The appointment with ‘The monthly interview’ comes back again, thus another interesting connection between creative people committed to sustainability is born. In July Tiziano Guardini (congratulations again for the beautiful fashion show at Milan Fashion Week yesterday) ‘nominated’ Paola Caracciolo, a friend with whom he shared his professional beginnings, a designer of strictly eco-friendly, luxury and made in Italy footwear. Great, we lacked a creative of accessories in our monthly appointment! So let’s take you to Paola and her experience with the production of high-end vegan shoes.
So Paola, I refer to the last thing Tiziano Guardini told me by ‘nominating you’, that is, he met you at the beginning of your path and you also work on the topic of sustainability. Your beginnings, in fact. How have they been and what is the motivation that made you choose to produce ethically?
When you choose and take a road devoted to cruelty-free, obviously no distinction is made between food and clothing. Eating meat and wearing leather are two different sides of the same coin. In 2006 in Italy there were not many alternatives (and no qualitative) in terms of cruelty-free footwear. Finding no ways, I decided to produce them directly, thus opening my first sustainable and vegan business. Today Nemanti, my brand, is the result of about 12 years of research and hard work to combine concepts that seemed distant initially: sustainability, luxury and quality craftsmanship.
From my research on the web, I understand that you first founded a startup, and then move on to Nemanti; you remained in the footwear industry but with what differences, if any?
The first start up had a high-sounding name full of meanings, but only for us Italians. By the time we realized that it was very difficult to pronounce it for those who are not Italian. With the entry of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni into the company and with the most cosmopolitan drive of the brand, we decided to re-branding, simplifying the name for our main market and working on the brand image. With Nemanti it was like starting from scratch, we revisited and improved everything: the name, the image, the site, the shoes … yes, because we took a further step also with the collections and the artisans, looking for even more excellent materials, workmanship, manpower and designers.
Your products have Italian style and elegance in their DNA but with the added value of being vegans; would you like to talk to me about the various materials you use and maybe you should indicate some characteristics that have convinced you over time to continue using them? Do you have a favorite one?
We use the best materials on the market in terms of comfort, durability and sustainability. We do a lot of research because the raw material is very important to have a quality product. The last material that came into the collection is the apple skin, a very sustainable and very beautiful fabric to look like, exactly like the classic leather but with the plus of being obviously totally cruelty-free. We use Alcantara, an Italian brand well known for this extremely qualitative material that has an incredible softness to the touch. For the next season we have added a cork skin to the collection which, in terms of sustainability, softness and comfort, really competes with the finest leathers. However, our warhorse has been remaining for years a grain of wheat, a material derived from the cereals of non-food crops.
Interesting, you gave me different ideas in terms of ecological materials that I will go deeper. But besides these, talking about the entire supply chain, what makes your footwear sustainable?
We pay great attention to the whole supply chain. I’ll give you an example to clarify how in reality it is possible to go deeper in terms of sustainability: our website adheres to the Zero Impact Web project, ie we offset the CO2 generated by the internet traffic of those who surf on our site with the creation and protection of a wooded area (just think that data centers and telecommunications networks will consume 2,000 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020, concretely: a data center operating at 4 MegaWatt can consume up to 57 barrels of oil a day). We pay attention to everything and we look for ever new and innovative solutions to make our production greener every day.
And you do well, congratulations! However, Italy still seems a step behind other European countries in terms of sustainability and, specifically, ethical fashion, even if something is moving. As an entrepreneur with many years of experience, how do you see the present and above all the future of our local eco-fashion?
Sensitivity and respect for the planet and animal welfare are also increasing in Italy. We are still far from the levels reached above all in Northern Europe but in recent years the eco-fashion is no longer relegated to a niche of consumers but is becoming a real mainstream. The trend is evident, the range of products is extended and the ‘consumption’ becomes easier and more accessible to everyone. This generates a positive flywheel that will gradually lead to a deep change in consumption even in Italy, although with a little delay.
Yes, I think so too, I discover every day new realities, entrepreneurial and creative, which are passionately dedicated to this issue and in most cases I feel sensitivity and a deep ethics and not just the desire to follow a trend. Well Paola, our interview has come to an end; as usual I have to ask you who you nominate for the October interview, while I thank you for your important contribution. Keep me updated on your news!
I nominate Ecoalf, known at a fair in Berlin; I fell in love with their line and commonality of values.
So let’s go to Spain to know this brand of clothing and accessories committed to the protection of oceans (and oceans here at eco-à-porter always return 🌊).