Our choice of materials is based on four main criteria: strength and durability, price, environmental impact, and the quality of the feel and finish. These four aspects are taken into consideration at each stage of the production process, allowing us to optimize our production practices and create high-quality collections at affordable prices.
Before selecting our materials, we consider their carbon footprint, the amount of waste and pollution they generate, and the quantity of water and farmland required for their production. Whenever possible, we pick those materials which have the lowest impact on the environment.Every day, we seek to refine this selection process by choosing those materials which are the least harmful to the environment, all the while taking into consideration the criteria that are necessary for creating beautiful collections. Today, we have 70% eco-friendly materials in our collections, and we aim to do even better in 2020.
We have multiplied by more than 3 the proportion of environmentally-friendly materials used over the last 18 months. This has led to the progression of 22% in the Spring/Summer 2019 collection to 70% in the Spring/Summer 2020 collection. A result which surpasses the objectives we set a year ago. In 2021, we aim to do even better, by achieving 80% of eco-friendly materials in our collections.
When we refer to ‘environmentally-friendly materials’ we are relating to materials that have a minimal impact on the environment. These materials include organic cotton, certified fabrics, recycled materials and vegetable-tanned leather :
- 71% of silk is Oeko-Tex certified
- 67% of cotton is organic
- 65% of the polyester used is recycled
- 47% of viscose is FSC certified
- 31% of leather is vegetable tanned
Synthetic fibres are made from synthesized hydrocarbons such as petroleum or coal. Polyester was invented in the 1940s and is now one of the most commonly used fibres in the textile industry. Unfortunately, synthetic fibres are non-biodegradable and create a great deal of pollution, in particular during washing when microfibers are released into wastewater. When incinerated at the end of their life cycle, these fibres discharge large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and thus contribute to global warming.
Less than 15% of all materials used by Sézane are of synthetic origin. These materials are only used in certain cases when no suitable alternatives are available. Polyester, for example, lets you create “pleated” finishes which cannot be achieved with other materials. It also retains heat extremely well, making it perfect for winter items, and boasts wrinkle-resistant qualities which assist in the production of lightweight garments.
Although it is extremely difficult to eliminate these fibres completely, we do our utmost to reduce the percentage of our raw materials that they represent. One way we achieve this is by replacing them with recycled polyesters, which represents 65% of the polyester used in our collections.
Cotton is a natural plant fibre. It’s the most commonly used material in the fashion industry, and unfortunately the most harmful to the environment. Although a natural material, cotton is extremely fragile and requires large amounts of water and pesticides for its production. What’s more, since cotton is produced in tropical regions, greenhouse gas emissions are generated while transporting it to other parts of the world.
At Sézane, we’re always looking for ways to reduce the amount of cotton required for our collections. We use half as much cotton as the industry average and are increasingly turning to organic cotton and certified suppliers who use fewer pesticides and thus limit their impact on the environment. For example, nearly all the T-shirts and sweatshirts in our collections are made from organic cotton and in the process of becoming GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified.
For the moment, organic cotton is the best possible substitute for conventional cotton. Other materials can sometimes also be used, including linen, which requires less water and can be produced locally.
We do not use fur, the skins of exotic animals (such as crocodile), or those of endangered species. The hides used by our tanneries come from animals that have been raised for the food industry, and whose skin we recycle. We are also very sensitive to animal welfare and only purchase our materials (wools, hides, silk) from the most highly-regarded suppliers who can provide the best possible traceability.
Nevertheless, instances of animal cruelty can arise at any time, regardless of the supply channels. All animal cruelty is unacceptable. We do our utmost to prevent it, but unfortunately, it’s not yet possible to maintain full traceability along the entire production chain. We add ethical and quality-related clauses to our contracts with partners and suppliers to guard against animal cruelty. We’re also committed to stepping up our inspections and requiring additional guarantees with regard to breeding conditions and the treatment of animals. Finally, we refrain from using materials derived from animals if we are unable to obtain reliable and credible assurances regarding animal welfare.
The leather is obtained after undergoing a “tanning process,” which consists of softening and drying the hides to make them last longer. The most commonly used tanning in the fashion industry is chrome tanning, which unfortunately has a large ecological footprint as it generates a great deal of harmful liquid and solid waste.
A promising alternative to chrome tanning is vegetable tanning, a process that uses natural tannins extracted from leaves and bark. Vegetable tanning preserves the natural look of leather while keeping chemical pollution to a minimum. Like other leather, vegetable-tanned leather fades gradually over time but tends to be more vulnerable to wear and tear than chrome-tanned leather. On the other hand, this process requires a lot more labour than traditional tanning and is consequently more expensive.
All the shoes and leather goods from Sézane’s “Héritage” line are 100% vegetable-tanned. Every year sees an increase in the number of our products that benefit from vegetable tanning (currently 38%), which we use whenever the colour and texture of the item make the process possible. We’re also exploring new vegetable tanning methods (e.g. using rhubarb) to reduce our environmental impact even more.
The past few years have been marked by the growing global awareness of the need to protect our planet. This new consciousness has also infiltrated the fashion industry, and at Sézane, we make it a priority. We’ve recruited a team of experts who have come up with concrete ways for us to lessen our environmental impact, including an increase in the share of eco-friendly materials we use for our collections (e.g. linen, Lyocell, and certified organic cotton) and the production of sustainable capsule collections.
In the coming year, we’re accelerating our adoption of new measures which will allow us to reduce our ecological footprint even further. These 4 commitments are as follows; increase materials of low environmental footprint, increase vegetable tanning, increase use of organic-certified cotton, increase use of recycled synthetics.
It depends on your definition of “sustainability” and the challenges that accompany it: water pollution, CO2 emissions from soils, the use of natural resources...unfortunately, there’s no single solution for all these problems. Any kind of production has an impact on the planet, including that performed by the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion involves weighing the pros and cons and coming up with the best possible solutions. Both conventional and organic cotton are renewable but grown in faraway places where farmland might be better used for the production of food. The manufacturing of synthetic fibres gives rise to waste. What’s more, these fibres are non-biodegradable and generate CO2 emissions at the end of their life cycle when they are incinerated. Artificial fibres such as viscose contribute to deforestation. Leather may be renewable and simply a by-product of another industry (food), but cattle breeding has a large carbon footprint.
We must work around these limitations and focus on the production of long-lasting clothes developed along as sustainable a production chain as possible.
Two-thirds of our items are made in Europe. Our leather goods are made in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, while our suits, our coats, and some of our blouses are manufactured in Eastern Europe.
The remaining third is produced at various sites around the world, which are selected in accordance with the raw materials, production capacity, and expertise of the respective suppliers. Another important consideration is the level of modernity in the factories, in particular when it comes to working conditions, which at times are better in Asia than in parts of Europe. For example, we have opted to produce some of our items in China to benefit from the country’s know-how and extensive resources in the production of silk garments, as well as for its mastery of certain advanced knitting techniques which are harder and harder to come by in Europe.
An item can legally claim to be “Made in France” as long as its “last substantial transformation” or a large part of its added value (minimum 45%) is completed in France. For example, an item that is made in France from raw materials produced, spun, woven, and printed abroad can still claim to be of French origin.
For us, the “Made in France” label is only useful if it incorporates as many production steps as possible. Due to the deindustrialization France has endured during the past 50 years, it has become extremely difficult to make authentic “Made in France” garments. While France has experienced a decline in its textile industry, other countries (Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia) have enjoyed rapid growth, boasting state-of-the-art facilities and significant production capacities.
That said, we are always eager to work with French producers whenever they are best suited to make our products. Our next collection of sailor stripe shirts, for example, is being produced entirely in France (from the production of the raw materials to the final product), and we will continue to develop such partnerships in the future.
The China of today is nothing like the image of the country that we’ve held for so many years. Boasting the world’s second-largest economy, China has developed one of the most modern textile industries on the planet. Of course, not all of its factories are the same. Some are extremely modern, while others are less in line with European standards. It goes without saying that we work with the first category. But as elsewhere, we regularly monitor and inspect our factories in China to ensure they are providing satisfactory work conditions and delivering the quality we require.
Another important fact is that China is one of the biggest producers of textiles in the world, in particular of cotton and silk and that its distribution channels are extremely well organized.
For all these reasons, Sézane manufactures its silk garments and some of its knits in China whenever the quality and work conditions of our Chinese partners make a strong case for our doing so.
Sézane has created compulsory specifications, especially for its suppliers. Among other things, these specifications include a code of ethics. We, therefore, do our part in ensuring employees are provided proper conditions with regard to work, hygiene, and safety, as well as in prohibiting any form of child labour, forced labour, or illegal employment.
86 inspections were performed at our factories in 2018, either by Sézane itself or by third-party agencies. 84 of these inspections were positive, revealing that our suppliers adhere to the main tenets of our specifications. In those cases where they were not respected entirely, the anomalies were quickly addressed and corrected, such as when a supplier neglected to mark its emergency exits. In the two cases where the inspections failed, we were forced to end our partnership with the respective suppliers.
Ever since our creation, we’ve striven to offer our customers high-quality items at affordable prices. Our system, which does not rely on intermediaries or distributors, allows us to set the fairest price for our customers while simultaneously rewarding the expertise of our factories and employees. For prices to be truly fair, they must stay the same all year long. That’s why we don’t run sales or special offers. However, twice per year we do present our “Archives,” which feature, in particular, those items from past years that have been returned to us outside the relevant season/collection. At Sézane, our prices have remained unchanged since our very beginnings, despite an increase in the cost of our raw materials.
The main role of any packaging materials - even pretty ones - is to protect items during transportation. That said, there are a number of concrete ways to reduce their impact on the environment. This year, we introduced boxes made from recycled materials and paper derived from sustainably managed forests. These boxes are made in France and fully recyclable. Whenever possible, we replace our boxes with envelopes that are lighter and more ergonomic. We’re also in the process of streamlining our boxes by eliminating unnecessary labels and excess wrapping, and adapting their size and shape to best fit the items they are designed to hold.
Since first opening our doors 5 years ago, we’ve done our best to ensure we never run out of stock. Sometimes, however, it’s inevitable. It takes at least one year to develop a collection, and although we have a system in place for anticipating demand, we can never fully predict if an item is going to sell out. And while we increase our volumes each year, we’re extremely careful to avoid overstocking, a practice that plagues today’s fashion industry. It’s all about finding and maintaining the right balance, something we’re getting better at from season to season. We also listen closely to the needs and wishes of our customers, and do our best to ensure their favourite items come back in stock as quickly as possible!
At Sézane, we believe the secret to sustainable fashion lies in maximizing the durability of garments. Our number one priority is to provide our customers with items of the highest quality. We improve our collections every year, optimizing (among other things) the raw materials that are used and the quality of the final products. But these improvements are not always enough, and that’s why we’re so intent on helping consumers take care of their clothing. In our online care guide
, we provide detailed instructions on how to treat and clean leather, wool, silk, and viscose. Our team is also happy to answer questions by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Finally, our ‘Conciergeries’ offer a number of useful services, including cleaning and repairs.
Most old clothes can be given a “second life.” For example, if they’re in good condition, you can sell them on websites such as Vinted, Vestiaire Collective, VideDressing, eBay, and Leboncoin. If they’re somewhat more shabby, you can always drop them off at Sézane. As part of our ‘Grand Collect’ program, we’ll donate your old clothes to associations who either recycle them or sell them in their second-hand stores.
Recycling is one of the keys to reducing the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Our ‘Grand Collect’ program makes it possible to donate used clothes (Sézane or other brands) at all our “Appartements” and “Conciergeries,” as well as our “Charity Boutique.” And thanks to our prepaid shipping labels (available on our website), items can also be sent by mail. All donated items are given to the “Le Relais” and “Emmaüs” charities, which provide the clothes with a second life or - if they’re too damaged - recycle them. Whenever possible, we also develop solutions to increase the value of these items, working closely with partners that specialize in upcycling such as “Super Marché.”
DEMAIN is a charitable program we created last year to promote children’s programs. It benefits three different organizations: “Voix de l’Enfant” and “Sport dans la Ville” in France, and “Pencils of Promise” in the USA. To fund DEMAIN, we launch one new item on the 21st of each month and contribute the full amount of the item’s sales - as well as 10% of all the day’s revenue - to the project. We're proud to announce that in 2018, we were able to collect over one million euros in proceeds. In 2019, DEMAIN will be expanded to include a sustainability plan to reinforce our commitment to the environment. You can find out more on our dedicated website
The “Charity Boutique” in Paris was created in 2018 as a place for consumers to purchase Sézane items from photo shoots and fittings, products that are slightly damaged during shipping, and articles graciously donated by our customers. All proceeds from the “Charity Boutique” go to our charitable program DEMAIN. Used clothes can also be dropped off in the boutique; we'll subsequently send them to our partner associations where they will be donated or recycled.
12 rue Saint-Fiacre, 75002 Paris. Open from the 21st until the end of each month (excluding Sundays, Mondays, and holidays), from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In our “Conciergeries,” customers can pick up or return their orders...as well as benefit from services designed to make our items last as long as possible, such as customized care instructions and a built-in repair workshop. Our “Conciergeries” give used clothes (Sézane or other brands) a second life by recycling them or repairing them so they are once again fit for use.
Visit our two “Conciergeries:”
25 rue de l’Annonciation, 75016 Paris. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
12 rue Saint-Fiacre, 75002 Paris. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.