This time last year, I was in Singapore on a writing assignment for an Australian newspaper, here to interview Alessandro Sartori, the artistic director of Italian luxury menswear house Ermenegildo Zegna. Sartori had just produced his first collection under the banner of Use The Existing, a sustainability framework that Zegna had developed as a means to reduce, reuse and recycle, ultimately aiming to minimise its eco footprint. As he explained to me at the time, around 20 percent of fibres are discarded during the fabric processing stage, while another 25 percent goes when the material is cut into the pattern. That means nearly half of all fabrics are binned after they’ve been shipped all the way around the world, and it doesn’t take into account what’s not sold in stores at the end of each season. That Sartori wanted to not only actively address this, but talk about it publicly, was inspiring.
For the four years prior to this interview, I’d worked for a not-for-profit organisation that partnered with fashion brands and apparel manufacturers to increase the presence over natural fibres—in this case, Australian-grown Merino wool—into their garments, replacing petroleum-derived synthetics (and their harmful end-of-life disposal). And so to see a true market leader—Zegna being the Chanel of the menswear world, a truly vertical, family-owned, global operation—acting as just that, a flag-bearer for our new material world, felt to me incredibly promising.
When I returned home, Australia was on fire—and unfortunately, not in the youth-talk metaphor kind of way. The bushfires, propelled by a combination of a year-long drought and hot, dry, tinderbox conditions of an increasingly early summer, led to a most miserable season for most citizens of my fair country. Some 46 million acres is estimated to have been burned—think of that as 260 times the size of Singapore—and with it, national parks, Indigenous sites, livestock, and 10,000 koalas. The drought now broken, Australia still reels: entire communities have been wiped out, ecosystems perished, businesses gone.
While there’s little threat of bushfires here in our Lion City, rising sea levels threaten to engulf much of the CBD’s newer developments. The increasing weather variability, meanwhile, is putting strain on the reliability of Singapore’s water supply. And as we gradually emerge from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, spurred on by mankind’s perpetual march into the world’s wilds to stake our claim and, as Joni Mitchell once sang, pave paradise and put up a parking lot, it becomes blindingly obvious just how integral nature is to our lives, and with it, the threats of climate change abound.
It’s a lot of doom and gloom, for sure. And I realise, of course, that if you wanted the cold facts about our current world state you’d start your day with Al Jazeera or The Guardian. But there’s no reason that sustainability—that overused yet largely misunderstood buzzword—can’t be sexy, too. After all, we invented ourselves into this mess over the course of civilisation, so there’s no reason we can’t creatively invent ourselves out of it, either.
That’s what we’re looking at in this September edition of Esquire Singapore. Sure, there’s fashion—it’s the start of a new season, after all—but we’ve made a point of highlighting brands, processes and practices that will make you feel better about looking your best. Like Parley for the Ocean’s complete reinvention of textiles, for example, or the incredibly popular rise of fashion’s secondary market via the likes of Depop and Vestiaire Collective. And that extends to automotive. And music festivals. And fine dining. And, for that matter, just about every consumer-facing industry that’s aware of which way the wind’s blowing.
Because the thing is, being sustainably minded doesn’t mean giving away life’s luxuries and showering with your dirty dish water (hats off, though). Rather, there’s something empowering in knowing that your next purchase and ways of living will not only make you feel good but benefit not just the next generation, but us, too. This is happening now, after all, while those rising sea levels lap at our breakwalls. I hope this issue offers you as much inspiration as it did the Esquire Singapore team and I.
-Mitchell Oakley Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Esquire Singapore