You may have heard that the PRADA Re-Nylon collection was first presented as part of Selfridges' new sustainability initiative, “Project Earth”. The Italian brand will be displaying (and selling) at Selfridges Corner Shop, a range of its classic accessories, “as well as full men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collection, all realized in black regenerated nylon.” says their press release. Which made me stop and think of when did PRADA become a sustainability advocate?
The Re-Nylon project is a partnership between the brand and Aquafil that aims to convert all brand’s virgin nylon into regenerated nylon by the end of 2021. The effort makes sense if you consider that their nylon accessories are very popular around the world, but what about the rest?
Yes, you’re right, PRADA was the first fashion brand to sign a “sustainability loan”, since 2020 it does not use fur on its collections and it is part of the group that signed the Fashion Pact, but all of these actions seem to be kind of a “bucket list for companies that want to look more sustainable” than a committed brand.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT DOES THEIR WEBSITE SAY?
If you visit PRADA’s Group website, you will find out that sustainability seems to be a big deal to them. There are several projects related to three areas: people, culture, and environment. Yet everything seems a little bit off to me. Let’s see what is written at their “Commitment” page:
“Sustainability is a core element of the Prada Group’s identity, and deeply embedded within our strategy.
Our sustainability vision is driven by more than just moral obligation. Every action we take has the capacity to drive meaningful change and progress for both our business and society.”
Ok, I get it. Brands are paying attention to sustainability because most of their consumers are demanding they care about the planet and to be fair, it is great that a luxury brand like PRADA is now committed to more sustainable practices, but is it enough? Is it true? Of course, I don’t have all the answers, but doing some research, I came across a few weird things that make me question the veracity of the statement above.
RACISM AND LACK OF CLARITY
In December 2018, PRADA was accused of using blackface imagery at one of it’s NYC stores and online. For their “Pradamalia” charm collection, they featured a black creature with exaggerated big red lips that woke up backlash on social media.
Also in 2018, Know the Chain, an organization that makes benchmark reports to help companies understand forced labor risks within their global supply chain, ranked PRADA 36th place out of 43 companies from the apparel and footwear market and added that it “discloses significantly less information on its forced labor policies and practices than its peers.” Back to PRADA’s Group website, you can find documents called “Statement on Modern Slavery” in which the company makes statements on their efforts to prevent forced labor, but, as you can imagine, nothing written there sounds concrete. There are no clear guidelines on how they can guarantee the safety of the workers on their supply chain and they do not come clear about who their suppliers are. The only information about suppliers are the following:
I mean, ok, I get it, you’re trying to build a sustainable company and maybe stop contributing to the climate emergency. But, at the end of the day, if you don’t commit to being responsible for your supply chain, the waste your products generate, educating your consumer to buy more sustainably, I’m sorry, but Prada is not a sustainable brand. It is important that we understand the difference between a company that is building its path into more sustainable production and a company that is taking sustainability to the next level, for example, Stella McCartney which promotes research to develop more sustainable and innovative materials and that actually measures its impacts on the planet.
I understand that companies will never be 100% sustainable in this neoliberal capitalist world because it means to stop people from consuming things they do not need and that would be the end of fashion as we know, But brands have to be careful not to rush into a “look how sustainable I am” propaganda because saying you do something, unfortunately, is far from really doing it. For now, PRADA Group is welcome to try being more sustainable, but don’t forget that one-off projects are NOT what sustainability is about. You must keep evolving with your goals and really compromise to build a safe world and preserve the planet.