“A Symbol for the New Era”—Gucci Off the Grid is Alessandro Michele’s First Step Toward Circularity

The fashion system exists on a linear model: Clothing is produced, it’s shipped to a store, it’s purchased by a consumer, and eventually, it’s discarded. Circularity is the solution, a concept that bends the straight line from product to consumer to landfill by designing clothes with their “end of life” in mind instead. The goal is to ensure as many “lives” as possible for a garment by using materials that can be broken down, recycled, and made into something else on a constant loop.

That shift won’t happen overnight, mostly because so much of what exists is made from synthetics and complicated blends, which are nearly impossible to recycle; the best bet for those pieces is the secondhand market. To get fashion on the road to true circularity, designers have to completely rethink the way they make their products, down to every stitch—starting now.

Gucci is one of the first luxury houses to commit to a circular future, starting with its new capsule, Gucci Off the Grid, a unisex offering of sporty daywear and accessories made from organic, recycled, or bio-based materials. A persimmon GG-logo’d windbreaker, for instance, comes in Econyl, a regenerated nylon that can be infinitely recycled. Even the details we rarely consider were updated: The drawstring in the hood is made of recycled polyester, and the snaps on the pockets are recycled plastic. A pair of high-top sneakers has a similarly meticulous construction, with Econyl uppers, recycled steel eyelets, and organic cotton and viscose linings. The handbags feature the same Econyl material in bright citrus hues, plus metal- and chrome-free leather trims and recycled brass hardware. Every item will arrive in an FSC-certified recycled cardboard box and a recycled nylon dustbag.

Figuring out all of all of these elements—and how the materials would work together—required deep collaboration across Gucci departments. “Working on this project was very interesting, because I would say my job [is], above all, experimentation,” creative director Alessandro Michele tells Vogue. “I like to test myself on the most unlikely projects. This one was stimulating because I worked in close contact with the design office, the technicians, and the manufacturing researchers to reach a common goal. We realized we could produce something that was 100% in compliance with our desire to create using only recycled, regenerated, and sustainable materials, without forsaking quality, design, or performance,” he continues. “The project has become a symbol for the new era.”

Off the Grid is part of a larger initiative called Gucci Circular Lines, which will focus on minimizing the brand’s use of new raw materials and explore all manner of regenerated textiles. Maybe natural fibers like cotton and cashmere will be next, and in the near future, we might see actual garments and accessories be transformed into something new. That would be consistent with the strategy Kering, which owns Gucci, outlined last year at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit; its chief sustainability officer Marie-Claire Daveau said upcycling is “the future,” and Gucci has taken quiet steps in that direction in recent years. Between 2018 and 2019, the brand reports it was able to save and repurpose 22 tons of leather scraps from its factories.

Beyond educating its customers about Econyl and leather scraps, Gucci’s major contribution will be influencing other designers—and other industries—to take climate change seriously and invest in circular models. It’s an understatement to say that where Michele goes, others tend to follow; in this instance, a little imitation would be the best-case scenario. His broader vision is for a calmer, more conscious world in which fashion can exist in harmony with nature, a concept mirrored in his campaign starring King Princess, Lil Nas X, David de Rothschild, and Miyavi. They’re photographed in a treehouse surrounded by skyscrapers, a vaguely surreal reminder that “our planet exists, even when it seems [like] it’s not there, or it’s far away.” The concept came together before the pandemic, but it feels prescient now—especially for us New Yorkers. Shop the first Off the Grid collection now at gucci.com.

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