In conversation with Marina Iremonger, the Head of Trade team at DIT, and Oliver Wayman, the co-founder of Bottletop: «The engagement is the driver. How can we translate this message into a touchpoint?»
Race To Zero, the umbrella campaign that supports institutions – business, cities, investors – for zero-carbon recovery, represents 452 cities, 22 regions, 1,101 businesses, 45 investors, and 549 universities to mobilize the net-zero coalition initiatives. Marina Iremonger, the Head of the Trade Team Consumer Goods and Creative Industries at the DIT – Department for International Trade – the «Department of the UK Government which helps British companies export globally and help foreign investors invest in the U.K.» – reflects on the previous practices that lead her to moderate the webinar. «Some teams are in contact with British companies and help them develop business in foreign countries. We also have teams which help attract investment from foreign countries into the U.K.», says Iremonger.
The Paris Agreement (December 2015) aims to strengthen the worldwide response to the danger of environmental change by preserving the temperature rise at a 2 degree Celsius. To achieve this goal, financial support provision and technological development are one of the focuses; this includes requiring all Parties to report their emissions and their implementation efforts regularly. A global inventory will also be conducted every five years to assess collective progress.
«Fashion is designed in the UK, made in Italy and sold in France», says Iremonger addressing the educational institutions that output rising talents, mainly in London, the quality of Italian manufacturing, and the commercial spirit of French entrepreneurship. The area of Iremonger’s expertise began in fashion textile as in Italy it is one of the key spheres, while Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion in London promote rising fashion talents.
In 2012, Iremonger partnered with Pitti Immagine during Milan Fashion Week to create a collective called a Green Closet, which introduced between 7-10 British brands of fashion and accessories compiled with the sustainability criteria. «Companies have to comply with at least one area of sustainability, which could be: Made in the UK with a low carbon footprint with the use of energy, transport, and logistics; either recycling or upcycling materials to make a new collection, or ethical work, fair trade, fair treatment of the labor».
She considered her mission to be accomplished as Camera Della Moda set up a table for sustainable fashion and then, she set up another table in Florence in 2019 to bring the ‘best practices’ during an open discussion between U.K. and Italy fashion systems. Burberry, Stella McCartney, and Viviana Westwood participated in the event to reflect their sustainable practices and demonstrate the Italian supply chain’s involvement in collecting materials. Stella McCartney, with 70% of its suppliers of vegan or sustainable materials are made in Italy, Vivian Westwood’s all collections are made in Italy. Burberry stated that their handbags’ quality control is done in a factory near Florence in Scandicci. For established brands, the transition to a sustainable mindset appears much less feasible in comparison to young brands, considering their widespread business. Iremonger mentions a local Italian platform called C.L.A.S.S.: «a website where all the fashion industry representatives can find sustainable materials and designers. It is not aimed at finding financial resources». She proceeds by suggesting to create a «body with financial institutions behind, who will be ready to invest in fashion labels. In London, small companies subsidize fashion companies, but the amount of money is small. You can ask for a small grant to finish the prototyping of the collection, and then, when you start selling the collection, you can repay these grants».
Iremonger discovered Bottletop, who at that time showed handbags and shoulder bags made with recycled bottle tops. Today, the company designs accessories in London and produces in Brazil, using zero deforestation leather and upcycled metal ring pull and ensuring their artisans in Salvador’s outskirts are fairly paid. Bottletop’s co-founder, Oliver Wayman, joined the Fashion webinar as a speaker to address the brand’s activities and plans regarding sustainability: «We have managed to show that you can work in disadvantaged communities, and as long as you are providing the right skill set, training, and patience, then you can get to the quality». Bottletop already addressed 12 out of 17 Global Changes; every month, the brand sets a goal with ambassadors to promote them. «The engagement is the primary driver. How can we translate this message into a touchpoint that people can digest and understand?» says Wayman. Having a background in music and working for Island Records, Wayman launched a fundraising album series using the original African music, South American music, and Brazil to connect the dots between his expertise and help the communities. While he worked on his album in Brazil, Wayman developed the idea of launching Bottletop.
Oliver Wayman: «When you look at ring pull, you do not consider it to be anything apart from waste, but as soon as you create a motif, a pattern, a textile, then the whole aesthetic changes and it becomes something that is ‘luxurious’…We committed that the leather we are using is zero deforestation leather, so none of the cattle have been grazing on the Amazon rainforest. A transparent journey in which we can show how the cattle have been grazing using the same land and using efficient grass feed. The original mission was set both around sustainable materials and creating social impact through production. We got to a stage where it was in the mentality: if you had to do something, you had to take a material, you had to heat it or beat it or treat it to make it into something right and different; that is what creates the finished product. Nature had the answers all along; it had 2 billion years’ worth of experience of refining and working on its evolution. Yet we have been concreting over it and trying to say that it (nature) does not know, but it has all the answers – through the techniques of biomimicry in construction design where you try to follow the template which nature at first taught us».
In 2018, Bottletop collaborated with Reflow (an initiative that turns plastic bottles into 3D printing materials), Ai Build (a company that uses robots for large-scale 3D printing), and Krause Architects to create the first zero-waste design physical store from 60,000 plastic bottles. «The company had a robotic car with an extruder in the end and melted plastic to create mass sculptural forms. We thought: let’s push the idea further – can we make it a non-virgin plastic? We have connected with another group in Holland who had been working with waste plastics from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania right across New Delhi in India. They pull the waste plastic and ground it down into pellets and then melt them into filament that comes like a coil which the robot later prints out».
Bottletop is not just a fashion brand as it collaborates with organizations who are not representing the industry; for instance, WWF that partnered with the brand to promote Bottletop’s latest campaign – #TOGETHERBAND. There are government grants, start-up loans, and subsidized loans to help the brands through fashion schools and global competition promote their designs in the market. According to Wayman, some brands suggest creative products but fall short in selling their brand because of the lack of structural support.
The U.K. will host the next COP26 this year from 1-21 November, taking place in Glasgow following Italy’s pre-summit in Milan. Milan has decided to hold the event on four pillars: fashion and textile, food and drink, design, and smart cities. «One of the tools that the United Nations have and can share is the fashion charter for climate change, set up by the UN Climate Change division in consultation with Industry and Fashion councils. A number of fashion companies signed this document in December 2018 during COP24 in Poland, and it collected 130 signatures, including big brands like Burberry and Stella McCartney».
The Department for International Trade (DIT) held the Sustainable Fashion webinar in the frame of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26). The focus was to bring U.K. and Italy fashion industry representatives to speak about their commitment to sustainable and ethical practices, encourage other organizations to join the Charter for Climate Action, and participate in the Race to Zero campaign.IMAGE GALLERY
Department for International Trade
British Consulate General Milan
Via San Paolo 7
20121 Milan, Italy
84 Regent St, Soho
London W1B 5RS, United Kingdom