In 2008 I attended an environmental journalism course in Rome; then I had been dealing with fashion for a few years, while I had already inside me the love for nature and animals and the propensity for environmental issues, so at some point I have felt the need to deepen these passions of mine in my professional and educational path, conveying them in my job.
One of the lessons included in the course concerned eco-fashion and as a teacher we had Filippo Ricci, founder, together with Orsola de Castro, of ‘From Somewhere’, a pioneering brand of upcycling that opposed waste in fashion by using for own collections old garments and textile remnants found in warehouses all over the world. The clothes he brought us to view were the first real contact I had with sustainable fashion (even if I had been wearing vintage and second hand for years) and above all with upcycling, so I was infinitely grateful to him because he opened a world.
And I was infinitely grateful to Sara Maino when, in last month’s interview, she ‘nominated’ Orsola de Castro, who is not only the founder of ‘From Somewhere’ but also and above all co-founder, together with Carry Somers, of Fashion Revolution, which is a bit of a home for us, given that we are loyal supporters of it and we are pleased to spread its principles and practices.
So here I am with Orsola, to whom I immediately ask to talk to me about ‘From Somewhere’. When and how was it born?
‘From Somewhere’ was born in 1997 from a sweater with holes; yes, I had a holey sweater I absolutely wanted to wear and having always crocheted, I took the crochet hook and reworked around these defects, enhancing them, then bringing something dead or half-dead back to life. And the principle of ‘From Somewhere’ was more or less always what, whether they were used pieces, unique pieces or large tons of cashmere sweaters or housewife clothes, it was always based on the concept of reworking what others didn’t want. This was the spirit. Then clearly the brand grew, we also collaborated with major brands, from Topshop to Speedo reusing their unsold, their stocks and materials but precisely the central idea is that linked to the desire to reuse.
Yes, I remember the Speedo capsule in collaboration, great The founding of Fashion Revolution was certainly another milestone in your activism; how have you seen the movement evolve in these years and what are the most important results you have achieved to date and that push you to move forward?
Fashion Revolution, born in 2013 as a reaction to the catastrophe of Rana Plaza, has become over the years the activism movement in the largest fashion in the world. We currently have a presence in over 90 countries and at least 30 of these develop strong and original campaigns. The seven years that have seen us grow have been decisive years as far as sustainable fashion is concerned, with great changes of opinion but above all a greater awareness on the part of citizens and brands. Fashion Revolution has always dealt with both environmental and social issues, so that our resources are not exploited as much as the people who work them. In these seven years the principle on which the movement is based has remained unchanged, indeed, I invite your readers to read our manifesto because it really concentrates our vision for better fashion in its ten points.
As for the results, I don’t feel like talking about one in particular because for me Fashion Revolution is the result, being able to co-found such an important movement is satisfaction and pride together. We are a particular organization that manages to have an impact on creativity and on companies, our Fashion Transparency Index is an important tool for the industry, while the fanzines are very creative, in short, the aspects are many. I am very proud of our approach, of our communication, of the fact that we are pro-fashion, not anti-fashion and that we are also honest, we deal with very complex topics trying to give as much information as possible, so that the public can learn more and more. Because knowledge is the source of all changes.
Exactly. And knowledge also gives freedom. I know that since last year you have also been collaborating with IED Moda Milano with the ‘Fa / Re – Being Cool is Nothing New’ project, based on the art of reusing and reinventing the old to make it cool. What approaches and imagery related to reuse have you seen emerging among students? And in general, attending academic circles, what are the aspects that guys prefer in sustainable creation / production?
I expect and receive a lot from students. As for upcycling and all the work that goes back to my beginnings, therefore to ‘From Somewhere’ and to reuse, I think today’s students understand it more than ever, even if I have to say that the students of that time understood it all the same. Creativity is always limited to what is around you and the time you live, it is part of our culture, always and forever, so it is very easy for them, now, to understand what is the artistic and creative value of an object or of an abandoned piece of cloth and the value of returning it to use. There are some materials that work better than others, as demonstrated by the ‘Fa / Re’ project in which we worked a lot with denim, but in addition to the materials, it is also a way to see the future, therefore the fact of having the least possible impact and use your creativity as a service, put it at the service of an industry that for 30/40 years has not taken into consideration the concept of waste.
Mass production and overproduction tell us nothing more than that it is an industry, that of fashion, which has now lost all efficiency, from the point of view of controlling its resources, its waste. Working with reuse makes all the battles win, on the one hand it is creatively stimulating, on the other you know that you are doing something that has a strong sense of utility, of purpose. Students use it a lot, it is growing and it is desirable that it also fits within the fashion structures, in factories and also in major brands. It will have to be developed further in the future, with Covid having massed tons of goods in the warehouses and therefore systems will have to be found to put this goods back into circulation, rather than incinerate or throw it in landfills.
Covid precisely. Considering the period we are living in, I cannot avoid asking you how the fashion system will change in the post Coronavirus and if sustainability will become an essential element.
I am not an economist or a politician, so I cannot foresee certain changes but I can say that it is so evident that we live in a system where growth reigns supreme and by growth I do not mean prosperity. So for me it would have to be divested in growth and invested in prosperity, both socially and environmentally. I believe that this period linked to the Covid emergency has only highlighted how our system is designed to maximize profits and not to enhance people.
Orsola, I really thank you for your words, which I am sure my readers will also appreciate. As you already know, this interview works by nomination, therefore, I ask you who will be my next ‘sustainable’ guest?
I nominate Marina Spadafora, Italian coordinator of Fashion Revolution, who has just released the book “La rivoluzione comincia dal tuo armadio” (Revolution begins from your closet).
Marina was already our guest but we gladly re-host her, above all because we are interested in talking about her book 🙂 Thanks Orsola.