Sustainability innovator celebrates 10 years of progress

March 22, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

“Our industry changed quicker than our design studios,” says Giusy
Bettoni, founder of C.L.A.S.S., the eco-conscious consultancy hub based in
Milan which celebrated its 10-year anniversary by hosting “an evening of
smart innovation” on International Water Day. FashionUnited sat down with
her at the elegant NYC event to evaluate a decade of progress in a loft
hung with handmade textile installations using responsibly innovated fibers
by Cecile Feilchenfeldt, a Paris-based knitwear designer who works with
couture houses, while nibbling on amuse-bouches of roots, seeds and
vegetable confections that pay homage to nature, and fair-trade chocolate.
“Organic or green or even sustainable no longer
resonate,” says Giusy. “When we say smart we mean a precise thing.
We innovate. We don’t say that casually. We know that our Reverso wool
saves 80 percent of water because a third party has done an assessment and
also found it to be so.”

I ask how her company became so internationally connected. “We started
with a suitcase, let’s call it a sort of trunk show,” she says with a
smile. “When people understood the materials we were offering were sexy, as
well as sustainable, they loved them. We’ve continued communicating our
message ever since to anyone willing to listen.” She is acutely aware that
Asia, once vilified for practices which harmed the planet, is now a major
player in this field, investing in research and becoming extremely
competitive, even passing.laws to enforce sustainability across its
industries. So when I ask if it’s still the bottom line which prevents some
companies from embracing responsible practices, she laughs at these
slowpokes late to the party. “Today it can be very profitable to have
sustainability at all levels, optimizing the supply chain,” she says. “It’s
still all about communication. if you are innovating as we are, there’s
technology, know-how, there is value to that. What you are getting is
something new. You must let the customer know they are purchasing the
latest thing.”

Sustainability plus technology equals profitability

Science is influencing fashion like never before, and Giusy describes
the inspirational data and resource bank that she has built as “not a
library. It’s a collection of uniqueness.” She bemoans the fact that
consumers are typically only aware of rudimentary recycling of, say,
plastic bottles when they have moved way beyond that, creating superior
grade silks, wools from waste, engineering color from preexisting textiles
without any dyeing, and working with Gucci, Ferragamo, Stella McCartney.

I ask, at this moment of natural retrospection, if she feels optimistic
about the next 10 years. “I feel excited,” she all but shouts. “The first
10 years have been tough. We had to fight against perceptions, and the only
thing we could do was prove ourselves. Now we feel so comfortable, so
confident, which is why we could do this event.”

She adds that in paving the way for the next generation, no one will
ever have it so hard in the future because that dramatic shift from one
system to another will never have to be experienced again. At this point in
the interview, Giusy gives us a scoop: as of today C.L.A.S.S. which have
never sold anything, will make a selection of their innovative textiles
available through e-commerce––but only to start-ups and students. “From
today the emerging creatives will have the same access to these fabrics as
designers, and can purchase anything up to 50 meters. We are committed.
James, my co-founder, tours schools spreading our message. Often students
want the knowledge but don’t know where to look. They are the future, she
says, “and the future is now.”

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk
for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion

Images by FashionUnited