Sustainability at Pitti:
Edition 100
Getting In Touch With WOO’s Roots

Sustainability at Pitti is a series of interviews that celebrate fashion’s climate-conscious innovators. By providing a platform for the designers that put sustainability at the core of their brand, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

If you’re an outdoor style enthusiast, it’s likely you’ve come across the brand WOO at some point on your travels. The lifestyle family brand has been in the business of catering to the elements for 30 years, creating outerwear clothing, bags, and waterproof accessories that blend Mediterranean colorways with a functional Scandinavian ethos since the ’90s.
WOO is based in Salento, in the “heel” of southern Italy, a region that boasts stunning coastline, climate, and locals whose respectful relationship with their environment informs the brand’s mentality. These factors also combine to form the essence of the brand’s founder, Giulia Petronella, who was born and raised within the family business and blends her passion for design with WOO’s signature practicality.
It’s this connection with home and regard for land that’s explored in the latest collection — it’s literally in the title: Radici — Roots in English. To learn more about it, we linked up with Petronella who talked us through the brand’s latest offering and it’s green ambitions. 
Can you talk us through the new collection “Radici” and the inspiration behind it? 

Roots, the new collection of WOO Raincoats, is a mix of past and future, a sustainability vision that emphasizes the impact that each of us has on the planet. A new and respectful dialogue with nature [as] the protagonist. In the Roots collection, you can see the strong link with our beloved land, Salento, enhancement of what it was and what it can become. Salento, in fact, was a land that fed a population that was content with small things, nothing was wasted, and respect for nature was fundamental, gratitude for the daily bread.
You’re an Italian brand with a Scandinavian mentality. How does this influence the collections you create?

My initial vision was to reconcile two important elements: The quality of Made in Italy and the Scandinavian style. The lines, the essentiality, the colors, the cuts, and the functionality of our garments are designed [in tandem with] a background formed by experiences and landscapes that northern Europe has given me. When I create my collections I try to be consistent with this luggage of images and at the same time I don’t neglect the details, the different stages of processing the garment with a green perspective, until shipping to the end user. It becomes a real Italian experience — rich in products, flavors, and smells of my land. 

WOO has been creating raincoats for 30 years — can you share your brand’s heritage story with us? What led you down this path? 

I was born and raised within a family business that has been producing raincoats for the fishing and agricultural world for more than thirty years. Each garment represents her origins, her land, her bonds, and what I have always touched and experienced with her hand since I was a child. 

The idea was born in 2016 when I decided to leave alone for a series of trips between the main Northern European capitals. During these trips, I began to perceive and concentrate on the locals, [on their] main needs [while]living by responding to climatic conditions — and to keep up with the latest trends in fashion. At that precise moment, I saw a great opportunity in front of me: to transform a product that, until then, I had only associated with the seafood sector into something that was more inclined to what I have always been passionate about.
What does your production process look like? Where do you source your fabrics? Who makes them? 

The production process is between the artisan and the semi-industrial; each garment is sewn and heat-sealed to make each garment 100% waterproof. Waterproof fabrics are supplied to us by European companies, which share the same values as us: quality, dialogue, knowledge sharing, and responsible development, ensuring safe and ethical working conditions.
WOO describes itself as Green but PVC is the most environmentally damaging plastic (per Greenpeace) because of the toxic additives it often contains, and it’s used across your collections. Can you explain the thought process here? 

All components of WOO products comply with REACH standards; European legislation regulating chemical registrations, assessments, authorisations, and restrictions. Our PVC supplier has already obtained ISO 14001 environmental certification. They were able to anticipate the major changes that emerged from the European REACH Regulation and use only approved chemicals. 

We have already taken several measures to reduce our ecological footprint. We reuse pieces of fabric to produce small accessories. We also recycle some of our industrial waste. WOO products do not contain heavy metals or nitrogen-dyes that cannot be used in textile products according to current European regulations, which allows us to improve the well-being of people and the environment. All metals used WOO are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is ultimately the most environmentally friendly metal as it is corrosion-resistant, highly durable, has a high content of recycled material and recovery rates, as well as metal has the advantage of being nickel-free.

Are you actively looking for alternative fabric solutions? 

Study is a constant for us. We have always been looking for innovation and quality, especially thanks to our previous studies in the world of design. We are currently very interested in other types of smart fabrics and natural fibers.

What other challenges do you face as a brand trying to create climate-responsible products?

WOO is a clothing brand for all those who love the outdoors [and] anything that is adventurous. And because these people are generally also very environmentally conscious, the corporate philosophy is all about respecting the environment. We plan to activate a repair center to increase the longevity of our products to reduce our footprint. To donate part of our profit to grassroots environmental groups committed to preserving and improving the planet. 

The corporate philosophy is GREEN, but we are not perfect. We have been open and honest about the areas that need improvement, such as the use of fossil fuels to produce our items, which contributes to climate change. WOO’s commitment to changing and improving these processes and moving in the direction of becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly. It echoes our commitment to protecting the wilderness that serves as the focal point of the brand. Being transparent and engaging in a more sustainable business will allow you to get in touch with your customers.

How do you pair your awareness about the fashion industry’s climate impact with designing and creating new and fit-for-function products? 

We are aware of the impact of fashion on the environment. Radici is a campaign that emphasizes how much WOO gives importance to eco-sustainability. It highlights why the brand was born with an emphasis on two important focuses. The material is 100% recyclable, in compliance with all green standards, in which each waste is reused to create the line accessories and quality. Optimizing resources and time is part of WOO’s philosophy. Our "Roots" have taught us to be grateful for what you have and not throw it away.

How do you feel about the industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change do you hope to see?  

Sustainability is becoming a topic much discussed and promoted in recent times by many brands, implementing the policy of greenwashing, communication strategy aimed at building an image of itself deceptively positive in terms of environmental impact, in order to divert public attention from negative effects. Fast fashion should be reduced in favor of a policy that reduces consumption and waste of clothes.
Do you have any tips or words of advice for aspiring creators looking to launch their own outdoor label? 

My advice is to study and pursue quality. Benigni said that "novelty is the oldest thing in the world," I think it is partly true. Innovation must be sought, especially in the research and enhancement of new production techniques but also in materials, but also take every garment to heart and ensure a long life. Not only the end user but also the environment will be grateful to you. Be tenacious, determined, and true to your common sense.

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