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Arcadia Earth Adds a Visual Element to Sustainable Storytelling

Denim brands are well aware of the hurdles in effective sustainable storytelling. Too much technical information and consumers shut down, while brands that glaze over facts veer into greenwashing territory. Perhaps the solution is visual storytelling.

Arcadia Earth, a New York City-based art exhibit, puts the idiom “seeing is believing” to the test by transporting visitors through an immersive experience designed to shine a spotlight on ecological issues like overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change.

Covering 15,000 square feet across 15 thematic rooms, Arcadia Earth features installations from 12 environmental artists that have each been developed using upcycled materials and reusable elements, including on a room developed with Lenzing created with the company’s compostable and biodegradable fibers. With a focus on individual empowerment, each installation provides educational commentary highlighting the “inconvenient truths about the future of our planet.”

The concept for Arcadia Earth was born in the fashion world. With more than 20 years of experience working in fashion in various marketing and retail strategy roles for names like Diesel and Century 21, Arcadia founder Valentino Vettori became passionate about undoing the environmental harm done by the apparel industry. “Eventually I realized that everything I was doing helped create pollution,” he told Rivet.

The turning point, Vettori said, came three years ago while attending Summit, a Los Angeles-based thought leadership conference. After hearing speakers like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk mull over plans to move to Mars, Vettori wondered why more wasn’t being done to save the planet that billionaires are trying to escape. “It’s easier to find solutions than to travel through the stars,” he said.

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However, people need to be educated in order to reach solutions, and too often, Vettori said, the conversation about sustainability stops before it starts. Discussions about climate change often feel like doomsday is around the corner, he said. It feels negative and is rarely accompanied by actionable solutions.

“We don’t educate ourselves because we’re disconnected,” he said.

Through Arcadia, Vettori aims to break down that barrier and create an event that is both educational and inspiring with real takeaways that visitors can apply in their daily lives. The multi-sensory setting includes an underwater VR experience, large-scale projections and installations made from plastic waste. Vettori also partnered with Brooklyn-based artist Basia Goszczynska to honor New York State’s ban on plastic bags by creating a cave of 44,000 recycled plastics bags, representing the number used in the state per minute.

Through the art installations, visitors can relate to issues of clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production and climate action. It’s a dynamic and accessible approach to storytelling that resonated with Tricia Carey, Lenzing director of global business development-denim.

“Arcadia is about how we can all lower our environmental footprint in simple ways,” she told Rivet.

The Tencel Lyocell or Modal message is an easy fit, Carey added, because the fibers are derived from wood produced on sustainably managed tree farms and are used across a wide sweep of products, from denim and underwear, to home products.

“What I have learned is that we have to keep telling our story in different formats with people who share the same passion for the environment that we do,” Carey said. “Make a commitment. Buy responsibly. You cannot leave Arcadia and not think about the oceans, coral reefs, plastics bags or forests.”

Arcadia Earth is due to wrap up its New York City stay in January, but plans are underway to bring the concept to Los Angeles and to ramp up educational programming. “We’re trying to find ways to inspire the community,” Vettori said. Arcadia Earth Los Angeles will likely present opportunities for the city’s denim sector to get involved.

“Valentino’s strong desire to use art and his talent to influence the minds and actions of people is amazing,” Carey said. “He has brought many organizations and groups of all ages together.”