Gilberto Calzolari sustainability and Made in Italy.

Sara Bargiacchi

A playful and eccentric fashion, that does not give up glamour and elegance, and that obviously has a green and sustainable soul, concerned about the planet and the society we live in“, for Gilberto Calzolari, sustainability and Made in Italy are everything. The designer from Milan, after working for fifteen years between “Armani”, “Prada” and “Valentino”, in 2015 founded his eponymous brand, “Gilberto Calzolari”.

Winner of the “Franca Sozzani Green Carpet Award”, for his collections he creates sophisticated and quality clothes, produced in Italy thanks to materials resulting from recycling and upcycling. To Gilberto Calzolari sustainability is innovation. For Gilberto Calzolari sustainability means looking to the future. To Gilberto Calzolari sustainability is the engine of everything.

We personally met Gilberto during the September 2020 edition of the “White Show Milano”, which gave large space to his and many other sustainable brands.

The woman of Gilberto Calzolari

Gilberto Calzolari SS20
  • First of all, thank you Gilberto for granting us this interview. First of all, I would like to ask you how is and who is the woman “Gilberto Calzolari”.

The customers I think of when I create my collections are women who are projected into the future, informed. They love fashion and beauty and make their purchases with great responsibility towards our planet and with respect for it. They want to live in a fairer and more equal world, paying attention to issues such as sustainability and inclusiveness.

If I had to define my woman with three adjectives, I would say: playful, conscious, and glamorous. My client has a keen eye for details and finishes that make a garment precious and refined. A woman who wants to buy a piece that is eclectic and original at the same time, unique and out of the box, made with sustainable materials and techniques to reduce waste and pollution as much as possible. A woman who believes that ethics and aesthetics must go together. Which, if you look closely, is one of the oldest classical teachings: the beautiful and the good.

Gilberto Calzolari, sustainability and Made in Italy

  • For Gilberto Calzolari, sustainability is the key to everything. Tell us a little more about your interest in eco-sustainable materials (what fabrics do you mainly use?), and your collaborations with various humanitarian associations.

I spend a lot of time finding the right materials, in different directions. I use cutting-edge, technologically advanced sustainable fabrics. To name a few: GRS-certified NewLife, eco-friendly nylon created from recycled PET bottles; SEAQUAL™ polyester derived 100% from industrial processing waste and plastic waste recovered from the ocean floor.

Also, EVO nylon extracted from the seeds of the castor-oil plant; ECO-finishing regenerated wools and cashmere yarns. Finally, new generation AMNI SOUL ECO® polyamide cotton with accelerated biodegradation in just 5 years.

I take advantage of upcycling waste materials created for other purposes: for example, the jute coffee bags I used to create the dress I won the Green Carpet Fashion Awards with in 2018. Or even the nets used as packaging to wrap fruit used in Unnatural; the exploded airbags and seat belts I used in Dune. I often go in search of stock fabrics that I call “forgotten fabrics.”

Also, on a macro level, I’m exploring with great interest the development of concepts like the circular economy and collaborative consumption. It means rethinking not only the origin of materials but also their durability, their disposal, and, especially in the case of synthetic materials, the possibility of breaking them down and reusing them to avoid waste. A circular vision also creates positive impacts for the entire community.

A-Gain Capsule Collection upcycling in collaboration with Gilberto Calzolari

Italian production and fast fashion

  • When did you make the decision to keep production in Italy and why?

Made in Italy means the highest quality in production techniques and sartorial craftsmanship. But it is not only a label that enhances the value of a product attesting to its luxury and high quality. Made in Italy also means adherence to the values of environmental sustainability, the recovery of ethical practices of a “slow fashion”, a sustainable response to the world of fast fashion.

I strongly believe in the value of true Made in Italy. We have an incredible tradition of tailoring and craftsmanship that we risk losing, and that would be a crime. I believe that for an Italian brand it is a duty, as well as a pleasure, to support Italian manufacturing companies. Sustainability is also this. However, authentic Made in Italy should be protected and safeguarded to a greater extent at all levels, starting with the institutional one.

  • Personally, do you think sustainable fashion will make its way into the Olympus of “fast fashion”?

No, because there is a fundamental incompatibility between environmental sustainability and fast fashion, for many reasons. Starting from the production rhythms that lead to churn out dozens of collections in a year, causing an enormous amount of waste and pollution. Not to mention the materials used and the manufacturing of garments, often made in poor countries where cheap labor can be used, which raises important ethical and transparency issues.

It is often difficult for downstream producers to know where raw materials come from and how they have been processed. In addition, such a vast geographic location generates other factors of pollution, such as transportation, via container ships and increasingly also via cargo planes, to save time especially in online shopping, with an even greater environmental impact. It goes without saying that the longer the supply chain, the more CO2 emissions are generated. As the saying goes, “Buying cheap comes at a high price”.

The future of fashion after the pandemic

  • What do you think the future of fashion will look like after the pandemic? Do you think something is changing?

I think the situation we are living in will make sustainable fashion even more relevant and imperative. And the only way. We owe it to ourselves, our planet and future generations.

Last year my collection, entitled “Tilt System”, was presented at the opening of Milan Fashion Week in February, a few days before the world collapsed on us. Many people told me how the title of the show was in a sense “prophetic”, but the reality is that the symptoms of a tilt system were already there, you just had to look around.

Of course, the situation we are experiencing is exceptional, but in my opinion, it has only accelerated and made evident a crisis that we were trying to ignore in every way. Every year too many collections are made between pre, main, and cruise, and too many garments are made compared to the actual demand. It is the consequence of a crazy race that fashion has undertaken in recent years to chase the frenetic rhythms of fast fashion. With my last collection I wanted to put a stop to all this (even during the fashion show, at a certain moment, the models got stuck on the catwalk while on the screens ironically appeared the words “Technical difficulties. Please Stand By”).

Gilberto Calzolari SS21

Gilberto Calzolari, an evolving fashion

  • What is the creative process behind a “Gilberto Calzolari” collection? Where do your ideas originate, what or who do you take inspiration from?

My creative process is always born by immersing myself in the “here and now”, in the awareness of existence, pausing to observe everything around me, looking for beauty even in the contradictions of everyday life. A color, a movie, a found object, a news item in the newspaper, a trip, the nature that surrounds us. It is in that spark that each of my collections becomes an opportunity to address issues related to environmental concerns. These issues can be an inspiration and a reflection on an area that is in some ways ephemeral, but which, precisely because it mirrors our society, says a lot about our desires and aspirations, about who we are and who we can and want to become.

  • Tell me about what “Gilberto Calzolari” will propose for the next season.

Without giving too much away, in my new collection I wanted to focus on my DNA and rewrite my colorful and vibrant alphabet in the name of sustainability and newfound femininity. A collection of comfortable and playful garments that reveals sensual ease in assembling the various items. Full of contrasts, like the situation we are living in. Intimate, of a melancholic and severe romanticism, where there is no lack of accents and shots of rebellion and enthusiasm, the desire to react and start again, to return to life.

Tips for today’s designers

  • Lastly, I would like to ask you what you would recommend to today’s designers, what to focus on and how to express themselves through their garments.

Precisely during this period of forced lockdown, I started a series of collaborations with some schools such as the Humanitarian University of Milan and the Academy of Luxury. In my lessons, I always look towards sustainable fashion. It’s the only way forward, but there is still a long way to go, and training the new generations is certainly an important step. So I would say that my most important advice is to look inside ourselves and at the same time look around. Understand what is the inner need that pushes us to be creative, what we really want to express, while being aware of the historical period we are living in.

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