by Stephen Garner
Nicolas Bargi

There is no doubt that this pandemic has most of us looking insular. Our time apart from each other has forced consumers and businesses to pause and examine what’s most important in their lives and their companies.

What’s emerged universally across consumer behavior and business practices over the last year is the increased importance placed on sustainability. While the industry has been talking about this notion for some time now, it’s clear that now’s the time we all need to make a change in the way we consume and live our lives.

One brand which has been spearheading the push to more sustainable fashion since its inception is Save The Duck. An industry favorite, the Italian outerwear company has been at the forefront of sustainable and vegan fashion since Nicolas Bargi founded the brand in 2012.

And, now, for its fall/winter 2021 season, the brand is continuing to boldly (and fashionably) advocate sustainable and animal-free ethics with its newest collection. Nature takes center stage in this season’s main collection, with garments inspired by recycling and environmental responsibility. These items are seen through the lens of nature’s four elements: fire, air, water, and earth.

This fall also sees the introduction of the brand’s eco-fur line, which consists of 100 percent recycled materials. This super-soft, elegant garment completes the range of items in “Fury” textile. Plus, Save The Duck’s Recycled line and corresponding “Recy” textiles are amongst the undisputed highlights of the fall ‘21 collection. Throughout the collection, the brand reveals an increase in the use of recycled materials, and a wholly innovative green spirit.

And, with the launch of this season in full throttle, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Save The Duck’s founder and CEO Nicolas Bargi on how the pandemic has shaped his business, how the brand balances design and sustainability, and what’s next for sustainable fashion.

Q: Since you’ve founded Save The Duck you have always prioritized a sustainable offering, why?

A: I have always been conscious that we have one planet and that the impact of the clothing industry has played a major role in damaging it. I wanted Save The Duck to challenge some of the inherent ‘norms’ of fashion and really create something that was not only desirable, serve a purpose but also have strong ethics.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted Save The Duck, what have you done to keep momentum during the uncertain times?

A: We have been lucky in the sense that we have a strong e-commerce offering and the channels that we sell through are also strong here. We used the time of the pandemic to really evaluate what we are doing and ensure that our offering is aligned with need. We have always been about buying well and this really was just enhanced over the past year.

Q: How has the brand pivoted, if at all, to keep relevant during the pandemic?

A: Our priority during the ongoing pandemic has been our team, the people we work with, and our communities – whilst we wanted to remain as productive and relevant as ever, the entire world has had to pivot in order to achieve this. Our products are always appropriate so we did not have the same issues as say a Red-Carpet designer faced.

Q: As a leading sustainable business have you seen any impact in terms of the marketplace/sustainable fashion?

A: I think that a lot of brands have seen that the market and desire for sustainable fashion is ever increasing. There are more and more brands looking to use this for marketing purposes and to target consumer spend, if you look past the ‘green’ product though there is no authenticity with the wider collection/brand. Sustainability in fashion has been a buzzword for years and it is interesting to see how this has evolved, globally I feel that we are all gradually becoming more aware of our responsibility and this continues to gain traction across the industry.

Q: Has the rise in veganism had a direct correlation with sales in animal-free fashion?

A: There has been more and more interest in animal-free fashion, whilst this is something core to our business it is not only the vegan consumer who loves our brand. As with any lifestyle changes people evolve, so someone who has started with a vegan diet may ultimately look at embodying this fully in their wider existence.

Q: Do you think with interest in the planet at zeitgeist, this will translate into more awareness of ethical fashion?

A: I think that ethical fashion will become more and more normalized, although we are a long way off as an industry.

Q: Save the Duck recently received a sustainability loan, what does this mean for the business and can you tell us how this will be used?

A: It allows us to push forward with our main brand objectives. We will be investing across the business to keep trailblazing in sustainability. There is always more to be done and we are passionate about achieving our goals, it is very interesting to see that banks are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and that they are so willing to support.

Q: What will you be prioritizing for the business both immediately and long term?

A: We are really concentrating on bringing the best product to market, along with some incredible collaborations that will be revealed for autumn/winter ‘21. We are working hard towards the internationalization program, human resources and innovative, progressive CRM.

Q: How do you ensure that your suppliers are all aligned with the brand ethos and standards?

A: Rigorous due diligence! We research and work exceptionally closely with our suppliers, it is not easy initially to develop relationships but becomes increasingly important to maintain these when developing new products, partnerships, etc. We work with incredible people and invest hugely.

Q: How does the brand balance design and sustainability?

A: We firmly believe that the two things sit in perfect harmony, you can realize incredible designs using sustainable and ethical materials and manufacturing. As a team, we are always looking at them co-dependently and the marriage works. It is integral that a product is well designed and desirable, if not then there is no purpose and this would undermine the sustainable credentials. We are passionate about what we do and we have created a rhythm that is the signature of Save The Duck.

Q: What is next for sustainable fashion? Do you think that it will ever become mandatory for brands to be responsible?

A: There has to be a global commitment to improving across brands and there are as mentioned some areas that we have seen other brands start a conscious journey. Implementing these changes will be up to lawmakers and whilst we have seen petitioning and some movement in terms of fur usage, there is a lot to balance and a variety of voices and choices all visible. Save The Duck is committed to creating animal-free, ethical clothes that become part of everyday life and we are proud of our brand and brand values. There will be developments in what sustainability means and we are actively participating in this evolution. One of the main things that I think will move will be understanding best practices, businesses adopting them, and educating consumers more and more on why it is important and how to participate.

Q: You have had some amazing collaborations, that feel very authentic. How do you decide to collaborate with?

A: I think that being authentic is key to any collaboration, they are a meeting of minds and mutual respect to what one another does. We love to explore many ideas and when we see someone who really excites us and they are aligned with our core values it can create something magical! We have some really unexpected and brilliant collaborations for the next season!

Q: Are there any other brands that you would like to collaborate with?

A: Yes, but you will have to see who! There are so many brilliant young designers emerging, as well as other creatives who I find inspiring. There is a lot of work that goes into a collaboration and we do like to keep an element of surprise!

Q: What do you hope the future will hold for Save The Duck and the wider fashion industry?

A: I hope that we will continue to grow and create products that people love, that these become part of the individual’s wardrobe and accompany them whilst building a bright future. We will always be creating new ideas and improving what we do, mainly as technology advances.

I hope that the fashion industry has a cultural shift towards what we consume and becoming more responsible in terms of sustainability – it is not a marketing tool and it would be brilliant to see others start their own sustainable journeys.