Gucci Goes Green at Paris Fashion Week

Each of the sustainable leather bags comes with it’s own Passport, detailing the products sustainable credentials and traceability.
This post was written by Nathalie Walker, Manager of National Wildlife Federation’s Tropical Agriculture, Forests and Climate Project

For decades, fashion designers have looked to wildlife and the natural world for inspiration. Today, however, they’re taking it one step further at Paris Fashion Week. Gucci, the renowned Italian fashion house, is launching the world’s first line of designer handbags made with leather from Rainforest Alliance Certified ranches. These ranches have committed to protect their forests, so purchasing these bags is actually helping to conserve Amazon forest and the wildlife it contains.

National Wildlife Federation has been supporting solutions to deforestation driven by cattle ranching in Brazil for many years. We ran a program of workshops for ranchers in the Amazon, encouraging better environmental practices with Imaflora, Rainforest Alliance’s Brazilian partner. We learned that there was a ranching group, Fazendas São Marcelo Ltda, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, aiming to be the first in the world to become certified by the Rainforest Alliance, which sets standards for ecosystem conservation as well as animal welfare, water quality and pasture management. The ranch became the first in the world to achieve this certification. However, there was not yet a buyer for the leather.

When we explained the significance of Rainforest Alliance certification to the founders of the Green Carpet Challenge, Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth, they recognized the opportunity and found a willing brand in fashion house Gucci. Once the ranches obtained certification, Gucci set to work producing a line of bags made only with leather traceable back to the certified ranches. The special line of purses announced in Paris includes Gucci’s iconic Jackie bag. They come with a “passport” explaining the journey of the leather and are going on sale in Gucci’s flagship stores around the world.

Stopping Deforestation

Cattle ranchers from the Sao Marcelo Ranch in Brazil. Photo credit: Pisco del Gaiso
The Brazilian Amazon is a globally vital store of carbon, source of rainfall and home to tens of thousands of plants and animals found nowhere else. But around one-fifth of the forest has been destroyed, with nearly three quarters of this cleared forest land being replaced by cattle pasture. Today the Amazon is home to around 70 million head of cattle.

Whether you realize it or not, many of the shoes, belts and bags of well-known brands today are made from leather that originates in Brazil and is exported to Italy and China for processing. Many consumers do not understand the link between wildlife, deforestation and the products they see at the store.

You may not be able to afford to buy this new Gucci bag, but you can still support the effort by letting your favorite brands know that you want products free from deforestation and asking where their leather comes from.

While Gucci is first (and only) designer selling products made from Rainforest Alliance-certified  leather, National Wildlife Federation believes this is just the beginning of an exciting new trend.