As consumers, we are increasingly spending more of our time thinking about everyday purchases while making our actions count along the way. Previously, balancing cost and quality was the go-to shopping consideration; now, there is a third criterion: will my choice harm the environment?
This growing interest of brands seeking to preserve the environment and adapt business models to meet customers’ conscious decision needs is challenging ethical production in Puglia. Our previous feature about sustainable Apulian brands continues to bear fruit, revealing more artistic and conscious practices sprouting after the rain; from emerging entrepreneurs to internationally recognized brands, our travel bag is adopting a new kind of chic.
VIA magazine’s fashion contributor, Tatevik Avetisyan speaks with several Apulian brands that are producing fashion goods made in Puglia using everything from old trees and fruit peels to recycled fibers.
“Coloring the Future”
Becoming a parent for the first time brings both heaps of joy and responsibility; for Ivan Aloisio, founder of the sustainable Apulian brand, Fortunale, seems to have his parenthood devoirs well ingrained in his being. Upon becoming a father Aloisio felt compelled to create a company that would protect his son Jacopo from the harmful processes present in the mass textile industry.
Fortunale was born from the will to make the Earth a better place for future generations. A genuine spirit mixed with creative thinking has formed an Apulian startup that produces sweaters made from 100% natural wool and recyclable up to 80%. Yet, Ivan Aloisio’s decision to launch the brand was not a surprise; rather it is a natural continuation of his father’s business, blended with his will to protect nature and human skin from synthetic fabrics.
While the collection is manufactured in northern Italy, Puglia is the brand’s capital heart. The entire packaging production takes place in Puglia and the trees planted for each purchase are planted in Bari, on a modest plot of agricultural land. Aloisio also launched an e-commerce platform where seasonal collections are presented and sold across Italy, Europe, and abroad.
“Puglia has a long tradition based on wool and textile production. Moreover, it is a land popular for exchanges with the East and a milestone of the Silk Road.”
The process of buying a single Fortunale sweater is captivating. One simply purchases the product from the e-commerce platform and receives a sweater made of 100% natural wool and dyed with natural paints, delivered in sustainable packaging to your door. Each sweater has unique features such as an embroidered number that stands for the name of the tree that will be planted in Bari; a clothes tag that can be used as a headphone roller, and a greeting card signed by the founder himself and designed by a young Apulian artist Francesco Ferrulli. When the sweater has served its time, the customer can return it and receive a 30% discount toward a new purchase.
Today, Fortunale is led by a team of four enthusiastic professionals that help spread the message of sustainability and circular economy. “We produce everything in Italy, and we would like to promote our region further and use our organic wool exclusively from Puglia,” said Melania Grandolfo and Francesca Gresia, the Communication and Marketing specialists of Fortunale. In fact, Ivan Aloisio shares the same vision of the team, adding to it the will “to create an Apulian textile supply chain with wool, dye plants and local production.”
“50% ethics, 50% aesthetics and 100% Made in Italy”
When Gianni Dalla Mora was a young boy, he spent countless hours alongside his father in the family-owned shoe shop in Cavallino, a small coastal town on the outskirts of Venice. The exposure to material and technique during his childhood inspired the launch of a sustainable sneaker brand, Womsh. Since its launch in 2014, the company has produced more than twenty thousand pairs of shoes, with sales and distribution locations in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Womsh designs eco-sustainable sneakers using apple skin. With the motto ‘choose the change’, the brand has a vegan line produced according to the highest standards of sustainable technology. Every single shoe is made of 27% recycled polyester, 22% cotton, 27% polyurethane, and 24% apple skin. The apple skin is made from biopolymers produced by the company’s production partner, Frumat Leather, and indeed has a similar texture to the leather we are familiar with. The use of apple skins reflects the brand philosophy of practicing circular economy by recovering cellulose destined for thermo-enhancement, an innovation that earned Womsh a “Technology and Innovation” award by Green Carpet Fashion.
Womsh has expanded its vegan line for the Spring-Summer 2021 collection. Being aware of greenwashing and the motivation of certain companies to provide misleading information on their production processes to appear as environmentally-friendly projects, Womsh designed a QR code feature that grants customers access to a blockchain system called ITEMx® that details full production information and certifications. It includes actions taken, materials used, and suppliers involved in the production process.
“We focus not to use materials of animal origins at all. Our challenge is to maintain the same quality and comfort of animal leather through other sustainable fabrics,” says Gianni Dalla Mora.
In December 2020, Womsh’s vegan line obtained PETA-Approved Vegan certification recognizing its animal-friendly production, and there is much more coming in the future as Womsh steadily moves towards completely closing the gap in sustainability. “Womsh vegan collection is growing fast because customers (not only vegans) that search for alternative materials are growing. We are evaluating the use of other skins like grapes, corn, pineapple, even cactus!” says Gianni Dalla Mora.
The company has a multi-scale list of collaborators that share the same business ethos. These partners include Lifegate, a corporation that appears as a point of reference for sustainability in Italy; and who also helps Womsh to offset CO2 emissions generated during the brand’s production cycle. In collaboration with a company that manages sneaker waste – Esosport, Womsh recycled shoes into renovating children’s playgrounds within the Betty’s Garden Program. Farseeing the packaging aspect of production, Womsh has teamed up with Favini, a supplier of eco-friendly Crush paper, to create plastic-free packaging.
“A tree without roots is just a piece of wood”
In 2015, Leo Macina founded Apulian brand KIANID, featuring a collection of eco-friendly ciabattas (it. slippers) Made in Puglia. After graduating from Istituto Marangoni in Milan, where he studied Fashion and Graphic Design, Leo Macina returned to his homeland to create a footprint of his own, combining the traditions of Made in Italy with craftsmanship acquired throughout his career to create KIANID, inspired by life in Puglia. Alongside the strides he is making with KIANID, Macina also runs the Leo Design Studio and participates in Vogue Talents.
“It is Made in Italy 360°, so it is a sandal inspired by Puglia and entirely made in Puglia. That is why this project was born from the point of view of the journey to Puglia: the sea, the Apulian cuisine, and the Apulian arts. Clearly, each sandal has the name of an Apulian city – the model Polignano, Cisternino, Trani, and others,” says Leo Macina.
Similar to Womsh, the material used to manufacture the sandals are made of apple skin – as close to nature as possible. KIANID uses natural leather produced from apple waste and sews the upper sole with Econyl, a yarn obtained from bottles and fishing nets recovered from the Mediterranean. While the product is not 100% recyclable yet due to a small portion of synthetic materials and other types of leather used in several models, a large part of the product is realized with natural elements and buckles customized according to the Apulian themes such as corals and the Apulian pumo. The Kalosh model is a vegan-based super-light handmade boot featuring cross-stitch embroidery without using animal fur.
Leo Macina places great trust in sustainability and the genuinity of Puglia: “I believe in it, I want to look only at our world, our planet, our land, and also our Puglia. So I have decided to do it and to focus on eco-sustainability. Since there are many alternatives in a plastic material that we can use to the fullest, which in any case are not exploited at 100%.” Being starstruck by the Apulian lifestyle, its cuisine, and everything that lies from the sea to the Itria valley, and to the ancient villages, Leo Mancina envisions a future where KIANID can make an impact. The brand is under the wing of a creative lab Zero&Co, responsible for brand distribution and marketing, and is well-known for its kidswear with 50 years of experience in the field.
Looking to the future, Leo plans to enlarge KIANID’s scope of production and experiment with a children’s collection, too. The KIANID collection is available at boutiques across Italy and at the Rinascente department store in Milan with plans to launch the e-commerce site at the end of March.
While the circular economy is central in Europe, in Puglia, the linear economy is still dominant. According to Polidream Assoutenti, in Puglia, there are 2,104 green companies in manufacturing, equal to 31.4% of the total manufacturing companies. This number would have been higher if not for the latest pandemic situation that brought one part of organizations afloat and others pending changes in the market.
Sustainable production was just beginning to warm up in southern Italy, adjusting to a relatively narrow and complex market only to take two steps back. Yet, there is a famous saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining” and with more consumers understanding that fashion can be enjoyed with a no-harm approach brands like Fortunale, Womsh, and KIANID will continue to light the way to feel-good fashion.
Tatevik Avetisyan is a Milan-based freelance writer specializing in fashion, travel, and art. Her master project for Istituto Europe di Design, “Which Character Are You?” fashion film was published in Vogue-Talents. She leads her fashion blog and travels around the world in search of new inspirations. Besides content creation, her biggest passion is jewelry design and gardening.