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Sustainability in Italy: presenting the Phygital Sustainability Expo 2022
Meet Valeria Mangani – President of the Sustainable Fashion Innovation Society and the mind behind the Phygital Sustainability Expo, the sustainable fashion and design event held in Rome. Discover about the state of the art in Italy, what does the future hold?
Thursday, 28th of June: just another day at the office? Not quite, today we meet with Valeria Mangani, one of the most important people in sustainable fashion when it comes to Italy, and Europe. With a degree in fashion design, she founded the Sustainable Fashion Innovation Society when she noticed that, in Italy, there was no body in charge of helping, advising and directing businesses on how and what to do to be more sustainable in their production chain.
What is the Sustainable Fashion Innovation Society?
“The Sustainable Fashion Innovation Society was born from the desire to be next to companies in the disruption of their production chain, way before the ministry of the sustainable transition even existed! What’s more, I was contacted by brands themselves that wanted to start their sustainability journey, maybe by creating a responsible capsule collection using more sustainable materials, as organic cotton, bamboo, organic hemp… All materials that are now considered “new” but in reality are not at all. Indeed, until WW2, Italy was the greatest hemp producer in the world…” Valeria tells us
The Americans did indeed bring us Coca-Cola and chocolate, but they also brought us synthetic fibers…
“I remember my mum being enthusiastic about them because she did not have to iron them out…” Valeria jokes, then becomes serious again.
“These fabrics slowly but steadily colonized us, because they are much more manageable, however we know now that they last much less; and the biggest problem is that they also release tons of microfibers whenever they are washed, indeed they derive from plastics! What happens is that these micro-plastics re-enter our food chain through fishes, and a recent study from Italian researchers has found micro-plastic traces in the human placenta… This is clearly very worrying, as it shows that we really are invaded by plastics on 360 degrees!” she explains
Thus, the biggest challenge for fashion will be not to create anything new, but to reinvent through upcycling and recycling
“In order to change things we need to conceive a new fashion: circular by design. This is a big responsibility, but the fashion industry is the most disruptive out there, so I’m positive that it can do it!
“We are a marketplace, and to help this ecological transition we put in contact manufacturers and brands! Indeed, many collaborations were born during the years and the collaborative collections are showcased during the event! For instance, Ripalta Daniello just launched their collection in collaboration with Ohoskin, a type of alternative leather made out of oranges and cactuses! ” Valeria continues
“Another big innovation that will be presented during the Phygital Expo will be the one of Radici, the italian leading producer of innovative synthetic fibres. Their last creation is a ski suit made out entirely of the same material (comprising zippers and padding). This is extremely innovative as it means that that item can be recycled in an easier way, as there’s no need to “divide” the different fabrics! This will be the first ski suit ever to be 100% recyclable! This is an enormous step forward because at the moment the items made out of multiple fabrics are too often sent out to Africa or to South America to be discarded… Once they used to burn unusable items, now they know that it would be toxic, so they just leave it there, and enormous landfills of garments have been created, the most famous one being Chile’s Atacama Desert” Valeria explains
What is the Phigital Expo?
“The Phygital Expo is a sustainable fashion event held each year in Rome! During it, there will be three different exhibitions.
1.The exhibition dedicated to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)
In this first exhibition, different projects will be showcased depending on their area of impact; for instance, a project using recycled plastics recovered from the oceans will be showcased in the SDG 6’s boot, that of Clean Water and Sanitation.
2.The exhibition related to materials, fibers and tree essences
This was ideated to make visitors understand that the journey of a garment starts with nature & agriculture and ends with communication!
3. The high tech, augmented reality exhibition
In this immersive artistic experience, visitors, wearing HoloLens, can walk the panoramic walkway of the Fori Imperiali and, by touching the mannequins, they can collect the garments they would wish to buy. Having simulated this shopaholic behavior, they will see the textile they have consumed, by seeing their textile in a landfill. Thus, showing how human behavior can be so harmful to the environment.
What we want to achieve with the Phygital Expo is simple: we want people to see fashion with new eyes.
“Especially in Italy, fashion has always been misunderstood, it has always been seen as frivolous… but fashion is at the second place for its contribution to the country’s GDP, with €97bln yearly revenue! Thankfully, slowly things are moving towards more responsibility! Now, a seat has been added to the table of the Fashion Council: that of sustainable development! This is a huge step for a national institution! Even more has been done at the regional level, in Lazio: a new law has been issued that yearly allocates €2mln for all the events of promotion of fashion in the region” Valeria explains
“I’m extremely positive for the development of sustainable fashion in Italy, I see a new Humanism, a new Renaissance of Made in Italy, created by the unity and cooperation between North and South, that have been separated for too long!” she concludes
The Phygital Sustainability Expo will take place on the 11th-12th July, in Rome. So if you are around, check it out!
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