LONDON, United Kingdom—When Prada started selling nylon bags in the 1980s, it was an iconoclastic move that shook the luxury industry. Now, the Italian brand wants to make one of its most iconic products green.
The company is launching the “Re-Nylon” collection, a range of six classic bags made out of nylon reclaimed from ocean plastics, fishing nets and textile fiber waste.
By 2021, Prada is aiming to ensure that all 700,000 meters of nylon that it uses annually are recycled.
“It’s a massive reduction of nylon and a big impact in terms of sustainability,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, head of marketing and communication at Prada Group. It’s a big move for the company too, transforming a material that’s as iconic to Prada as Louis Vuitton’s monogram is to the French luxury house, Bertelli added. “We want to do things not just for marketing reasons, but seriously, in big numbers,” he said.
The collection’s six styles include the belt bag, the shoulder bag and two Prada backpacks. As a capsule collection, it will sell at a different price point to the company’s conventional nylon bags. For instance, the classic nylon backpack will retail at roughly 20 percent more. (An undisclosed proportion of the sales will be donated to a project Prada is developing with UNESCO focused on environmental sustainability.) It's working to reduce the price difference so consumers will not have to pay more once the line transitioned to fully recycled material.
The company is the latest among a raft of brands to highlight efforts to use recycled materials and better production processes amid growing consumer demand for environmentally-responsible products. Brands including Calvin Klein-owner PVH Corp. and Ralph Lauren have published new environmental targets this year. Even fast fashion e-tailer Boohoo has launched a range of recycled products.
“It’s the start of an era for us. We see a lot of demand on the market,” Bertelli said. “I hope every competitor will move to more sustainable manufacturing approaches.”
The initiative comes as the Prada Group, which also owns Miu Miu and Church’s, is looking to solidify a turnaround after several years of declining profit. The company dominated the fashion agenda for decades, but more recently the business has stumbled as it pulled back on more affordable pieces just as athleisure and streetwear took off.
To get back to growth, the company is focusing on e-commerce and relaunched its Prada Sport line last year. Bertelli, the son of co-CEOs Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, joined the company in 2017 as these changes began to take shape. There are signs the efforts are paying off; last year marked the first time in four years that the Italian luxury group’s saw revenue growth.
The company is also engaging more with consumer concerns around the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. Earlier this year, it published a sustainability policy and announced it would stop using fur in May.
Its recycled nylon products have been created in partnership with Italian synthetic fiber producer Aquafil. While Prada has been looking at ways to use recycled nylon for several years, the quality and volumes available weren’t good enough until recently, Bertelli said.
Aquafil has spent years developing nylon yarn from plastic waste. It claims that for every 10,000 tons of its trademarked Econyl thread, 70,000 barrels of oil are saved. The product is already used by a range of brands, including Gucci and Stella McCartney.
The company will launch the Re-Nylon capsule alongside a series of videos produced by National Geographic that explore how Econyl is made.
One thing that remains unclear is what will happen to Prada’s range of recycled bags when they too wear out. More fashion brands are addressing circularity with take-back and recycling schemes of their own.
“We make products to last, so it’s not something we’re looking at,” Bertelli said.