Sustainability at Pitti.
Part 2
Edition 101
Sustainability at Pitti is a two-part series of interviews that celebrates fashion’s climate-conscious innovators and provides a platform for the designers that put responsible practices at the core of their brand. Through this, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

Below you’ll find five brands selected by Giorgia Cantarini for S|STYLE Sustainable Style: N Palmer, Figure Decorative, Curiousgrid, Philip Huang, and Provincia Studio. While all their work is unique in its own right, it’s united by a common thread of putting people and the planet first. 


​​What will you be exhibiting at Pitti?
[We’ll show] pieces from our first two collections as well as new styles from our third. The collections utilize different fabrics and ways of upcycling material. The line is centered around patchwork and its tradition, interpreted from a modern perspective. Each piece was constructed with the human hand. It’s about craft and history, about cultivating relationships with our clothes, the power of memory, and a bit of nostalgia.
How do you approach sustainable production?
The main hurdle is making sure that each piece produced [has] the same integrity. We create designs that will be as dynamic and intriguing in any fabric or color. We use a lot of vintage and upcycled materials that enable us to utilize materials responsibly, offering people the chance to collect one-of-a-kind pieces of slow fashion. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a designer in regards to creating responsible collections? 
I started N Palmer during lockdown last year and I had to utilize alternative supply chains to source materials. From the start, we used upcycling to ensure that whatever the outcome it would have little or no impact on the environment and the surplus of waste that already exists. 

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year?
I will present my first winter collection called “BELLA.” Our idea [was] to combine product functionality with a funny and eccentric aesthetic. The key pieces are the BELLA BAG, a leather bowling bag [inspired by] the iconic 2000 bag, and the CONFETTI CLOGS, [which are] 100 percent handmade with upcycling leather. We had fun creating new parameters of adequacy between male and female wardrobes. Can a man wear crocodile clogs and feel cool? Can a man wear a bag that says “BELLA” and feel comfortable? The answer is definitely yes. 
How do you select the leather tanneries you work with?
I look for transparency, ethical respect, [and] for people that believe in and support the new generation of creatives and independent brands. Luckily, I found many of them. The DISTRETTO DI SANTA CROCE is one of the largest tanning districts in Europe with more than 250 tanneries in just 20km. I’m in this business for three generations, so I know every tannery in my hometown. I personally know the people that work there, we speak the same language, the same accent. I have the privilege to [visit] the factories and choose the colors, textures, and take inspiration. Since I started the project I realized how much leather there is; deadstock ready to be born again. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a brand in regards to creating responsible collections?
The minimum order quantity is the real nightmare in the supply chain and it is the first red light you find as a small brand. We aim to create ethical processes and sustainable collections, so we order and produce products based on what we really need, not [so we can] reach the minimum order quantity requested by the supplier. A lot of factories aren’t interested [in] small brands. To avoid waste, overconsumption, and reduce leftover the system should change.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year?
I’ll be exhibiting pieces inspired by the ’70s using [natural] color tie-dye. We will also use some patchwork pieces from limited handwoven denim fabrics. Curious Grid strongly believes in craftsmanship and culture, and in doing research at every step of a new collection. 
Where do you source your fabrics?
We collaborate with various artisans in Italy and India to [incorporate the] exchange of beauty through textiles. Some of the woven fabrics are made in India from the weavers using deadstock of yarns from factories and most of the denim I use is from Italy. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a brand in regards to creating responsible collections?
There is a lot to learn when working under a sustainable medium. For me, creating a brand was an idea to create unique pieces that create responsible and functional fashion statements.

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year?
Our FW22 collection Blue of the Sky is inspired by the sky, by the ancestors we never knew, and the knowledge that they passed on through the tools that they created and the textiles that they wove. [This season], signature Philip Huang silhouettes are reworked to embrace hand-made artisanal textiles and to present new materials we have created together with ECCO Leather. The knit pieces that are consistent in all our collections showcase the natural dyes that we use. Each piece is dyed by hand with 100 percent natural dyes.
Tell us about your relationship with artisans in Thailand.
We started working with the artisans in Sakon Nakhon six years ago. We were told early on by a masterweaver that the best support to artisans is not buying fabrics and putting them in museums but rather using the fabrics, wearing the textiles. [Creating] a dialogue that builds on their knowledge and exchanges our know-how and design methods is something that we always think about. It is far more than just a contemporary perspective on their traditional knowledge, it’s creating a conversation that sees how the past can be combined with our present needs and desires to create something for the future. An artisanal future. 

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a brand in regards to creating responsible collections?
6000 years ago, our ancestors discovered indigo. Before that, there were mud dyes and various other dyes derived from the land and plants. Knowing this, it’s strange that most of the dyes on our clothes are synthetic and made in factories. Nature guides [our] narrative, not us. So, in a year that is particularly wet, the garments might look a little different, or the rain might make things slower. [We work] in harmony with the land, nature, and the community.

How do you feel about the fashion industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
Sustainability is about collective action, it’s an entire supply chain, and requires a whole rethink of the system. Currently, the system is a race to the bottom, to find the cheapest prices and to produce in volume. We think this is finally shifting and that there’s more awareness now. We would like to see more communication about labor, process, and where things are from. We need real facts [not] buzzwords. We need to raise awareness that for every easy fix that is harmful, there is a better alternative and that alternative may not be found in the west. We would like to see the artisans beyond the European ateliers celebrated for the work that they do and the knowledge that they have. The change is to shift the perception of value and quality

What will you be exhibiting at Pitti this year?
I’ll be showing garments and accessories [from] my SS22 collection, including jackets, denim, casual knits, and metal and glass accessories, wearable by any gender. [I’ve been] experimenting a lot [with] jacket and coat cuts, [which] fascinates me. My couture training allowed me to transform my young curiosity and move it into the artisanal world. Having the possibility to visit laboratories [and] sharing ideas with artisans is where I learn the most. Exchange is the deepest form of inspiration.
What are the biggest obstacles you face as a brand in regards to creating responsible collections?
Finances, material availability, deadlines, and manufacturers. I love to collaborate with flexible, understanding companies that love to work as a whole team to build something beautiful, combining each other’s knowledge and approaches. Transparency is essential to develop a responsible product that includes a lot of advanced research on materials, printing methods, and ethical work [standards] with companies that will assist you during all the process. 

How do you feel about the fashion industry's current sustainability efforts? What change would you like to see?
There are so many new approaches to sustainability in fashion regarding the manufacturing processes, certifications, material research, but still, a lot of it [focuses on a] small part of this huge chain. I would love to see everything becoming more conscious, more beneficial for the system, the planet, and  individuals. Every one of us [needs to] be part of it.
Visit the business pages of the featured brands on Pitti Connect: