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Lampoon / the Transition issue: Giorgio Armani says the consumer must consume less

In a long interview with the editor in chief, Mr. Giorgio Armani talks about ethics in fashion: when clothes can define civic roles and human variety

Mr. Armani’s vision on the future of fashion

The lack of collaboration between Fashion industry stakeholders has led to fragmented and incremental improvement so far. The Armani group has presented a long standing genuine commitment to environmental social and ethical issues. As a fashion leader and master, how does Mr. Armani see the future for an industry that has to move cohesively and cooperatively, instead of being strongly competitive?

MR. ARMANI: To survive, fashion must recover its function and respond first of all to the needs of the public, of people in real life, and it must do so by abandoning personalism. The industry must begin to produce more responsibly, and to do this it needs to be cooperative in finding shared solutions. One example of this is the Fashion Pact, signed in 2019, which saw leading global fashion companies come to the table and commit to goals aimed at halting global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. Today, more than ever, by design I mean the design of objects made to last – not creations whose value decays in a few months. Design, in this sense, is the center of my work. When this challenging period is over, we will certainly buy more thoughtfully, with more consideration, choosing what is worthwhile. Fashion, the result of design, will regain its weight and its mission, which is to dress people in clothes that make life easier, that help redefine roles and iconographies. The world we live in is more and more global and it is natural to look at production globally as well. Quality must be the key factor. I’ve been attentive to the quality of raw materials and processes and it’s true that the Italian supply chain has preserved high level craftsmanship skills, which are a heritage to be enhanced, and which are a central part of my production.

Fashion is often criticized for its actions, but it has the ability to present itself as a source of pleasure and as a place for innovation. In times of crisis, the world may need it more than ever. How can fashion reinvent its format and become the starting point for positive progress?

MR. ARMANI: Fashion can serve as a catalyst for renovation if it is able to realign itself to people’s real needs, while respecting the protection of what appear to be common goods: the environment and a healthy social fabric. Less entertainment, perhaps, and a better product, communicated wisely. Consumers, too, must begin to consume more responsibly. It’s a question of awareness. The consumer has never expected mass fashion to release new products in a continuous stream. It was the manufacturers who generated this situation. Now we need to start a process of re-education so that consumers understand that if we want things to be done more responsibly, they too must consume more consciously: buying less and better; buying products made with processes that minimize environmental impact. There are innovations, the use of recycled, organic and biodegradable materials, and the possibility to reuse energy. The whole supply chain and manufacturing process has to be questioned. We need to look at how we run our businesses from a sustainability perspective: stores, offices, transportation networks, even packaging. We need to rethink what we design and put on the market, removing the embedded obsolescence that comes from adopting a model made up of products focused on current trends. These changes are driven not only by our perception of what we need to do as a responsible business – and our desire to be a responsible industry – but also by consumer demand.

The Armani Group – New energies

The Armani Group has set the goal to reduce CO2 emissions by thirty percent by 2030, however, a lot of carbon neutrality pledges by brands and corporations can be considered misleading. According to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s results, if the industry continues on the current path, the 2030 emissions reduction targets will be missed by fifty percent.

MR. ARMANI: Emissions reduction is a process: it must take into account the entire production process, from raw materials to the end of product life. One of the answers is to produce less and better, as I said before, then we must select raw materials with low environmental impact, look for new innovative processes, reduce waste and scrap and use renewable energy sources. At this stage, data collection is the main challenge. To chart a path, the starting point must be clear, and that is where our efforts must be focused at this time so that progress is not only desirable and reasonably expected, but measurable with as much precision as possible.

Emporio Armani sustainable capsule collection, 2020

For the headquarters in Via Bergognone in Milan, the Group has been equipping itself with photovoltaic systems since 2014. As for all the offices and stores in Italy, the energy that will be purchased in 2021 will come from different sources, mainly solar, wind and geothermal. I repeat: it is a slow and complex process that requires commitment. The heating and air conditioning systems of the production hubs, offices and stores are centrally regulated to meet actual needs. For the lights, now largely LED and low consumption, sensors have been adopted to regulate the automatic switching off of the lights when the space is not used.

The current changes are only concerning the Italian offices and shops, are there any plans to implement them in the spaces elsewhere? What are the challenges?

MR. ARMANI: It is expected that the supply of electricity exclusively from renewable sources, which will be effective from 2021 in all offices, production centers and stores in Italy, will be progressively extended to other countries, starting with Europe. The change, which is relatively simple for directly managed spaces, requires agreement with various partners, wholesalers and franchisees.

The buildings in Via Bergognone were designed with a focus on limiting consumption and, with a view to sustainable mobility, connected to the Via Borgonuovo office by an electric shuttle. Also with this in mind, recharging points for non-polluting vehicles have been placed in the company parking lots at the via Bergognone headquarters. Moreover, in 2015, in correspondence with the opening of the Armani/Silos exhibition space, the entire section of via Bergognone, where the offices are located, was upgraded with the resurfacing of the sidewalks, new paving and the restoration of green areas which had deteriorated in the past and were used as parking lots. One thing I am certain of is that the concept of sustainability should be adopted in 360°, so not only in the conception of clothing products but also in the production of furniture and furnishing accessories and in the design of offices and stores. In 2019 our first green outlet was inaugurated, designed not only with recycled and recyclable materials but conceived to be a versatile space, easily modifiable and where the materials,at the end of their life, can be reused or recycled. Even within Armani/Casa, research has led to the introduction of materials from the recovery of production waste. These are the first steps, but the sustainability strategy, in the Armani world, is comprehensive.

Armani’s circular economies

The Armani Sustainability Project’s logo revolves around the text evoking the concept of a circular economy. Circular economies are upheld as a sustainable fashion panacea, with more and more brands turning towards them. Where does Mr. Armani stand when it comes to circularity practices and is there tangible potential to reach full circularity in the near future?

MR. ARMANI: Research has made it possible to introduce materials from recycled wool, polyester and leather fibers into our production. There is more attention and room for progress in this field as demonstrated by the REA collection: a proposal within Emporio Armani based entirely on upcycling and recycling; from fabrics, to padding, to finishes. We launched a new eyewear collection, which contains models made from recycled materials. Total circularity is a challenge. If we do not want the circular economy to remain an abstract concept, we have to start with design, not only in the selection of recycled materials but in the design of how materials can be separated and reused at the end of the product’s life. Otherwise, the results will always be limited. You have to include packaging, tags, displays, and wrapping. In 2012 we began converting all papers used in the company to certified papers. In the same year we started to phase out plastic components, and where this couldn’t be done, we focused on compostable or recycled plastic. Emporio Armani’s hangers are made from recycled materials and our slip covers are made from recycled polyester. Armani/Fiori’s ribbons are compostable, and the Armani/Dolci’s papers are recycled. As you can see, it’s a well-rounded endeavor.

This process is simplified by collaboration with other brands, gathered in associations created for this purpose or in the case of Camera della Moda, with third party experts and main suppliers, who are involved in this process. Our RSLs, lists of substances whose use is strictly regulated, are part of all group supply contracts and are updated as more advanced technical solutions become available.

How precisely does the Armani Group plan to ensure the Zero Discharge policy within the entirety of the production chain? What tests are going to be carried out?

MR. ARMANI: The audits that are regularly done at our suppliers lead to a classification of the results according to five different categories. When the result is unsatisfactory, the supplier is guided through a program of improvement that allows it to remain a qualified supplier of the Group. Follow-up audits, planned within a defined time frame, detect the required improvements. Non-compliance with the standards leads to definitive measures and, in the extreme, to the dismissal of the supplier.

The fashion industry is facing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and waste, not least from a new generation of consumers who demand more environmental accountability.

MR. ARMANI: The circular economy forces us to rethink the product, right from its conception. It is also, in my view, a practice that stimulates creativity, steering it on the path of healthy progress. This is a relevant concept, and it will be for the future, but only if it is extended seriously and does not remain a declaration of principle, reserved for a few capsule collections, useful above all for communication. Change, in fashion, comes from action, not just statements. Each Armani line has its own character and target audience, and the search for sustainability is aligned in accordingly. For A/X, a line of basic and graphic garments, it focuses on innovative, recycled and recyclable materials, as well as for Emporio, where it is combined with an urban and contemporary style. The Giorgio Armani line works on the excellence of materials and on craftsmanship that gives value to a product destined to last over time, and is therefore sustainable, first and foremost, as a philosophy of style.

Raw materials – The Armani Group plans

Raw materials are responsible for the largest share of a garment’s environmental footprint and frequently the brands’ efforts to improve their sustainability records are not keeping up with the scale of the damage done. The Armani Group is planning the use of twenty-five percent of raw materials that meet specific sustainability criteria by 2025.

MR. ARMANI: The starting point is the mapping of our consumption, the analysis of the most used raw materials and of the low impact alternatives currently available. Detailed analyses carried out by third parties have identified materials that can be defined as having a low environmental impact, either because of the method by which they are obtained or cultivated, or for the fact that they are recycled or recyclable, or even for their positive social and environmental impact in the medium term. Research has always been aimed at finding both new materials and innovative methods for the treatment of traditional raw materials. Today, large-scale use can be made of recycled wool, polyester and even cotton, with modern technologies making it possible to transform them from fabric to yarn, reducing potentially polluting processes such as dyeing, and recycling homogeneous fabrics by color. We are also experimenting with alternative materials such as, for example, jersey made from milk fiber.

Today, the Italian textile industry does not use Italian raw materials. Emporio Armani was one of the first brands to start using hemp in its collection in 1995, and in 2002 there was a hemp cultivation project in Italy supported by Mr. Armani.

MR. ARMANI: I have always been open to experimentation: from Italian hemp, to the reuse and recycling of denim to produce a model of jeans that, in 1996, was exhibited at the Salone dell’Innovazione at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan. 

There is increasing attention regarding animal welfare, because there is greater awareness of the value of biodiversity that must be protected. The Group is attentive to this aspect to the extent that in 2016 it completely abandoned the use of animal furs, which had already been reduced. Today, the Armani Group is involved both with the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s workshop on the use of fine leather and the Fashion Pact with studies aimed at identifying the areas most at risk of biodiversity loss due to the impacts of the fashion industry, in order to correct potentially harmful behaviors and compensate risks with environmental protection actions. An example of this is the financing of reforestation projects, such as the one Emporio Armani launched in 2020, supporting various local projects around the world in the cities and territories where the brand is present and operating.

Some argue that real sustainability demands more and bigger changes, including on pricing.

MR. ARMANI: Attention to the environment is not only a question of social responsibility: it is also a precise business lever, due to the growing education and sensitivity of the public who are more aware and demanding. The ability of brands to stay on the market will depend on innovations. Sustainability requires investment, and therefore, initially, also some rebalancing in costs and pricing.

Emporio Armani supports Forestami for the redevelopment and enhancement of green areas in the Milanese urban area

Armani’s commitment to Milano

The fashion industry leaves a destructive footprint in forests, contributing to deforestation and loss of biodiversity (150 million trees are logged and turned into fabric every year). The Group is collaborating with the City Council and ForestaMi to support the enhancement of green areas within the city of Milan, promoting social responsibility. Would the Group disclose a bit more about this environmental initiative and the support the Group has granted? What is the size of the financial support given to the city and where does cultivation of urban forestry fit within the brand?

MR. ARMANI: Forestation project in Milan is named ForestaMi and it’s part of a wider vision that has enabled the funding of green initiatives in various cities and regions of the world where the Armani Group operates. Trees have been planted in France, China and as part of an operation to combat the desertification of certain territories in Mongolia. The maintenance of parks in Germany, Japan and New York have also been guaranteed for a whole year. In Milan, in November, the first 300 trees were planted, in an initiative that I hope will continue over time. It is a financial investment, an ethical value: those who have the opportunity should intervene actively.

Tourism in Milano is a national matter since the city is the business capital of the country. Supporting the urban environment and green décor in Milano could be the pride and duty of the entire Italian luxury industry?

MR. ARMANI: Milan is the place where the Armani Group was born giving back to the city part of what it has given me is a commitment that I hope will also be an example for others working in this sector. It would be nice, indeed, if it became a duty and a source of pride for everyone.

Giorgio Armani is known to support young creative talent, for instance, by previously providing up-and-coming Italian designers with show space. However, after initial projects, this hasn’t continued. Would you consider a master brand like Armani to be a kind of a platform to produce and release young and creative talents from Milano?

MR. ARMANI: The focus on young people and the support has changed its shape but has never stopped. The Armani/Teatro for many seasons has hosted designers such as Stella Jean or Andrea Pompilio, to name a few. Armani/Silos, opened in 2015 to make the Group’s creative heritage available to young people. It has hosted two film workshops with directors, screenwriters and costume designers, meetings with the protagonists of photography and collaborations with the school of architecture and the Milan Polytechnic’s school of Design, which at the Silos holds classes for internal students and international masters. In this sense, the creative platform of which you speak is being realized for the younger generation that is environmentally conscious; ethics will naturally become part of the creative process. New solutions can come from new approaches and it takes fresh eyes and minds for that to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 hitting Italy, Mr. Armani took to the city’s billboards to encourage and support the public, in addition to donating funds to hospitals and transforming production sites to manufacture medical wear. What are some of his next moves to support the recovering economy in Italy?

MR. ARMANI: If there is one thing this crisis has taught us, it is the rediscovery of values, solidarity and authenticity. In order to emerge from this moment of crisis, Italian industry needs to find unity and cooperation, as does the whole country. I am convinced that this experience will force us to review the way we make and propose fashion, imagining different formulas to effectively reach the consumer. Only by acting together, with coherence and cohesion, will we be able to find solutions to get the sector back on track. Unfortunately, I must say that, after an initial moment of widespread goodwill and promises of slowdown and responsibility, a part of the system seems to be tempted to quickly retrace its steps, and this is not in part because of the desire to maintain media visibility through an intense pace of activity and new proposals. The long-awaited slowdown does not seem to be happening for everyone: many collections continue to come out at a steady pace. However, there has been a general lengthening of the lifecycle of collections in stores, not least to make up for the losses of these hard times, and this will tend to lead to a less foolish discount policy.

Mr. Armani is rightfully referred to by Italian people as re Giorgio. It has been announced that a Foundation will be in charge of making Mr. Armani’s legacy eternal. Can we have the hope that Mr. Armani will help Milano to become the most beautiful city of business in Europe?

MR. ARMANI: Milan will shine again, simply by relying on the hard-working spirit that has always characterized it. The city rises again, and I am here to give my personal and heartfelt contribution.

The Conversation with Mr. Armani was reported by Ms. Ann-Marie Voina

The editor in chief is grateful to Ms. Eugenia Weinstein for her collaboration drafting the topics and questions for this interview with Mr. Armani

Editor in Chief

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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