Sustainability at Pitti:
Edition 100
DNI’s Illustrated Collection Turns Memories Into Art

Sustainability at Pitti is a series of interviews that celebrate fashion’s climate-conscious innovators. By providing a platform for the designers that put sustainability at the core of their brand, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

For Peruvian twins Paulo and Roberto Ruiz Muñoz, their collections present much more than clothing. They encapsulate an entire way of being, which honors the memories and the future preservation of people, planet, and craft.
Specifically, their brand DNI’s SS22 capsule celebrates their hometown Trujillo, La Libertad, Peru. They work alongside their community to incorporate local agriculture and artisanal techniques into their work as part of a larger agenda to maintain and support Peruvian know-how. 

This celebration is obvious the minute you look at DNI’s work. Their pieces are bursting with history —  it’s literally hand-drawn across their entire collection. To learn more about the memories and meaning behind their work and their production processes, we connected with the Muñoz brothers. Find our conversation below.
Your SS22 collection, “Mi Ciudad Natal”, transports us to your hometown Trujillo, La Libertad, Peru. Can you tell us about the mood and memories the collection evokes for you? 

"Mi Ciudad Natal" means the beginning of DNI We grew up in the Casa Grande district, an old town with German architecture, where most of the population then worked for the local sugar factory, the most important in the La Libertad region (Hacienda Casa Grande). 

Our childhood was free and happy, spent between family, friends, games, and carefree moments. We believe that Casa Grande has forged in our minds different aesthetics, colors, looks, and volumes that we have only seen there, representing our childhood and our vision as designers. Therefore the district signifies a beginning, a transition, and a future for DNI.

The first aspect [of] this collection was schooling; it was as if we had looked through the peephole of our Casa Grande home, and the first thing we saw were two children dressed in [our former] school uniforms from "Santa María Reina.” The greatest memories that our hometown evokes are the ones from school, of how we were dressed to go to school, as well as the colors of Casa Grande — green and yellow, [which] represent the sugar cane. The flag color of our school is also green, so we decided to appropriate this color. 
Tell us about the hand-drawn illustrations and prints used in the collection. What is the story there? 

The handmade prints took a long time. In the “Casa Grande” print, each Casa Grande site has been drawn and painted in a different color: the cinema, the factory, our house, the biggest neighborhood, the motorcycle taxis, etc. Drawn one by one and painted with colors that allude to DNI, it is as if they are our memories turned into paint. Seen the way we see them now, with a touch of design. 

The "Enciclopedia" has typical Peruvian icons: the alpaca, the guinea pig, some Peruvian birds, the coca leaf, etc. This print also refers to our childhood memories, of when we woke up very early in the morning to watch Discovery Channel documentaries about animals. That print that is found on the shirts is like the memory of our childhood but re-powered as an encyclopedia, highlighting the aspects that most marked us. All of that is there. 

The last print "Recuerdos del Colegio," takes up all the elements of the school: books, pens, pencil cases, etc,  complemented with very small phrases that speak about the future, such as "let's open the future," "don't cut my dreams" (accompanied with scissors), "follow your ideas," among others. 
Your pieces are dyed using artisanal techniques. Can you talk us through the process? 

We use a special technique with handmade dyes that were mixed manually, therefore, the colors are not so uniform. For example, we obtained a medium stunned green and iridescent with yellow. The yellow color is not uniform either, it is not so sharp, but also mixed and a bit iridescent. 

Where do you source your fabrics? What factors do you consider when you’re sourcing? 

We reuse fabrics to avoid contributing to overproduction. We use high-quality stock fabrics purchased from luxury firms and reworked by ourselves. Likewise, we obtain natural, raw material from Peru — we work with baby alpaca and organic cotton, which is worked with Peruvian artisans, in order to promote the local economy. 

It is important for us to have natural fibers with the best certifications when making our sweaters by hand in Peru. We found it totally natural to use baby alpaca; on the one hand, because the alpaca is a whole Peruvian symbol, and on the other, it’s about making use of a Peruvian fiber to be able to encourage local production. Likewise, organic cotton guarantees an optimal and sustainable usage of local natural resources; as designers, taking the environment into account is essential. 

We continue standing with our goal of putting human being’s talent at the top of our entire chain, which is why we continue to work with artisans between Peru and Paris, producing only what they sell and focusing on artisan work. 
How do you feel about seasonal showcases in relation to fashion industry overproduction? How do you address this in your own production process? 

We consider that the calendar of seasonal showcases per year can be respected under a sense of sustainability. In our case, we contrast [seasonality by making] our new collections on demand to avoid overproduction. We present the collection to professionals, they ask us for the amount of stock they plan to sell, and we only produce that amount. 

We also have a process in which we choose the “best pieces”  (because we did not decide to put all of them up for sale), and we carry them out according to the orders that our customers place, one by one. Overproduction is one of the main problems in the current fashion industry that impacts the environment the most. 

We can propose novelties in our collection but only produce reasonably, [with] fewer parts [and] better quality, continuing with our brand's artisan dream. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a designer in regards to creating responsible collections? 

The biggest challenge is finding the perfect balance between the different factors that will allow your brand to last over time. In other words, finding sustainable fabrics, workshops with social and transparent respect, creating an unfailing bond with the artisans, not overproducing, and selling the garments at the right price according to the chosen market. Each of the factors fit together like cogs in a watch in order to create a strong brand foundation step by step. 

How do you couple an awareness about the fashion industry’s climate impact with designing and creating new products? 

We think about producing less, but better. As I mentioned, we do not work with stock. Our artisan in Paris makes each order one by one, thus reducing the global impact that occurs when a large stock is produced that in the end is not sold. There is also the issue of reusing some fabrics. 80% of our last collection was made from recovered fabrics. We buy these fabrics [leftover from other brands] in a warehouse and use them to create our pieces. We consider that the client must be educated so that he knows that the final price of the garment has a whole process behind it. When we buy something cheap, we don't really know what we are buying. That is what we want to change — people need to value clothes. 
How do you feel about the industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see? 

In general, today, practically most brands are interested in sustainability. There are very few contemporary designers who will tell you that sustainability does not exist or is not necessary. So that's already a very big step for the industry. 

Beyond sustainability and fabrics, it is also necessary to take into consideration who makes the garments, how they are produced, and in what conditions. There has to be a focus on how everything is made. We, as a Peruvian brand, would like to have a focus on handwork, which for us is the best process. That is to say, beyond having organic and eco-responsible materials, the artisan part must also be worked on, which we consider being the future [of] new luxury. 

We also have to take into account the overproduction. You have to keep working on that because if you start a career in the industry and don't think about that factor, the brand is not going to function in the long term and sustainably. 
Do you have any top tips or words of advice for brands and designers looking to be more responsible in their work? 

The basis of your brand has to be sincere. As designers, we have to be sincere by producing the best possible and in the most responsible way. The planet and human beings always have to go hand in hand.
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