories and ready-to-wear. It is crafted from recycled materials such as Econyl, which is created using nylon offcuts and pre-and post-consumer waste, plus sustainable alternatives including metal free tanned leather and solvent free adhesives.

Gucci Off the Grid capsule
Gucci Off the Grid capsule.

Accompanying the launch is a global campaign shot by photographer and director Harmony Korine. It features a cast of city dwellers (actress and activist Jane Fonda, musician Miyavi, Lil Was X and King Princess and environmentalist David de Rothschild) who have built a wooden treehouse in an urban landscape.

According to Michele, “the collection is the result of teamwork; everybody brought something to it.” As for the campaign, ” there is this idea of dialogue among people building something new,” he said in a statement.

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Disheartened to hear about the lengthly queues on the high street as commerce slowly returns. A gentle reminder not to sleep on vintage stores and charity shops just because you have bought into the belief that pre-loved clothes are dirty or cheap! Absolute myth. 🍃 My most epic skirt right here was a charity shop buy. Just saying. They are a gold mine for genuine vintage and retro goods, scattered with hidden gems and celebrate your individuality. Curate your wardrobe people with a bit of everything. The nostalgia is real and knowing that your money is going towards real, life-changing services out in the global community matters. Many cultures circulate clothing and hold beautifully made items in high regard regardless of past ownership. The idea that we must always relentlessly consume something new and shiny is a high-pressure fast fashion mentality, one to convince you that feeling and looking good can only be connected to owning new things all the time. How many people survived quarantine without having to run to the high street? Exactly. 🍃 By all means treat yourself and shop, but your identity doesn’t have to be tied to new new new. Part of feeling I Am Enough (see last post) is in questioning what the material possessions we own mean to us and why, and not being sheep. 🍃 Tagged a few of my favourites. #SlowFashion #SustainableFashion #Fashion ⁣#BlackGirlsThrift

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Although conceived pre-pandemic, the line chimes perfectly with the current zeitgeist, according to Samata Pattinson, CEO of global change organization Red Carpet Green Dress. She is adamant that the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the conversation around sustainable fashion.

The pandemic introduced a “collaborative agility” mentality, she said, citing record response times, factories being repurposed overnight to make masks and antibacterial gel with red tape and barriers cast aside.

According to Pattinson, there has also been an increased appreciation for slow fashion — and products which tell stories and enrich the lives of communities. “This spoke to so many when they were deprived of high street access,” she observed. “We are searching for depth and meaning and that is what sustainability provides. It honors creators, makers and the planet’s resources and is set up to ensure that how we live does not deprive future generations of the same.”

From a business perspective, she added, “the slow-down and pile up of stock presented the most visceral account of where the fashion industry is right now. “To hear brands talk about reducing the number of collections they will make, focusing on the story and the makers more, all falls firmly within the importance of a more sustainable framework.”

Ancient Greek Sandals new pre spring '21 upcycled collection
Ancient Greek Sandals new pre spring ’21 upcycled collection.
CREDIT: Ancient Greek Sandals

Ancient Greek Sandals is introducing an entry price line of upcycled sandals into its permanent collection. The capsule, launching for pre spring ’21 has been created using surplus leathers from previous and current collections.

Available in six new styles from thongs to more elevated buckle versions they draw inspiration from the archive with wave motifs found on traditional Greek national costume. Going forward, colors will vary according to the main collections from which they are derived.

“We normally use only the best parts of the skins and reject any pieces displaying natural marks so we wanted to find a way to use the offcuts too,” said AGS co-founder and designer Cristina Martini.

Ancient Greek Sandals
Ancient Greek Sandals new pre spring ’21 upcycled collection.

According to Martini, although she has been considering the idea for some time, it took flight over lockdown when it became difficult to order new leather.

An additional impetus, she said, was to further support the local Greek factory that produces their products. “Because of the COVID-19 situation, the owner was worried that he would have to lay off employees due to a drop in production,” she explained. “We thought buyers would order larger quantities from an entry price line and that would give them more work,” she said, adding that the factory needs to produce around 200 pairs of shoes a day to remain viable.

However, the entry priced line which starts at around $110 was also a response to commercial reality.

“The United States is one of our biggest markets so we’ve always taken into account that it is more price conscious than Europe as there is more competition,” said AGS global sales director Yiannis Vagenas. “It has also been hit hardest by the health crisis so this was a way to address our customers’ financial situation.

Ancient Greek Sandals new pre spring '21 upcycled collection
Ancient Greek Sandals new pre spring ’21 upcycled collection.
CREDIT: Ancient Greek Sandals

The sales campaign began last week, he said, and the capsule has received a positive response from buyers including Shopbop, Level Shoes and Le Bon Marché who were happy that the brand was engaging on every level.

“The pandemic has made us think more about everything and speeded up processes that were already there,” Vagenas added. “It’s not a dramatic change but more of a refocus.”

This month, Red Carpet Green Dress is launching a sustainable design contest in partnership with Tencel Luxe to raise funds for garment workers impacted by COVID-19.

The initiative was founded in 2016 by environmentalist Suzy Amisi Cameron, wife of filmmaker James Cameron as a platform for promoting sustainable fashion. It has an ongoing partnership with the Academy Awards —currently top of mind with the announcement that February’s ceremony has been postponed to April 25 — where it has collaborated with brands including Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood and Ghanaian designer Michael Badger.

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I am sending the biggest nod to me then (in this picture) who really thought that being on those front rows, having that mainstream platform was just so important 🤣 She is hearing from the me today, who knows that the work is more important than the accolades, that actively moving the needle and making change (for me in the fashion industry but for you it might be something different) is the most important thing. Who knows that build it, and it will all come. 🍃⁣ For @RedCarpetGreenDress we are passionate about creating:⁣ – Global sustainable and accessible design solutions – Engaging with the global design community and sharing knowledge ⁣ – Creating sustainable-learning opportunities for a global design community ⁣ – Creating a more socially fair, equitable and representative industry⁣ 🍃⁣ Though we are best known for our Oscars sustainable design project, for the past ten years we have also worked with fashion colleges, created internship and work experience opportunities and collaborated with brands to create sustainable products which can be easily accessed.⁣ 🍃⁣ Please share the work you are passionate about that centres of making real change, as we all know the flashing lights fade and what remains is the legacy. What is happening right now is really, truly so important. This is a time of realisation, that in the words of Alice Walker, ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for’. Someone asked me yesterday, what makes this wave of activism so different. I think it’s the mind shift – the overflowing of ‘enough is enough’. Too many people are done. Once the mental resolve has reached a different place, we can do anything and we won’t go back!⁣ 🍃⁣ ⁣ #IntersectionalEnvironmentalism #SustainableFashion #Fashion⁣

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The competition is open until July 30 via Rcgdglobal.com until July 30, and winners will get the opportunity to dress influencers for a red carpet moment along with a monetary award and business mentorship.

Gucci campaign: Creative Director: Alessandro Michele; Art Director: Christopher Simmonds, Photographer/Director: Harmony Korine, Talents: Jane Fonda, Lil Nas X, King Princess, Miyavi, David de Rothschild, Make Up: Thomas de Kluyver, Hair Stylist: Alex Brownsell


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