Federico Marchetti gets candid about sustainable fashion and tech
by Emily Farra, April 26, 2019
“We’re quite used to being the first to do things,” Federico Marchetti, the chief executive of Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, says with a laugh. He’s calling from Italy to discuss the 10th anniversary of Yooxygen, the sustainability platform he launched way back in 2009 at Yoox, just one of his many pioneering efforts. Considering sustainability has only become a priority for most fashion companies in the last couple of years, it’s safe to say Marchetti was ahead of his time. “I’ve always tried to anticipate what the customer is going to want next,” he explains. “In 1999, I thought about myself as the customer, and I wanted to shop on the internet where I could mix and match fashion. So I launched Yoox. By 2009, I started to think the customer’s desires were going to start [shifting] towards sustainability.”
It took most of us a bit longer than that, but Marchetti’s instincts were of course correct. Yooxygen’s early initiatives included projects with Vivienne Westwood, Katharine Hamnett, Edun, and Amber Valetta, who launched her ethical label, Master & Muse, with Yoox in 2013. Around that time, Marchetti’s team also developed Yoox’s “ecobox,” which is fully recyclable and plastic-free. It soon expanded to the rest of the group, including Net-a-Porter, Mr. Porter, and The Outnet. “We shipped almost 10 million orders last year,” Marchetti says. “All of the ribbons, the tissue paper, it’s all recyclable.” (You’d be surprised how much of the packaging you receive isn’t.)
The Yoox Net-a-Porter Group offices are aligned with his missive, too: Each uses 100 percent renewable energy, a goal they achieved in 2019, a full year head of schedule. (The brands had made a commitment to switch to renewable energy by 2020 as part of the United Nations Global Compact.) “As the world’s leading luxury retailer, there’s a responsibility to create a more sustainable future,” he continues. “We have almost 1 billion visitors a year on our platform, so we have to lead by example.”
One of Marchetti’s dearest projects is the Next Green Talents in partnership with Vogue Italia, which he established with Franca Sozzani in 2011 to support young, forward-thinking designers. He has also partnered with fashion schools around the world, like Parsons School of Design, where students working on sustainable practices can earn internships in Yoox’s offices. “There’s a real dedication from the younger kids in fashion schools, but we are very dedicated to engineering programs and digital education, too. We believe with technology, we can make a better world. Because it’s technology that can develop new, clean production and manufacturing techniques,” he explains. “Our vision is that the next Coco Chanel will be a coder.”
Technology played a big role in Yoox’s collaboration with WRAD, a unisex sweatshirt debuting today to mark Yooxygen’s 10th year. It’s made from organic denim and utilizes an advanced mineral dyeing technology that reduces water use by 90 percent. The dye comes from repurposed graphite, which lends a faded gray color without polluting chemicals. “We’re really interested in this technology and thought it was the best way to celebrate our 10th anniversary,” Marchetti says. He has more news to share, too: In May, Yoox will unveil a collaboration with Amendment by Marissa Petteruti, a student who received the Yooxygen Award at Parsons last year. In June, Net-a-Porter will launch an entire vertical dedicated to sustainable fashion, which will make it easier than ever to discover designers in the space.
As for the next decade, Marchetti pointed to data as being the biggest driver of change. “I believe data will be an important component, because transparency comes from data. That’s how you can track the provenance of materials, the provenance of workers, and so on,” he explains. “But it’s hard to predict the next 10 years—technology can change in one month.”
Originally published on Vogue.