Luxury clothing group Kering plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) as well as new technologies to measure its impact and progress toward circularity. Pilot projects have already been developed internally to use AI in its operations and, this year, the group plans to intensify its efforts to develop specific solutions with a focus on innovation, according to Marie Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of International Institutional Affairs at Kering. “Thanks to artificial inte
l intelligence we would be able to innovate in a better way the quantity of the products, the quantity also of raw materials we need to produce our products,” Daveu said during a panel discussion at the Davos 2021 World Economic Forum on Fashion’s circular future: From concept to reality. “We believe that it’s very important in the coming years and we have already developed some pilot projects internally.” Kering is the parent group for luxury brands Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, among others. According to Daveu, circularity and sustainability have been a key focus for the company for several years, and when they laid out Kering’s 2025 sustainability plan in 2016, a chapter was dedicated to new business models, including circular. “We all know the impact the fashion industry has on the planet, we all know the facts and the figures,” she said. “Ten per cent of annual global gas emissions come from the fashion world, so there is a kind of urgency to move quickly to change the paradigm, to shift from the linear model to a circular one.” Daveu said the future of fashion should be regenerative by design, where raw materials can be used again and again in a circular system. “So we work with our suppliers and our supply chain, which is 90 per cent based in Europe,” she said. “We think at Kering, if you don’t measure what you are doing, then you are not good and won’t be operational, so in the group, we measure the circularity of our materials.” Daveu said Kering created a Sustainable Innovation Lab in 2020 because it was necessary for the business to identify sustainable and recyclable materials, each time paying attention to the social dimension. Off the Grid The company’s release of the Gucci Off the Grid Collection and the Balenciaga Pre-collection of Summer 21 were, according to her, examples of the collaboration between the designer, the design team and the supply chain. Gucci’s Off the Grid Collection, designed by the company’s creative director Alessandro Michele, is the brand’s first collection from its circular lines and uses recycled, organic, bio-based and sustainably sourced materials. The collection features genderless luggage, accessories, footwear and ready-to-wear as part of Gucci’s vision for circular production. For the “mindful” collection, the main material used is a 100 per cent regenerated nylon created from recycled Econyl yarn made from nylon offcuts and pre- and post-consumer waste, including abandoned fishing nets and carpets. For the Balenciaga Pre-collection of Summer 21, designed by Demna Gvasalia, 93.5 percent of the plain materials used in the garments are either certified sustainable or upcycled, while 100 per cent of the print bases have sustainable certifications. The collection, which is predominantly unisex, deconstructs the fashion industry’s need for gender-specific clothing, further reducing waste. Beyond concept Daveu stressed that for circularity to work, especially in the luxury sector, there needs to be a mindset shift, that luxury brands need to explain to teams internally, for example, the value and potential of recycled materials. “Circularity cannot just be a concept, it has to be a process which will involve every stakeholder,” said one of the panelists Dr. Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “There is no alternative to circularity. All of us know we’ve been consuming the resources of the Earth 1.7 times higher than its capacity and we are at a point where we cannot afford to lose virgin material at all, so we all have a huge role to play,” Huq said. The panel discussion also featured Ken Webster, director of the International Society for Circular Economy and was hosted by Rachel Cemansky, Vogue editor for Sustainability, Vogue Business.