Venetian Gondoliers Win Eco-Stewardship Award

Venice’s gondoliers recognised for their return to wool in the iconic uniforms. © The Association of Venetian Gondoliers/The Woolmark Company

Venice’s iconic gondoliers have been awarded the second Eco-Stewardship Award at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan last month for their use of Merino wool in their classic blue-and-white-striped uniforms.

Presented by actress and environmental activist Shailene Woodley, the award recognises the Venice’s 443 gondoliers for their innovative use of responsibly sourced Australian Merino wool. For more than 1,000 years, gondolas have been a primary means of transport along the Venetian canals. Then, in 2017, Al Duca D’Aosta’s Venetian brand Emilio Ceccato – in collaboration with The Woolmark Company and the Association of Venetian Gondoliers – created a new uniform, crafted from Australian Merino wool.

“This year’s Eco-Stewardship award links the outfits of 400 gondoliers in Venice with Australia’s finest Merino herds thanks to a brilliant project re-connecting a centuries-old-tradition with a centuries-old-fibre,” said Shailene Woodley.

Rediscovering wool

Historically, wool was a major part of the gondoliers’ uniforms. Now, after almost a century, the gondoliers of Venice have rediscovered wool for their uniforms. Their job requires high-level physical performance in extremely variable weather conditions. The return to Merino wool usage confirms the ability of this natural fibre renewable and biodegradable to respond to their needs and showcase it to the over 20 million tourists, who visit Venice each year.

The awards were presented by actress and environmental activist Shailene Woodley. © The Association of Venetian Gondoliers/The Woolmark Company

The city’s gondoliers now wear the iconic blue and white stripe uniform comprising a T-shirt, a sweater and a quilted vest as they navigate their way through the Serenissima canals.

“We are extremely glad for this new partnership with Emilio Ceccato and The Woolmark Company,” explained Association of Venetian Gondoliers President Andrea Balbi. “Wearing Australian Merino wool, a 100% natural and biodegradable fibre, as the gondoliers used to do at the beginning of the 10th Century, adds value and pride to our profession but, most importantly, enables us to work with higher comfort even in extreme weather situations and gives us the opportunity to contribute to sustainability.”

Sustainability event

Despite being a new addition to the fashion calendar, the awards have established themselves as one of the world’s foremost sustainability and fashion events. This year’s event attracted the biggest names in fashion and entertainment. Attendees included Adut Akech, Jon Kortajarena, Stella McCartney, Sophia Loren, Alessandra Ambrosio, Doutzen Kroes, Barbara Palvin, Elsa Hosk, Amber Valletta, Candice Swanepoel, Eric Underwood, Sinead Burke, Olivia Palermo, Ian Somerhalder, Nikki Reed, Pixie Geldof, Jess Glynne, Kat Graham, Lea T, Toni Garrn, Colin Firth and hosts Carlo Capasa and Livia Firth.

Last year, the inaugural Eco-Stewardship Award was presented by Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett to Australian woolgrowers, recognised for their passion, dedication and commitment to both environmental and animal health to produce the world’s best wool.

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