Giusy Bettoni, founder of the multi-platform textile and technology hub C.L.A.S.S sat down with Apparel Magazine to share her insights on the purpose and functionality of sustainability in the fashion industry.
Bettoni first launched the platform in 2007, after 28 years of experience in the industry. “It was when I launched C.L.A.S.S that I realised for the first time that technology was there to really integrate sustainability into the fashion industry,” shared the innovator. According to Bettoni, the industry’s problems with sustainability stem not from a lack of interest or concern, but an inability to translate them into products which are suitable for consumers. “Consumers are looking for solutions to their everyday life, not just for a single moment.” For brands, it is important to include sustainability in their business practices instead of having it as a side interest. “When I say sustainable, it is not always in the way you might think,” explained Bettoni. “I mean something that is beautiful, a novelty and responsible. While it is not easy, I think it is essential to include all three elements. We cannot think that a consumer is going to go back and forget about the advantages of looks and innovations just because a product is ethical.” For Bettoni, this assumption was one of the main failing points of brands’ early implementation of sustainability into their operations. It is not enough to simply be responsible you must have all three features to appeal to your consumer.
Market research in 2007, when C.L.A.S.S was first formed, indicated that consumers were willing to pay up to 15 percent more for a sustainable garment, but this statistic has not been represented among new research in 2018. Bettoni believes that it is not consumers’ lack of interest holding them back from sustainable purchases, but a lack of communication. “You can say you are eco-friendly, sustainable or green as much as you like, but it is time for more than just words: you must measure what sustainability is to you,” insisted Bettoni. “One of the key things we push with C.L.A.S.S is brands' ability to communicate sustainability, for customers to know their brand not just their products.” Customers are still prepared to pay more for sustainable apparel, but to spend the money they need to know why they are paying it, where it is coming from and how you created it. If you are doing something worthwhile, communicate it. “Retailers are now pushing their brands to tell them how the things are done because they want to tell the consumer more about the source. It is all about completing the circle of communication.”
“I am really pleased and proud to be part of this industry, even it is the second most polluting one at the moment.”
C.L.A.S.S has recently expanded their services from education to sales with an e-commerce site bringing sustainable and innovative materials to consumers. Sales were never a part of C.L.A.S.S’s mission; however, the operations arose from great frustration with the industry. Students, emerging designers and up-and-coming brands were becoming invested in the conversations C.L.A.S.S was having regarding innovation and sustainability but found that they had no way to source these materials at a reasonable price point. “We were in a position of educating these newcomers, people who are most ready and embracing of change, but they couldn’t access the means,” Bettoni insisted. “If you want the next generation to change things, how can they do this if they cannot utilise the innovations.” Thus, their e-commerce platform was launched, providing materials and finishings for a maximum of 50 meters to small companies eager to become part of the sustainability conversation. “This e-commerce is a fantastic way to empower newcomers to work with and understand new materials. In the future, they may become designers, buyers, managers or merchandisers, and they will know the value of these materials and take the experiences into the company they will be working with.”
Bettoni is confident that the fashion industry has a secure future with sustainable textiles, as there is such an extraordinary variety available to designers. When asked to share some of her favourite innovations, Bettoni likened the question to a mother being asked to pick her favourite child. “Every material is the best material when it fits the collection it is being used for,” she explained. “Everyone is always looking for the next big thing, but every material is great because it is a solution provider.” Bettoni foresees profound changes in the fashion industry in the coming years, influenced by the amazing solutions to sustainability being developed every day. “The apparel industry started in the 17th century, but we need to change the way we do garments. I think in the next ten years we will see a radical change, not just in how we use materials but how we use garments,” she related. We are being led into a new era of innovation, sustainability and economy, and the fashion industry is continuing to prove its ability to adapt to the changing world. “I am really pleased and proud to be part of this industry, even it is the second most polluting one at the moment,” she quipped.