Milan Fashion Week and Fashion Law Trends – The Latest Trend for Luxury Brands: Sustainability Slogans

The fashion industry is unfortunately notorious for being one of the most polluting industries in the world, responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. There are several major factors contributing to this proud achievement, including depletion of water resources, pollution from textile mills, and waste of goods.

However, in recent years, young consumers have begun to prioritize sustainability efforts in their purchasing decisions. In fact, 74% of Millennials and 62% of Generation Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands and are therefore willing to pay more for sustainable products. Therefore, consumer demand has caused a noticeable and welcome shift towards sustainability in the fashion and apparel industry. As a result, sustainable fashion and transparency about those efforts are now becoming increasingly important.

In order to comply with consumers’ demands to make more informed purchasing choices, many brands have committed to creating limited edition products, capsule collections or even sustainable whole lines i.e. made from ethically sourced or recycled materials. Increasing consumer and investor awareness of environmental, social and governance issues (“ESG”).ESGBusiness elements help grow the sustainability market, which, according to KMPG, was expected to reach $150 billion by 2021, with fashion playing an appropriate role, as “sustainability” remains “a key pillar of business growth” regardless of Industry.

As consumers – and the market – demand increased transparency and sustainability from the fashion industry, many companies have adopted new technologies in order to position themselves and their products as “sustainable”. Among all of this, it is interesting to understand how companies are investing in rebranding or in introducing new brands by putting sustainability-centric logos on their merchandise so that consumers are aware of the origin and nature of the products in operation.

Many luxury brands have chosen to adopt new logos to demonstrate their commitment to becoming more sustainable. Logos, as brands, identify the origin of the products, but they also convey the brand’s values, i.e. the missions, emotions and purposes that the brand represents. For this reason, brands are particularly effective in communicating a brand’s shift towards sustainability.

For example, as part of the brand’s SS 2021 menswear collection, Louis Vuitton has adopted – and submitted applications for registration – the Upcycling Signal logo. The logo consists of redrawing the monogram “LV” to resemble the twisted arrows of the recycling logo, for products that have either been recycled or contain at least 50% recycled and bio-sourced materials. Virgil Abloh used the “sustainable” version of the monogram to launch a pair of all-white sneakers made of corn-bread, recycled polyester with at least 90% of the product coming from recycled or bio-sourced materials.

Louis Vuitton isn’t the only luxury brand that tends to rebrand for sustainability. In fact, many other fashion brands have created a “green” version of their logos. As of November 2021, in connection with the collaboration with popular streetwear brand Palm Angels, Moncler has used a redrawn version of its logo to refer to products made “using fabrics made from low-impact materials such as Econyl®, a regenerated nylon derived from ocean and earth.” – Waste based Organic cotton and recycled polyester, and buttons and zippers made from recycled metal and brass.” In particular, the “sustainable” logo consists of redrawing Moncler’s “M” stripes as an endless loop of arrows resembling the recycling logo.

In 2019 Prada also adopted — and applied for — a “green” trademark for use in connection with a range of recycled materials and Econyl®, a proprietary material made from industrial nylon waste such as carpets or fishing nets. The brand consists of the words Prada and Re-Nylon with the iconic Prada triangle made of arrows, thus resembling the recycling logo.

Finally, Valentino also introduced, in January 2022, ‘Open for a Change’ sneakers as part of their Spring/Summer 2022 collection that have been ‘redesigned and repurposed in the spirit of open innovation with a more conscious spirit’. In particular, the sneaker is emblazoned with a redesigned “green” logo with the iconic “V” in the center, flanked by two green arrows, resembling the recycling logo.

However, while the decision to use “green” logos, in an effort to communicate elements of sustainability or environmental, social and corporate governance elements, may be effective given a commercial reputation and point of view, brands should be aware that nowadays regulators are paying more Pay attention to this space, given that there are strict rules to follow.

Article 21 (2) of the Italian Intellectual Property Code (“CPIIt is prohibited to use the trademark in a way that misleads the public about “the nature, quality or origin of the goods or services, because of the manner and context in which they are used.” This prohibition refers to deceiving the messages that the trademark carries by interacting with the context of advertising, packaging and labeling of the goods. Therefore, deceptive is the “indirect” meaning, i.e. the message a brand receives in relation to the context in which it is used. This could be the case for a brand that is associated in the public’s perception with a particular production source (although in itself it is not conveys no information about the origin), but in fact it takes on a strict meaning regarding the origin of the products. In fact, if a brand decides to register a “green” trademark in relation to a group that is purportedly sustainable, but without the group actually being inspired by these green principles, then In accordance with Sections 14(2)(a) and 26(b)) of the CPI, a trademark may be revoked.

In this regard, the Italian Supreme Court Decision No. 6234/2009 is relevant regarding the trademark “BIO-ENE”, which characterizes a group of vegetable products. The Supreme Court held that the “BIO-ENE” trademark was likely to mislead the end consumer because “the indications contained in the trademark, given the strong and impressive semantic range of the word ‘bio’, induce the consumer to believe in mediocre diligence, despite the association with the term” ene” and the graphic symbol, the products that feature that brand are organically produced, not actually inspired by plants, as they were in reality.”

In conclusion, brands should keep in mind to be careful when adopting logos that incentivize sustainability. Indeed, in order to avoid reputational damage and backlash, brands must be transparent, trying not to overestimate their environmental commitment, especially when it is completely absent.

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