Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Kering x Parson’s Sustainability Initiative

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 1 year ago | News

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About six months ago we reported on the launch of Kering’s environmental calculator, an app called EP&L, which is designed to serve as the backbone of a new fashion-design curriculum at Parsons School of Design in New York. Now that EP&L (which stands for Environmental Profit & Loss) is up and running, Kering’s sustainability operations director Michael Beutler explains why it’s so necessary right now. 

Essentially the app represents a condensed version of Kering’s vast EP&L research — the company has had sustainability as a cornerstone of its business since 2012, largely led by the success of its sustainable label Stella McCartney. So while it usually makes its EP&L resources available to brands within the group, Kering believes that it’s also time we encourage all labels to incorporate sustainability into their their businesses.

Rather than going directly to outside brands then, the luxury conglomerate decided to go directly to an educational institution, in the hopes of improving things from the early stages of new designers’ careers. "That's where we see the key levers of change, is with the millennial generation that will be designing and making clothes in the future," says Beutler. "Parsons is, I think, known for innovation. We'd already been working with Parsons on a design challenge now for several years, and in that spirit, we wanted to work with students to innovate; we want to help give tools for the young designers so the next generation of people that are in the fashion business really objectively make decisions that create a more sustainable industry."

Burak Cakmak is the dean of fashion at Parsons and also once served as Kering’s director of corporate sustainability, so the two obviously share a united desire to help make fashion a more sustainable place. Not just for the students in three senior Systems & Society Thesis sections and two Materiality Thesis sections at Parsons, to whom the app is made available; but to all young designers. In fact, the EP&L app uses open-source methodology, which means that anyone interested in gaining access to this information can do so by downloading it from the App Store. "That actually goes to the heart of our philosophy of sustainability," Beutler says. "We need to find a sustainable way as an industry, not just as a group; by open-sourcing it, we can help improve the [fashion] industry, and other industries too, because we rely on a lot of other industries."

So what will the EP&L app actually help brands do, from a practical perspective? Essentially it helps designers weigh the pros and cons of their creative decisions by providing a visualisation of a typical product’s impact at various points in its life cycle. After selecting particular items, app users can toggle through a range of options from type of raw material to manufacturing origin. Then the app analyses the cumulative effect of more than 5,000 indicators, including carbon emissions, water use, waste production, water and air pollution, land-use changes, and the product’s final impact.

Through partnership with Parsons, Kering hopes to learn more about how it can improve "My EP&L," but it also hopes to encourage lasting interest in sustainability, with seven students receiving partial funding by Kering for their graduate collections. "It's important to stimulate sustainability any way we can and also to make material choices available any way we can, too," Beutler says, referencing back to the hope that this new generation of designers will demand sustainable resources. "One of our challenges is if, for instance, every apparel company in the world tomorrow said we're going to use organic cotton, there isn't enough organic cotton to supply that need. It's important we start stimulating not only the demand, but also the supplier." 

As for Parsons’ sustainability plans, Professor Brendan McCarthy (who leads the program with Kering and serves as co-chair of the curriculum committee at the school of fashion) says the school intends to expand the program throughout the school’s curriculum starting next fall. "They're doing a beautiful job of making sure that sustainability and high fashion, beautiful fashion, they're just one; they're not separate," McCarthy says of the positive student response so far. “If you're making garments for human beings and with human beings in your process that you love and care about, for communities that you love and care about, and around critical issues that you love and care about, our argument is that: then, naturally, we're going to make more sustainable choices. We're changing the value proposition." 

Via Fashionista

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