As discussions around sustainability and ethical responsibility (at long last!) move to the forefront of the fashion industry, more brands are working to implement lasting, positive change — including Prada. In May, the luxury Godmother of global fashion announced the brand would no longer use fur. And in June, Prada’s 21st century evolution continued apace with the launch of Re-Nylon, an eco-friendly line of iconic bag silhouettes executed in a progressive new nylon, Econyl, a 100% regenerated fiber from fishnets and other nylon excess. The Prada Re-Nylon collection reintroduces six classic styles for men and women: the belt bag, the shoulder bag, a tote, duffle, and two Prada backpacks (our personal picks, btw). The entire collection is produced from environmentally-friendly materials, and features a chic re-interpretation of the signature triangular Prada logo we all know and covet.
“Our ultimate goal will be to convert all Prada virgin nylon into Re-Nylon by the end of 2021,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group Head of Marketing and Communications. “This project highlights our continued efforts towards promoting a responsible business. [And,] this collection will allow us to make our contribution and create products without using new resources.”
As part of the launch, the brand will also showcase the cutting-edge processes behind the Re-Nylon through “What We Carry,” a series of videos in partnership with National Geographic. Each of the five episodes will take the viewer through each material that makes up Econyl yarn, revealing the inner workings of the factories and facilities that produce this state-of-the-art, planet-loving fabric.
Refinery29 will exclusively premiere each installment, beginning with a trek to Phoenix, Arizona, home of the very first (yes, really) carpet recycling facility in the U.S. which can recycle up to 16,000 metric tons each year. (For context: Shockingly less than 3% of the 1.6 million tons of carpet discarded in the US each year is recycled.) In the first episode, Prada’s reporter Bonnie Wright and National Geographic Explorer’s Asher Jay show us one of one of the materials that makes up Econyl.
“I have always had great respect for Mrs. Prada’s ability to re-invent the boundaries of fashion, every look at a Prada show is new and inspired,” Wright tells Refinery29. “Prada is known for their iconic use of nylon, and yet they have recognized that systems within fashion, particularly luxury fashion, need to be rethought as our planet takes priority.”
In the second episode, South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech returned to Africa for the first time in many years to visit Cameroon to film with Joe Cutler, a National Geographic explorer and freshwater conservationist. Together, they explored another facet of Prada's Re-Nylon transparent supply chain. The nets found in Lake Ossa (one of Cameroon's biggest lakes) are recycled and transformed into new Econyl regenerated nylon. "Having this unique role was a really cool experience," Akech tells Refinery29 of being a Prada reporter. "I got to live one of my childhood dreams of being a news reporter, and it was for a brand I love as well. It's not everyday that you get that opportunity, so I cherished it a lot. I just hope I did a good enough job!"
The third episode in the series takes viewers to Mahana Bay, deep in the ocean, off the coast of New Zealand where 640,000 tons of fishing nets are dumped each year. Together, Australian actor and Prada reporter Alex Fitzalan — along with National Geographic Explorer, Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist fellow Rob Wilson, co-founder of Ghost Fishing New Zealand, and a group of volunteers — partnered together to remove harmful ghost nets from the sea bed as part of the Healthy Seas initiative. Once removed, the nets will be transferred to a textile yarn plant in Europe where it will be de-polymerized together with other nylon waste and recreated as Econyl regenerated nylon and woven into Prada Re-Nylon, used for the new Re-Nylon capsule collection.
Then, in the fourth edition of the series, Prada reporter Wei Daxun, a Chinese actor, traveled with National Geographic Explorer photojournalist Hannah Reyes to visit Parawin in Ganzhou City, a clothing factory. This is the first factory to recycle textile cuttings into Econyl regenerated nylon, which is then woven into Prada Re-Nylon.
Finally, the series wraps with Prada reporter Amanda Gorman, the inaugural US Youth Poet Laureate whose work celebrates community and social change, and engineer and architect Arthur Huang, a trailblazer and National Geographic Explorer who focuses on the idea of upcycling waste into new forms. Together, they journey to Slovenia, which has recently become a hub of a new regenerative and sustainable industry, with 40,000 tons of material recycled annually. It is also home of Aquafil’s production plant for Econyl, established in the city of Ljubljana. This episode shows some of the more intricate chemical recycling process of depolymerisation, used to transforming tons of collected waste into virgin quality, pioneering new Econyl yarn.
Now that’s what we call a brand new bag.
Watch the final episode of “What We Carry” below, and stay tuned for future installments.
This article was originally published June 26, 2019.