Milan greener retailing tour

Editor’s blog: A greener retailing tour of Milan

I was in Milan a month ago, just before Milan Fashion Week.

But rather than get the lowdown on the latest designer trends I decided to shine a greener light on what the city has to offer.

Having checked out some of the greener retailing practices during recent shopping trips to popular UK retail destinations, I thought I’d investigate how visible the reuse, recycle, refill revolution we’re seeing on our shores is in northern Italy.

In just one area of the city, where the Porta Garibaldi area filters into the trendy San Marco area, I conducted a whirlwind tour to see if the things we’re seeing in the UK are also present elsewhere.

The good news is that they are. It’s difficult to say if there’s more focus or less as I obviously didn’t go into every shop, but there were some good examples of services and messaging I thought were worth sharing.

As I’m gradually learning in Green Retail World’s explorations in greener retailing, real change starts with greater transparency of supply chains because that allows businesses to see what it is going to take to evolve and improve. One of the retailers I’ve referenced quite a bit in my work recently is OVS, which topped last year’s Transparency Index from activist group Fashion Revolution, which ranks retailers and brands based on how open they are about human rights and environmental issues.

OVS – which beats other frontrunner companies Timberland and The North Face into first place – has a decent presence in Milan, and actually uses its position on the index as a sales tactic in the store, recognising consumers’ growing desire to shop with greener companies.

Interestingly, The Body Shop – another retailer we reference a lot on the pages of Green Retail World – has a concession in the store, which includes its refill proposition that is currently being rolled out globally. Environmentally-minded retailers sticking together, it would seem.

Patagonia – another retailer that has a strong focus on sustainability, and one we reference time and again on this website – has a neat little store just south of the finance district at Porta Garibaldi.

There’s no getting away from the green message in the store; it certainly practices what it preaches in the shop. From very clear and obvious messaging about the eco benefits of reusing items or repairing products to the prominent used clothing collection bin in the middle of the store, a trip to Patagonia does nothing if not remind you of the need for more conscious consumption.

There was also signage to an upstairs meeting room, where I understand environmental events are held.

Depop’s growing popularity resulted in a $1.6 billion acquisition by Etsy last year, highlighting the consumer demand for pre-loved items and the greener consumption activity that is associated with it.

And the vintage clothing vibe was evident in the part of Milan I explored. Surplus – which sells second-hand and new vintage items – is situated on a bustling thoroughfare that takes pedestrians travelling south towards the city’s main tourist attractions.

No longer the preserve of the back streets of cities and towns, vintage and second-hand is big business and getting prominent slots on high streets around the world, including the Milan San Marco district.

Finally, Salewa. The outdoor/adventure sports equipment retailer puts the “Climb Sustainably” message in big letters on its main window front.

I’ve previously covered how outdoor retailers, which rely on natural landscapes and the beautiful things our planet has to offer from a commercial perspective, need to be among the greenest thinkers in terms of how they shape their operations and products.

What Salewa is doing is in keeping with what the likes of Pentland Brands, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports and Snow+Rock are doing – they are keeping the message of sustainability front and centre. And as long as that messaging is backed up with positive work on product materials and more circular thinking then that has got to be a good thing.

Incidentally, Milan Fashion Week, which is not really something that is ever known for its understatement or opposition to decadence, did actually have some focus on greener issues this year. Up and coming label, Vitelli, makes all of its pieces from upcycled yarn and deadstock that it sources from around Italy – and it recycles all its own deadstock too.

Vitelli’s presence in Milan turned heads this year with Vogue describing the label as one of the “new generation of Italian designers”.

I wasn’t in the city to see the show, but it maybe marks a more eco-friendly direction for Milan Fashion Week – albeit an embryonic stage. By the time Vitelli was showcased on the catwalk I had returned home encouraged that the general high street’s push to be greener and provision of eco-focused customer-facing services are not just a UK thing.

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Ben Sillitoe, editor, Green Retail World (@bsillitoe)

[Image credit: Green Retail World]


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