Gucci’s Fashionable Commitment to Sustainability

With new collections of both eco-friendly shoes and sunglasses, as well as an increasing commitment to greening some of their practices, could Gucci emerge as the high-fashion leader in sustainability?

Even though it seems like a no-brainer, sustainability practices have not yet had a big breakthrough at the high-fashion houses of the world. However, with two recent product launches and an increasing commitment to eco-friendly practices, it seems like Gucci is starting to put some focus on sustainability.

On the heels of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, Gucci came out with a new eco-friendly line of shoes. Named “Sustainable Soles” and designed by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini, the shoes are made from biodegradable plastic, not unlike the material used by Brazilian shoemaker Melissa, sourced from compost. The line includes two styles – the Marola Green ballerina flat for women featuring cutout details and a signature GG logo and comes in a variety of colors, while the California Green men’s sneaker comes in a low- and high-top version and features bio-rubber soles, vegetable-tanned calf skin, bio laces and recycled polyester.

After producing a small range of sustainably made eyewear in collaboration with Safilo last year, it seems that Gucci has renewed the commitment to environmentally friendly sunglasses with a new collection, made from liquid wood. It’s the first time this innovative biodegradable material has been used in sunglasses. Made from bio-based materials – wood fiber from sustainably managed forests, lignin from the paper manufacturing process and natural wax – liquid wood is a great alternative to the plastic that is so frequently used in eyewear. The cases were also designed for space and weight efficiency, which cuts carbon emissions from transport by 60%.

Two years ago, in June 2010, Gucci dipped their toes in the sustainability bucket by launching a completely new range of packaging, also created by Frida Giannini, that is 100% recyclable. The plastic laminated surfaces that are so commonly seen on high-fashion shopping bags were replaced with a more subtle beater-dyed paper de-bossed with Gucci’s famous GG logo, and the paper used to create the bags is sourced only from certified forests. On the recently launched Creative Sustainability Lab on PPR’s main website, Gucci states that they will continue to push for “the use of other biodegradable materials, such as corn, bamboo and cotton.”

Gucci is also gradually replacing printed materials with e-cards and e-catalogues, and new transportation policies have reduced the use of trucks by 30%. Also, each new Gucci mannequin will be made in Italy, from 100% recyclable polystyrene that is 100% recyclable and finished with water based paints. Patrizio di Marco, President and CEO of Gucci, said “The world’s leading brands are rightly judged today, not just on the quality of their products and services, but also on the way they act in the community and towards the environment.”

Sure, there’s a lot more that Gucci could, and should do when it comes to sustainability, but it all has to start somewhere. We can only hope that these efforts are the start of something bigger.

Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.