Kering app aims to teach fashion students sustainable practices

The Kering Group wants to ensure that the next class of aspiring fashion designers has sustainability top of mind.

Kering — the parent company to luxury brands including Gucci, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen — is teaming up with the New School’s Parsons School of Design to pilot a mobile app designed to measure the environmental impact of fashion designs. The app is an extension of Kering’s larger environmental profit & loss program, or EP&L, that measures the monetary value of costs to the environment during the production process and examines the environmental footprint across the supply chain. It will serve as a key resource for a new course at Parsons focused on reducing environmental impact in design.

The app lets users test the environmental impact of constructing a jacket, shoe, handbag or ring. For example, a designer considering constructing a wool jacket can type in information on the materials needed to make it, as well as origin of procurement and place of production. Sifting through more than 2 million data points, the app then calculates an estimated cost of  the impact to the environment. Users can then use the app to determine how to minimize impact.

“EP&L calculates the environmental impact and then monetizes it, as if you were to write a check to nature for the resources,” said Michael Beutler, director of sustainable operations for Kering.

The program is also an extension of an existing partnership between the New School and Kering focused on integrating EP&L concepts into the classroom. In the upcoming course, thesis projects will be evaluated and scored based on both design and sustainability criteria. Brendan McCarthy, assistant professor of fashion who is leading the program at Parsons, said the class will teach students how to work with complex data systems focused on sustainability that they can apply outside of the classroom.

“The app and program provide our students with a rigorous way to actually quantify the environmental footprint and impact of their designs,” McCarthy said.

Across its brands, Kering has focused on digital. Earlier this week, the company announced a “sharp acceleration in organic growth,” up 10.5 percent to $3.5 billion in sales, largely led by digital efforts at Gucci.  The success has in part been contributed to innovative collaborations and prioritizing e-commerce.

Building the Kering EP&L system that the app is based on took four years and is the first corporate program to calculate profit and loss margins to the environment, Beutler said. Kering has been focused on integrating EP&L learnings into each of its brands and leveraging it as a tool to identify ways to establish sustainable practices.

He said that while he hopes that aspiring designers download and use the app, ultimately he hopes they use it as a learning tool more than anything else.

“What’s most important to me is not [that students] use the app, but that they learn the concepts behind it,” he said. “It’s a mindset shift. That’s what the app is really about. It’s illustrating a different perspective to help shift mindset.”

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