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How One Sustainable Italian Startup is Launching During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the death rattles sounding throughout the retail industry, signs of new life can still be unearthed.

The ongoing pandemic-driven turmoil, for instance, did little to stunt the launch of Kampos, an Italian fashion startup that hung out its shingle Tuesday with a line of luxury swimwear and accessories made from recycled plastic bottles, regenerated nylon from abandoned fishing nets and Global Organic Textile Standard-certified cotton.

Its environmental bent doesn’t end there: All Kampos products, the company says, are packaged without plastic and designed to be recyclable at the end of use. The firm—whose name derives from hippokampos, the Greek word for seahorse—will also donate a portion of its revenue to the One Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes ocean conservation and literacy.

Italy, a country of 60.3 million, was brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 227,000 confirmed cases to date and 32,169 deaths. But its flattening curve has led to eased restrictions, and Italians are beginning to come up for air after more than two months of government-enforced isolation in what used to be an epicenter of the crisis.

The coronavirus outbreak even threw Kampos’s future up in the air for a while, pulling what founder Alessandro Vergano called a “hand-break to a car that was driving very fast.”

“We have been planning for the launch of Kampos for years and moving forward could have been very risky, but we managed by staying focused on our mission and goals,” he told Sourcing Journal.

Though preparations for launch had to be renegotiated, Vergano said the company was able to leverage its agility as a startup to spend “more quality time” on buttressing specific areas of the business, such as e-commerce and social media communication.

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But the disruption has also forced Kampos to examine the state of retail under a different light, he said, while recommitting to its original mission of promoting a pristine Mediterranean sea.

“Luxury—same as many other categories—will never be the same,” Vergano said.” Now, more than ever, people are more attentive and careful about what they do, what they purchase and how they spend their time.”

The pandemic made it clear, he noted, that humanity needs to reconsider its relationship with the planet because “things can go very bad, very quickly.”

“I believe consumers are now even more receptive to the idea of consuming goods in a more responsible and conscious way,” he said. “I believe sustainability will become soon a key criteria to decide what to buy and what not to buy.”

Kampos manufactures its products—which include swimsuits, sunglasses, and T-shirts for men, women and children—within a 56-mile radius in Italy, not only to minimize the environmental impact of transportation but also to drum up attention for the country’s resources and craftsmanship.

The pandemic has left its mark, however. Like many fashion companies, Kampos is making face masks from its scrap fabric, a move that dovetails with its desire to minimize waste and reduce plastic pollution.

Eventually, Vergano hopes Kampos’s once-stalled car will start revving up again. The company still plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Porto Cervo in Sardinia. Until then, online clicks at will be its life line.