Canepa – The future of fashion is eco

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A world leader in high-quality silk textiles as well as other fabrics made of natural fibres such as cashmere, wool, cotton, linen and hemp, a supplier for the planet’s top fashion houses, and with 800 employees and a turnover of €90 million, Canepa was the first textile company in the world to join Greenpeace’s DETOX campaign. It was also the first to commit to cleaner production in the fashion industry, without toxic chemical substances, by 2020.

The textile industry is the second most polluting in the world after the oil industry, and it was this stark fact that drove the entrepreneur Elisabetta Canepa to take a stand, with environmentally-sustainable patents becoming her central commitment. “I come from a family of textile makers“, CEO of the Group, Elisabetta Canepa, tells us, “which has gradually developed over time. My great-grandmother had a spinning mill, and my father Giovanni already had looms before the start of the Second World War. Now there is me and my two children, Alfonso who is in charge of the supply chain and Carlotta who designs her women’s collection: Carlotta Canepa, which is a great delight and only uses textiles produced by our company. We also have our wonderful archive, dating back to the 19th century – a library of 15,000 antique volumes which are precious sources of inspiration”. Strong traditions are combined with a determined attitude towards innovation.

As the first textile company to have signed up to the Greenpeace Detox solution commitment and having announced its willingness to eliminate harmful substances from its production processes, Canepa has developed new environmentally-sustainable industrial patents by creating its own research centre: Canepa Evolution which designed and carried out the “Save the water Kitotex” project. This patent uses chitosan – a naturally-occurring, non-toxic and biodegradable substance contained in the exoskeleton of crustaceans – and helps to eliminate polyvinyl alcohol, fixing agents and bleaches from the production process, as well as reducing water use during the washing stages by 90% and energy use by 25%. Chitosan has always been used in Japan, where women used to grind up the shells of crabs and put the mixture on wounds. It is naturally bacteriostatic, blocks germ formation, heels wounds and prevents infection. “Chitosan is our mantra”, continues Elisabetta Canepa, “a waste food product which has amazing properties: it is bacteriostatic, sanitizing, miteproof and soothing. Wearing clothes produced from textiles containing chitosan means wearing something which is good for your health and prevents bacteria production. It is the same as sleeping in a bed with bacteriostatic sheets. In home furnishings, everything now comes from Bangladesh, and it is unsurprising that we have seen an increase in skin complaints and eczema. If a factory sends products to China, it needs to go through many different checks, but in Italy, we take in anything and everything and the law does nothing to protect us”.

The Canepa Evolution research department is currently studying Kapok, a type of cotton-wool which takes its name from the tropical Kapok plant, as big as a baobab, with 15cm-long pods. These pods contain a loose, extremely fine and ultra-light fibre which is perfect for padding, rather than using goose feathers. Studies and research are being carried out to develop ways of meeting the needs of the new generation of consumers who are particularly sensitive to environmental issues. This shift in attitudes has led to changes in the fashion industry’s approach to textile production. This new outlook is expected to transform the entire production chain, and Canepa has been at the cutting-edge of this change, adding yet more value to Made in Italy products.

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