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Armani Group Teaming With King Charles On Regenerative Cotton Project

by Luisa Zargani


The project aims to test and scientifically assess new ways to implement sustainable cotton production in Italy.

The Armani Group is supporting a project focused on the development of agroforestry-based cotton production, billed as among the first of its kind.

On the occasion of World Environment Day on Monday, the Italian fashion group revealed it is collaborating with the Sustainable Markets Initiative's (SMI) Fashion Task Force and the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, both founded by His Majesty King Charles III in his former role as the Prince of Wales, on the Apulia Regenerative Cotton Project.

"In fashion, everything begins from the material: all my designs start with the choice of fabric. And it was by experimenting and using nontraditional fabrics that I revolutionized fashion," said Giorgio Armani, chairman and chief executive officer of his namesake group.

But the textile industry is one of the sectors with the greatest impact on the planet and that is an issue that cannot be neglected. Our commitment with Sustainable Markets Initiative is to drive positive change: it is a bold and innovative project and one that is particularly meaningful for me and my company," he said.

"Actively participating in the development of agroforestry regenerative cotton, especially on Italian soil, is an important step and will also have a real impact on local communities. Once a utopia, regenerative fashion finally begins to assume a tangible form," Armani added.

The project aims to test and scientifically assess new ways to implement sustainable cotton production in Italy, to demonstrate how to enhance landscape diversity, water saving and soil fertility as well as biodiversity-related ecosystem services while producing cotton with a low carbon footprint through the use of agroforestry systems.

The initiative ensures traceable and resilient value chains as well as the safety of resources.

In a statement, the Armani Group explained that "Puglia (Apulia) has a mild climate which creates the perfect environment to grow a great diversity of agricultural crops and this project contributes to the reintroduction in the region of a long tradition of cotton farming, which dates back to the 12th century."

The initial cotton planting on one hectare of land started last May, and from 2024, cultivation will gradually expand to occupy a total farm area of five hectares.

"Over five years, this farm site will be among the first field experiments in Europe testing agroforestry cotton with alternative tree species and regenerative practices. Regular scientific reports will evaluate the properties of the cotton yielded and will assess the environmental impacts and production levels of the different plots established," the statement continued.

The Apulia Regenerative Cotton Project is coordinated by the European Forest Institute (EFI) together with the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics of Italy (CREA) and with Pretaterra.

It is part of the Regenerative Fashion Manifesto, developed by the SMI Fashion Task Force, chaired by entrepreneur and former Yoox Net-a-porter chairman and CEO Federico Marchetti in partnership with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA), led by scientist Marc Palahí. Marchetti is also a member of the Armani Group board.

"I'm thrilled the changemakers Giorgio Armani and the Fashion Task Force, founded by HM King Charles III, are pioneering this new regenerative blueprint,” Marchetti said. “Our innovative project demonstrates how a fruitful collaboration of multiple forces committed to environmental sustainability - SMI, Giorgio Armani, CBA, EFI, CREA and Pretaterra - can transform a dream into concrete actions which will have an impact on my country, the country I love."

Palahi defined the project as "crucial to generate new scientific knowledge to guide the transition towards nature-positive and climate-neutral cotton production.

This is a further step for the Armani Group in its commitment toward environmental issues and the active promotion of sustainable practices.

Last year, as reported, Armani appointed his nephew, Andrea Camerana, as sustainability managing director, and launched the site Armani/Values, structured around three main themes: People, Planet and Prosperity - a sustainability strategy first launched in 2021.

Armani has kept many of his philanthropic activities on the quiet side for years, supporting several nonprofit organizations in the fight against the pandemic and poverty, as well as those focused on environmental protection, from Save the Children to ForestaMi, involving planting 3 million trees by 2030 within metropolitan cities, to the Acqua for Life, providing poor communities around the world with clean drinking water, or supporting WWF. But he has become more active in communicating these initiatives of late.

In April 2020, Armani sent an open letter to WWD musing on the possibility of the pandemic yielding to slower fashion and long lasting designs, which he has long embraced, and to collections aligned with the seasons.

SMI was launched at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2020, with the goal to lead and accelerate the world's transition to a sustainable future. The Initiative has a number of task forces, each dedicated to a specific sector - from fashion to banking to energy transition.

The Armani Group has been part of the SMI Fashion Task Force, together with other members such as Stella McCartney, Burberry, Zalando and Selfridges Group, looking to mitigate or reverse the impact of overfarming, overgrazing, dwindling water supplies and the long term use of damaging pesticides in various regions.

As reported, Brunello Cucinelli last year joined SMI by funding the Himalayan Regenerative Fashion Living Lab. The project will restore degraded landscapes and recover traditional craft and textile stalls in order to improve local cashmere, cotton and silk economies, while addressing global challenges related to climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Originally published in WWD

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