Livia Firth and the Green Carpet Challenge have teamed up with Gucci, the Rainforest Alliance and The National Wildlife federation to create a world first; a line of luxury handbags made from anti-deforestation leather. Designed by Gucci’s Creative Director Frida Giannini, the range is the first step in enhancing traceability and proving sustainability in the fashion industry, and is an amazing step forward for sustainable fashion.
The Gucci for the Green Carpet Challenge handbag collection is the culmination of nearly two years of working deep in the supply chain to procure sustainably-produced leather from the Brazilian Amazon. This is the first leather product sourced from Rainforest Certified (TM) cattle ranches and the first with certified zero-deforestation leather. The three iconic Gucci pieces: the Hobo, the top-handle tote and the New Jackie are the first products in the world to wear the GCC brand mark, and each piece comes with a passport detailing its sustainable story, offering full traceability.
‘Behind the scenes we have also been using privileged insight into the supply chains of great brands to see how we can create real change in the industry,’ says Livia Firth, ‘I found the National Wildlife Federation’s work in Brazil compelling. Here was a system of working on the ground with ranchers to change the way farming was happening to protect one of the earth’s most important eco-systems. We could see we needed to help create a product with true fashion pedigree in order to prove there is a market for leather of the highest environmental and social justice pedigree. We needed a truly great fashion brand for it to work which is where Gucci stepped in, embracing the idea with extraordinary commitment and energy.’
The bag’s supply chain is also completely transparent, as illustrated in the GCC passport – this is particularly important, because it raises the consumer’s awareness of the products provenance and helps to effect change by educating the consumer. It promotes the creation of a system of accountability whereby companies and brands can no longer get away with producing products in an unsustainable and environmentally and socially hazardous manner.
The bags are perfect examples of how beautiful things can be created sustainably without any environmental damage, and it will hopefully drive other companies to re-think how they source their products. The bags have been tanned with environmentally safe vegetable dyes, and as Lucy Siegle explains, the ranches where the cows are brought up and slaughtered for meat are 100% deforestation free. Leather can be a contentious and sometimes paradoxical issue; leather products are often tanned with chemical dyes, which can be harmful to both the tannery workers and devastating to the surrounding environment, and many consumers are unaware that leather is always a by-product of the meat industry, and no cattle are ever killed legally for their leather alone.
But it’s the deforestation of the Amazon Biome – caused by a steady march of the cattle ranches as they encroach on the forest – that is the most worrying and relevant issue. Brazil is has the biggest commercial herd of cattle in the world, but razing land for cattle in the Amazon is now the driving factor behind 75% of tropical deforestation. It’s not just about the damage and decimation of plant life – more than half of the world’s animal species live in rainforests like the Amazon, and the destruction of the habitat can only mean extinction for hundreds of species – but deforestation is also one of the major causes of climate change, as it contributes to approximately 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
‘I believe that today more than ever before customers want to be associated with brands that are thoughtful and responsible. Through our sustainability, humanitarian and philanthropic actions we would like Gucci to not just be synonymous with Made in Italy, but also made with integrity,” said Gucci Creative Director, Frida Giannini. “This project with the Green Carpet Challenge was conceived to show how we can be pro-active on environmental issues, by raising awareness and demonstrating action on the subject of deforestation.’
That’s why the GCC Gucci bags are so ground-breaking; it is so important for the leather industry to make changes from the inside, and the GCC certified Gucci bag is the first practical step towards creating a more sustainable supply chain. It is more pragmatic to make the process safer, sustainable and environmentally friendly than it is to try and stop production altogether. The biggest projects all start with a single step, and if the world must wear leather, then we must ensure it be produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.