Sustainable fashion centre-stage at winter edition of Rome Fashion Week

Sustainable fashion centre-stage at winter edition of Rome Fashion Week

The winter edition of the Rome Fashion Week opened on January 23 with a panel discussion staged by organiser Altaroma, focusing on the issue of circularity in fashion, something of a common thread connecting the event’s various presentations and catwalk shows. 


In the inaugural address however, Ivan Scalfarotto, Italy’s under-secretary for foreign affairs, first highlighted the need for a team effort in support of Italian fashion: “Italy is a divided country, but we must remember that the only real competition is global. We have three cities playing different roles: Milan, Florence and Rome, which has been able to carve a very smart niche for itself with Altaroma, looking for emerging fashion talent. The only thing Rome needs to do is have greater belief in its role.”

The panel discussion then concentrated on how fashion is responding to environmental issues, creating greener products that in turn foster greater public awareness. Promoting circularity in fashion means for example using recycled materials, and natural dyes rather than toxic chemical ones, as the young designers on the panel emphasised.


Caterina Moro explained how her label, founded in 2018, specialises in printed natural fabrics. “Sustainability is a conquest, a process you perfect,” she said, adding that “I’m still not 100% sustainable, but I try to get there through the recycled materials I find travelling the length and breadth of Italy. Bio Italy, a company that collects waste material, has given me wood waste from the car industry which I use for my prints.” Cristiano Ferilli, 26, from Apulia, is an artisanal producer of eyeglasses frames made with a fibre called Sicalindi, obtained from prickly pears, a plant common in his region. Eleonora Riccio, an Academy of Fashion student, makes dyes from natural elements, and presented a wonderful, Swarovski-embroidered evening gown dyed with a red cabbage extract. Chiara Catone and her partner also work on printing fabrics using dyes made from natural ingredients.

Silvia Venturini Fendi, president of Altaroma, underlined that the organisation first started focusing on sustainable fashion back in 2008. “At the time, my sister Ilaria presented a series of sustainably sourced handbags made in Africa through Altaroma.” Venturini Fendi added that “companies with a long history are slower in becoming sustainable, because they need to break down a system crystallised over the years. It is quicker and easier for start-ups. We are aware of how much of a negative impact fashion is having on the environment, and we are now engaged in a genuine revolution. Above all, consumers are changing: they are consuming less but better, and they are keen to learn about the whole production process. Through the Showcase Roma initiative, 56 emerging designers, no more than four years in business, are embracing these themes.”

“Roman fashion has a glorious history,” said Lorenzo Tagliavanti, president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, a majority shareholder in Altaroma, adding that “looking at the figures, it is possible, even in so complex a city, to find a way to perpetuate such a major tradition. Rome is home to 20,000 companies, many more than the national average. During the worst of the economic crisis, between 2014 and 2019, Rome’s exports grew by 66%, mostly to the USA, Hong Kong, China and Japan. But fashion needs an overhaul, and must look towards sustainability and technology.”  

Finally, the councillor in charge of economic development at the Lazio regional authority, Paolo Orneli, emphasised how a collaboration between Altaroma and Lazio Innova will directly support 24 out of the 56 young designers taking part in the Showcase. He also announced that, on February 4, the region will open a call for applications by sustainability-focused companies to share in a €10 million funding endowment.

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