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Proper Interview: Stefano Saccone, Woolrich

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As someone who loves the great outdoors and amazing technical jackets in equal amounts I was impressed to see one of my favourite brands, Woolrich, launching their Outdoor Foundation last week.

Admirably aiming to give something back to the people and planet that have helped inspire and build this legendary brand, this is a long term plan doing something genuinely significant rather than a flash in the pan marketing idea that will last a season or two. Keen to find out more about this exciting new project I was lucky enough to have a chat with Woolrich CEO Stefano Saccone to find out more.

Neil: Ciao Stefano, so first question, I have to ask, what jacket are you wearing today?

Stefano: Well, it was raining earlier this morning when I came to work, so I wore our Gore-Tex Mountain Jacket, which is part of our permanent Spring collection.”

Woolrich recently launched the Outdoor Foundation, what was your personal involvement in the project?

Since joining Woolrich, our team’s ambition has been to create a path toward sustainability. Woolrich is a brand that has always drawn inspiration from nature, and there is nothing better than giving something back to the great outdoors that have inspired us and helped build our brand. For this reason, the creation of the Foundation was a logical step to realise this goal.

It’s great to see a brand as highly respected and loved as Woolrich doing something so positive, as CEO of the company how important do you think it is to give something back to the outdoors?

For us, it is central to our mission and purpose.  Giving back to the people and planet that inspired and helped build our brand is important to us and that’s why we are contributing 1% of our Direct-to-Consumer sales to fund impactful environmental projects through a partnership with 1% for the Planet. Working together we can donate, volunteer, and actively provide services to protect and shape a brighter and more sustainable future.

The elements are at the centre of our brand. We are inspired by them to create products that enable our customers to face them, enjoy them and live within them. The Foundation strives to bring the elements and the outdoors to as many people as possible, both now and for future generations, through preservation and protection, in urban and rural communities, worldwide.

As a global clothing brand what are the challenges you face when trying to be as sustainable as possible?

The journey to becoming more sustainable is a long and complex one, and I believe it is important to be very upfront and honest about that. It is a journey that we have begun, and with the launch of the Foundation, the next chapter in our ongoing commitment to the environment begins. But it is just as meaningful to emphasise that sustainability in our industry should begin with the durability of products. We have a long heritage of creating “garments with purpose” and Woolrich strongly believes in designing and producing products which are made to last. We strive to make products that are stylish and functional, but also stand the test of time, both in terms of their performance and quality.  We have been working to actively ensure our customers understand how to make their products last longer, as well as enable them to extend the life of their Woolrich garments.  In our Milan flagship, we have a dedicated “Care & Repair” station where we inform and encourage consumers to have their items reconditioned and repaired, and we are looking to scale this model across our store network and on our Ecommerce site as well. 

The project covers helping out with urban renewal, protecting forests and coastal maintenance. I know you are also working on other areas too such as ecotourism but what drove the decision to focus on these three areas in particular?

The Foundation pillars ground us in areas of authority that are relevant to Woolrich at a brand level. The Woolrich Outdoor Foundation seeks to educate, inspire and motivate individuals across the globe about the significance of protecting and embracing the outdoors — for today’s generation and those that will follow. We seek to bridge the gap between urban and natural spaces with partnered activations that engender greater appreciation of the role of the elements and all environments. The foundation aims to build and nurture communities around the idea and reality of the outdoors itself, delivering shared experiences that all generations can enjoy.

Is there a way that Woolrich customers can directly get involved in the foundation?

We are already thinking about initiatives and projects that can actively involve our consumers in the foundation. For the moment, we are communicating to our consumers that 1% of their in-store and online purchases will be donated, in partnership with 1% for the Planet, to environmental projects across the Foundation’s three core pillars. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for the Foundation? 

The launch of the Foundation is the first step. I think it’s about being humble, kicking off local projects that do good, that engage local communities. We will learn more with everything we do, and our ambition is to grow and scale our initiatives over time. Above all, it is our hope that the Foundation serves as a catalyst for raising awareness, increasing engagement, and driving participation for the common good.

Are there any future plans to do some limited/capsule collections under the Outdoor Foundation name?

We strongly believe there should be less ‘separation’ between so-called “green” or “eco” capsules and our overall collections need to have responsible, sustainable and circular materials at their core. We are working hard to increase our use of low-impact fabrics and to meaningfully offset our carbon footprint.  We are currently working on short term and long-term projects to achieve a significant result by using environmentally friendly products. The short-term projects imply an increase of sustainable fabrics and linings, along with sustainable packaging and labelling. We are working on more sustainable packaging for our garments, retail centres and all of our e-comm. All our hangers are made of certified recycled plastic.

Founded in 1830 Woolrich has been on an incredible journey over nearly 200 years, what do you think the future holds for the brand?

Woolrich’s storied history is undoubtedly important to us.  It serves as an unending source of inspiration and pride. It is a unique, meaningful part of our brand that very few in our industry can claim. But no one should rest on their laurels and what really matters is indeed the future, because it is what we can shape and impact every single day. We need to keep evolving our brand and business in relevant and meaningful ways for our consumers, for our employees, and for the communities of which we are a part. If we do this, then we have a good shot at ensuring Woolrich is around for another 200 years.

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