So What's Actually Up With Prada & Sustainability?
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
It seems like every brand these days is talking sustainability, crafting their own commitments and making their own statements. And yeah that sounds very nice and flowery on paper, but with everyone discussing their environmental commitments it becomes more and more difficult to decipher between brands that are actually ethical and brands that are all talk. Luxury brands can be particularly difficult as they tout quality craftsmanship which conjures up images of responsible production and proper compensation. And yet, so many of these ultra pricey brands produce in many of the same factories as fast fashion companies.
One of the luxury brands that's the loudest about their commitment to sustainability as of late is Prada. As a fan of much of Miuccia's design work, and ethical fashion, I was hyped at first. Yet the brand ranks a mere 2/5 for sustainability on Good On You, in spite of their contractual agreement to transforming into a sustainable label. Additionally, Prada often makes headlines for a variety of responsible promises, but what are these promises exactly, and are they actually making a difference?
Admittedly, what jogged my memory on Prada's promises is their early October launch of a re-nylon ready-to-wear collection, which of course on the surface seems like an exciting venture into recycled textiles. In June of 2019, Prada announced their burgeoning use of re-nylon by producer ECONYL, a recycled nylon textile which aided in the resurgence of the 1990s iconic nylon Prada bag. This year, however, the brand took the textile a step forward, premiering an entire ready to wear collection built around re-nylon, hoping to make a statement on the use of recycled textiles within couture fashion. After all, old is the new new. The collection itself adheres to the tech-wear trend that Prada has basically made famous, shifting public opinion that sustainable clothes have to be granola af. While this is only one collection of the many produced by the brand over decades, it is a step in the right direction in cutting waste.
"In June of 2019, Prada announced their burgeoning use of re-nylon by producer ECONYL, a recycled nylon textile which aided in the resurgence of the 1990s iconic nylon Prada bag."
Prada's journey with sustainable practices truly and concretely began just about a year ago however, in November 2019 when the brand signed onto the first ever sustainability loan for a luxury brand. This simply meant that if the design house achieved particular goals such as using a specific amount of recycled textiles and ensuring that a number of Prada stores are energy certified, their interest rates can be expected to drop, ultimately saving the brand money. Does this make Prada 100% sustainable? Absolutely not. But it does mark an interesting change amongst big brands that have not necessarily felt the need to shift their production practices, setting a new precedent.
Sifting through the Prada Group's CSR (that's Corporate Social Responsibility for those of you lucky enough to have avoided PR jargon up until this point in your life) page can prove quite a challenge as the brand seems to have their fingers in a lot of pies. Not only that, but some of the flagged initiatives that come up first on their page seem to anyone interested in responsible production as the bare minimum, like using mostly recycled paper and having a majority female staff (#girlboss am I right!!!!!!). And while these aspects of the house's sustainability plan aren't exactly groundbreaking, their commitment to making their goals legally certified through loans and qualifications like LEED certifications do encourage a more official approach to changing fashion practices. Most of all though, a brand like Prada being so vocal about their objectives does set a new precedent amongst couture designers.
With the prestige value of couture fashion that, thanks to influencers and celebrities alike, grows stronger by the day, many apathetic brands don't feel a need for change. This uppity little stance forces much of sustainable change to come from the bottom up, meaning that small, independent labels are more likely to actually practice sustainable production, which impacts the fashion industry much more slowly. While Prada's initiatives aren't necessarily perfect (and keep in mind, pretty much nothing and nobody is ever perfectly sustainable), these vocal changes encourage other big brands to initiate new approaches to sustainability too, if anything just to save face and keep up.
"While Prada's initiatives aren't necessarily perfect (and keep in mind, pretty much nothing and nobody is ever perfectly sustainable), these vocal changes encourage other big brands to initiate new approaches to sustainability too, if anything just to save face and keep up."
For a big brand to be self-critical, and transparent about their production, for them to release a (actually quite beautiful) series of short films in collaboration with National Geographic along with their re-nylon collection in order to teach their clientele about their changed production practices, sends a message that other major brands have no choice but to listen to. We are (unfortunately) at a point in the journey to global sustainability where we have to appreciate the small progressions, while never forgetting to ask for the larger ones. So thank you Miuccia for setting a new standard for big brands, now who wants to push the envelope even further?