CEO Stefano Canali discusses sustainability in terms of legacies
Canali has chosen to keep its production, and its people, close to its origins – family-run since its 1934 founding and remaining ‘Made in Italy’ to this day. Those decisions preserve tradition, but also mean that their work is familiar, accountable and changeable, a sensibility key to any sustainability improvements. Recently, they’ve applied that ethos to their supply chain, commissioning studies to better understand the environmental impacts of their production, and then making improvements, as part of their wider Canali CAre initiative. Port discussed this recent work with Stefano Canali, part of the company’s third generation.
How does being a family business shape your approach to responsibility at Canali?
The family tradition has of course cultivated a more measured and patient approach to decision making – one with a long-term perspective. Sustainable success is not about chasing short-term gains or fleeting trends, which fits well with upholding the essence of Canali: timeless elegance and quality craftsmanship. We want to create garments that withstand the test of time, and that includes the way they’re made.
What came out of the Organization Environmental Footprint (OEF) and PEF Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) studies you conducted?
In developing those studies, we wanted to take into consideration the organisation, but also the whole-life cycle of our products. We were able to test and assess 59 per cent of our production, which I’m proud of – the industry average normally revolves around single-digit numbers. Our PEF study found that a benchmark Canali garment has higher durability than the industry average, while its impact, over the life cycle of the garment, is significantly lower.
In our OEF study, we found that 70 per cent of our impact comes from the fabrics purchased. In light of that, our challenge is to continue to collaborate with suppliers, to find ways that we can produce using the finest materials while minimising their environmental impact.
Keeping Canali ‘Made in Italy’ seems important – what does that mean to you, and how does it tie into the wider CAre project?
Everything we make is made in Italy – 70 per cent in our own workshops in Sovico (MB), Marche and Abruzzo. The rest is with trusted external suppliers, with whom we work closely. We know where all the raw materials come from, how every garment is made, and who makes them. Almost all of the fabrics come from the Biella district, from companies that have made, and are making, history in Italy’s textile industry. Like us, they’ve built honest relationships with suppliers, and promote good practices at every step.
Choosing to remain ‘Made in Italy’ comes out of a strong feeling of belonging, as well as a sense of responsibility. Local production helps us make beautiful and well-made products – and is especially useful when it comes to implementing innovative production processes or experimenting with new materials – but it also helps us maintain a production system responsible towards the planet and people.
The primary objective of CAre is reducing your environmental footprint – what practical changes are you making to achieve that?
We’ve made big changes to our packaging – labels, hangers, tissue paper, cellophane bags, and shoppers are now made from 70 per cent recycled material, which saves about 3,000kg of paper a year. We’ve also changed how we ship things by air, reducing emissions by using large hanging garment boxes, as opposed to shipments in individual trunks.
We’ve committed to only using electricity from renewable sources, reducing direct emissions by 50 per cent in a year and total emissions by 10 per cent, which is around 3,000 tCO2eq in total. We’re trying to be more self-sufficient by cutting our use of, as well as producing our own, electricity; installing LED lamps in Triuggio, the Marche region and Gissi, and using solar power in our Sovico HQ on top of Filottrano, Marche and Gissi – 600,000kWh of self-producible electricity in total.
More attention is being paid to business practice. What do you think will happen to brands that don’t take steps to do business better, or look after workplace wellbeing?
Fashion brands that neglect sustainable practices risk being left behind. Consumers want products and businesses that align with their values and contribute positively to society and the planet, and potential employees, especially among younger generations, are prioritising working for organisations that demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability and social responsibility – workplaces that offer a sense of purpose.
Sustainability is hard work, for everybody. It’s a long journey full of challenges and obstacles. One where, often, you need to go back and try again, especially when you experiment and innovate. Sometimes bureaucracy slows you down. But there is no going back; it’s not about choosing what is easy, it’s about choosing what’s right.
Could you talk a bit about your work with Retex.Green?
It’s a consortium of which we (as Canali) are founding members, and I am also a member of the board of directors, with a direct commitment to ensure effective and controlled pre-consumer waste and end-of-life management of textile and leather goods. The EU is working on regulation in this sector of extended producer responsibility, and I hope that the harmonisation of national laws isn’t abandoned. It’s a tragedy if some nations think differently.
Your FW23 collection focuses on organic and recycled fibres – are you planning to do more of this in future?
We’d like to use organic and recycled fabrics more broadly, but the market is still very limited, especially if we want to maintain the same high-quality primary fabrics we normally have. We’re putting pressure on our suppliers to provide a PEF for the fabrics they use, so we can select those with a lower impact.
You’re offering repairs in flagship stores, which from a cynical perspective seems antithetical to profit. Why is offering adaptation, alterations, and repairs important to you?
It’s not just a philanthropic gesture, it is a strategic move that aligns with our commitments. From a business perspective, providing alteration and repair services builds a stronger relationship with our customers and fosters loyalty. The sophisticated sartorial construction of Canali garments comes out of a dedication to creating products with durability in mind, and offering these services makes customers more likely to make a long-term investment in our brand.
Can you discuss some of the community projects that the Fondazione Canali Onlus have completed that you’re particularly proud of, or any it’s currently working on?
The Fondazione Canali Onlus was established in 2013, to formalise and better coordinate the family and group’s engagement with charity work. We focus on social assistance, healthcare, charity, education, and professional training, partly through contributions to specialised institutions that do relevant work – I’m particularly fond of the Children’s Heart Project, which sends an equipe of Italian paediatric surgeons across Eastern Europe to perform and teach very specific heart surgeries for children.
All Clothing By CANALI
Photography GAËTAN BERNÈDE
Styling GEORGIA THOMPSON
Model ABIOLA AT W MGMT