Spotlight on a sustainability star


Gilberto Calzolari (@GilbertoCalzolari_official)wowed us with his ethical and elegant designs when he scooped Best Emerging Designer at last year’s Green Carpet Challenge Awards. Here he shares the story behind his sustainable creation.

I’ve always paid attention to environmental issues,” explains Gilberto as we catch up behind the scenes of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection’s Summer Stories campaign shoot. Nature is one of my biggest sources of inspiration and its always played an important role in my work.

The Italian designer has rubbed shoulders with industry leaders, showcased his designs at Milan Fashion Week and embarked on a year-long mentorship programme with The Bicester Village Shopping Collection since winning last year’s Franca Sozzani Green Carpet Challenge Award for Best Emerging Designer.  

At the Green Carpet Fashion Awards – also known as the Oscars of sustainable fashion – the challenge was to create a red-carpet worthy look that embodied his sustainability credentials. While it wasn’t an easy feat, his dedication to environmental issues set him in good standing. 

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I wanted to […] prove that creativity and luxury can, and must, join together in respect for our planet

Gilberto’s eco-conscious style was demonstrated in his first collection, inspired by the Arctic, which saw him partner with Polar Bears International, a non-profit association that works to safeguard these North Pole native creatures. Then, his show during the Next Trend segment of Milan Fashion Week opened with images of polar ice caps meltingto the soundtrack ofDepeche Mode’s Wrong, to highlight the risks of global warming.  

This commitment to environmental issues is also reflected in the designer’s choice of materials. “I started by using eco-fur, and each collection has branched out into more sustainable materials, such as cupro-linen, EVO nylon, GOTS-certified silk and sustainable denim. 

Rather than overshadowing the intricacies of the design, these sustainable materials add to its charm. So does Gilberto consider their origins and use during the creative process? 

Absolutely. It has a moral and an artistic impact, in addition to influencing the concept. My jute coffee bag dress is a perfect example: I wanted to pay homage to the Italian countryside in that summer collection, but when I saw Brazilian jute bags at the canal market in Navigli – used as barriers against the flooding of the canals, a growing concern due to climate change – I knew I could take the concept further.  

“I treated the upcycled jute as a real couture fabric, creating a tight-fitting bodice, lined with natural cotton muslin, with a gocce draping to form a tulip shape. Finally I embroidered it with floral motifs in Swarovski’s Advanced Crystal lead-free crystals.  

I wanted to create a contrast between stereotypically poor and rich materials and at the same time prove that creativity and luxury can, and must, join together in respect for our planet.