By now Gabriela Hearst is well known for her efforts to lower fashion’s impact on the environment. From her own eponymous, New York-based label to now nearly a full year creating major shifts in supply chains and craftsmanship processes at French luxury heritage brand Chloé, the Uruguay-born designer is teaching everyone — from her retailers and customers to editors and industry veterans — how to think in ways that are closer to a truer definition of net-zero.
Which is exactly why sneakers were at the top of her list when it came to finding ways to make the biggest impact on Chloé’s sustainability efforts.
“It was one of the first projects that we started at the company, when I arrived (at Chloé),” Hearst told FN at a New York Fashion Week party held at the brand’s reopened Soho boutique, to celebrate the launch of its new Nama sneaker for spring ’22. “When you have a big company, a luxury brand, there are always these volume drivers. You have to change the volume drivers to lower the impact as soon as possible. The beautiful skirt, the merino turtleneck — that all is less in volume. But with the things that you are making tens of thousands of, you reduce those (products) first.
Hearst likened the approach to a pyramid system, looking at volume drivers like sneakers but also handbags (including its new Kattie bag) as products that she and her team would tackle first in creating lower impact versions to replace existing product. It’s a departure from some of the typical approaches brands have taken in confronting their impact on climate change, which often include limited capsule collections, one-off collaborations or single-material efforts. Instead, the Chloé designer looks for the category, product and sum of all parts that can take the brand to a cumulatively lower impact. It’s part of why Chloé became the first luxury brand in Europe to attain B Corp certification back in October.
“I think I’m just wired in a different way, I’ve always observed things differently,” said Hearst. “Maybe it’s my country, or maybe because I come from nature and I’m always looking for things that make common sense.”
To buy: Chloé Nama sneaker, $725.
The Nama sneaker, which was first introduced at Chloé’s resort ’22 collection and then in different iterations for spring ’22, took more than eight months to create, with Hearst and her design team looking at each and every component for ways to lower the sneaker’s impact. That includes knit pieces comprised of 90% recycled polyester yarn from plastic bottles, 25% recycled microsuede, a welt that uses 25% recycled thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) and a midsole made of 25% recycled rubber powder. The sum of its recycled percentages comes to 40% of the total sneaker weight being made of recycled debris. It also makes the sneaker 39% lighter than the brand’s previous Sonnie sneaker (a buzzy style that hit at the height of the luxury sneaker boom a few years ago under former creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi.
With her own label’s fall ’22 runway show scheduled for Feb. 15 during NYFW, the designer was mum on what’s next for footwear within both Gabriela Hearst and Chloé, but assured: “It will always sustainable. What’s the lower impact, where are the leathers coming from? It’s about traceability, finding all of the information.”