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As per tradition, Milano Unica is supposed to guide the change: today, luxury means sustainability

«Sustainability is made with numbers; reports are meant not to crystallize the present situation but to create a strategic line of continuous commitment and improvement»

Milano Unica Fair in Milan

Organized for the first time in 2005, from the merger of five separate trade shows – Ideabiella, Ideacomo, Moda In, Shirt Avenue, and Pratotrade – Milano Unica offers international visibility to the world of textiles. Since then, Milano Unica has been a point of reference for brands and buyers, becoming the epitome of premium fabrics for the high-end market of textile and accessories in Italy and abroad. The twice-yearly event is attended by the leading Italian and European producers and also the producers of the Japan and Korea Observatories.

MU Seasonless, overcoming seasonality to preserve the market

The 35th edition of the fair is expected to be held between the 12th to the 14th of July 2022. As the market has changed in the past few years and new trends have taken place in the fashion and textile sectors, Milano Unica is expected to guide and influence the change, leading by example. 

The event has always been a stimulus for exhibitors and fashion professionals with a style committee that interprets the evolution of contemporary culture and proposes fashion trends to inspire new collections. In addition to this attention for new trends, Milano Unica considers the sustainable aspect of the textile industry, known to have an impact on the environment through the emissions of GHG, water withdrawal, and release of toxins into the ecosystem, among many others.

According to the sustainability principle, the novelty of MU’s last edition revolves around the new concept of «Seasonless», in an overcoming of the seasonality of fabrics, that challenges the market every year.
As Stefano Fadda, artistic director of Milano Unica, stresses: «Thanks to climate change and above all to the intertwining of different needs imposed by the vastness of an increasingly connected market, overcoming seasonality becomes a key to understanding the concrete needs at a global level», and this might happen through the rediscovery of different textiles and their mixing, as well as colors and textures. 

Sustainability is not only a matter of pollution

When asked about how they tackle the theme of sustainability, Alessandro Barberis Canonico, President of Milano Unica, explains: «Milano Unica is tied to a sustainable approach, starting from the fact that the luxury sector has a long-life cycle that brings an intrinsic sustainability element. Besides this, in Italy, the high-quality and premium textile industry is related to natural fibers, such as wool and derivatives, cotton, linen, etc. Of course, exhibitors are also starting to use new fibers, mostly recycled ones, which are now perceived better than in the past when they were considered more ‘low-level’ and not suitable for the premium clothing industry».

Textile producers and sustainability advocates have upheld the debate regarding natural versus synthetic fibers for a long time. It is no doubt that fibers made from plastics are not renewable resources and might break down into microplastics, making their way into wildlife, food chains, and water supplies. 

However, that does not mean that natural fibers are entirely ethical either. Despite being a natural resource, for example, cotton is not a very sustainable crop, needing massive amounts of water to farm and produce the fiber effectively. Of course, organic cotton is a step in the right direction, but it still only makes up around one percent of global cotton production. 

While there is no one strategy to ensure all materials used in garment production are sustainable and ethical, since each fiber presents its strengths and weaknesses in terms of cost, impact, and quality, there are some strategies Milano Unica is carrying out to help buyers and visitors make informed decisions about ethical and sustainable verification for the final product. 

As Barberis Canonico points out, sustainability is not only a matter of pollution and environment, it also concerns labor conditions: «At Milano Unica, we are not a certifying body, we cannot only select ‘sustainable’ companies. However, we dedicated a side area of the event, right at the entrance, with two main goals: promote and valorize companies following this type of path and to demonstrate in a concrete way that sustainability values are no longer to be considered apart from those of creativity and style, but one and the same. To help buyers and visitors identify ethical textiles, at Milano Unica, we ideated booklets with scores that classify exhibitor companies over thirty parameters, according to their efforts toward sustainability, relying on what companies declare and on their certifications, such as OekoTex standards».

Milano unica – Lampoon reporting

The performance of samples and companies is indicated through the classification of products and processes of sustainability, including whether or not there are hazardous chemicals present, the materials derived from organic agriculture or from responsibly managed forests, and many more. According to the report from the past edition, the panorama is encouraging. 

Of all the samples presented in the Tendenze and Sustainability Area, ninety-one percent are made using processes that comply with the main certifications, standards or protocol regarding the elimination of hazardous material. Forty-six percent of the samples were made using recycled materials, and twenty-two percent employed materials from organic farming. 

Also, twenty-two percent of the samples were made with traditional materials, guaranteeing a low environmental impact, eleven percent used cellulose-based materials derived from responsibly managed forests, six percent used fibers produced with closed-cycle processes, fifteen percent cruelty-free animal and four percent innovative bio-based chemical fibers.

This approach follows a precise philosophy, continues Barberis Canonico, which is to reward companies that invest in ethical approaches, knowing that, after a few years, others will follow: «We want to lead by giving a good example, still keeping a balance, a compromise, between aesthetics and sustainability. We consider environmental awareness not just an ethical issue, but as a way to encourage creativity and innovation: while it poses challenges and sets limits, it stimulates technological innovation». Moreover, it gives brands who cannot always apply a sustainable approach to the whole connection, an opportunity to create capsule collections with sustainable elements.

After positive results in the biennium 2017-2018, the textile and apparel market witnessed a collapse due to the pandemic; customers did not consume, stores closed, and when they reopened, they were still full of stock. «As a trade show, we need to stimulate the market», states Barberis Canonico when asked about the goal of this edition on Milano Unica. «Our exhibitors are asking the fair to boost the demands and buyers want to find novelties to attract more customers in the stores. In this context of recovery, sustainability is not a simple trend, but a theme of minimum requirements, a necessity».

The state of art in terms of sustainable matters

Barberis Canonico explains how spending capacity still facilitates larger companies but encouraging these players to invest in sustainable processes can make smaller producers commit to environmentally-friendly projects as well. «If big companies begin investing in sustainable producing processes and workflows, these become less expensive and more accessible even to small companies; encouraging this approach, giving ethical textiles extra visibility at Milano Unica, can make the difference in the market». 

Furthermore, a confirmation of this comes from reports, which according to the President, are crucial to understanding efforts: «Many companies make sustainability reports certified by external audits. We need to remember that sustainability is made with numbers; reports are meant not to crystallize the present situation but to create a strategic line of continuous commitment and improvement. Checking these reports year after year helps to understand and demonstrate companies’ efforts in terms of investments».

MU Sustainability Reports from the 31st and 33rd editions, demonstrate a growing effort towards sustainability. If the 31st edition reports that seventy-seven percent of samples were made without hazardous chemicals, the 33rd edition records ninety-one percent, with an increase of almost twenty points in percentage. 

Also, samples made with cruelty-free processes, organic farming, and materials from recycling register an increment, going from ten percent, twenty percent and forty-one percent to fifteen percent, twenty-two percent and forty-six percent, respectively. 

Milano Unica

Since 2005, Milano Unica has been the main international trade show for high-end textiles and accessories. It takes place in Milan and Shanghai, with the mission of being a trade show of entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, offering the best proposals in terms of service quality, style and tradition, creativity and innovation, with an increased focus on sustainability.

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
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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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