It used to be an (almost) avant-garde creative circular choice. Today, it is the rule: brands are opening up projects for the valorisation of their production waste in a variety of ways. Trying to understand why here are some of the most significant ones
They used to be special projects. Virtuous, but still characterised by an (almost) unprecedented creative vision. Today they have almost become the rule. Because upcycling is a green tool with strong communicative connotations. Brands have always known this because some of them must be considered, as we shall see, pioneers in this sense. On the other hand, many others have got there in a hurry. Because recovering leather scraps is more than just a helpful activity, it is a circular choice that is liked and talked about.
The pioneers of circular choice
Petit H by Hermès was founded in 2010. Scraps of leather, silk or porcelain are given a new life in this workshop, where designers start with the available raw material to create new objects. A small salt cellar was made from a ready-to-wear button, Saint-Louis glass, leather, and cork. Traditional terracotta vases are transformed into bags with the addition of leather straps. The possibilities for transformation are unlimited. ‘Leather and clay are very primitive materials, but the combination creates something very precious,’ Godefroy de Virieu, creative director of Petit H., tells thenationalnews.com.
The Atelier of Chanel
Chanel owns the Atelier des Matières. Its objective is the collection and deconstruction of materials to enhance abandoned fashion accessories. The Atelier collects both finished products (dresses, bags, small leather goods, shoes) and unused materials such as leather. And they don’t just come from the Chanel factories. Once collected, the Atelier sorts them, disassembles them, extracts the various functional pieces, and uses them to make new objects. Leather scraps, for example, have become knife handles. “When we collect products, we start a process of valorisation. I don’t like the verb recycle; it’s not an attractive term,’ Eric Dupont, Director of Sustainable Development at Chanel and, from 2020, head of the Atelier des Matières, tells Vogue.
LVMH‘s most significant (for several reasons) upcycling project is called Nona Source. Launched in 2021, it is the first online platform that resells (to anyone) the waste materials of the brands controlled by the French luxury giant. Nona Source offers young designers and new European brands high-end fabrics and leathers at competitive prices to encourage creative recycling. ‘We buy deadstock from the Maisons, evaluate them, and put them back on sale at competitive prices,’ Marie Falguera, one of the project’s three co-founders, explains to Vogue.
Kering supports various upcycling projects. Since 2018, the luxury conglomerate has been working with La Réserve des Arts, an NGO that collects waste materials and offcuts from companies and cultural institutions in the Paris and Marseille region, which are then reused. Since 2019, Kering has been supporting Tissons la Solidarité, which is developing upcycling training for sewists as part of a professional reintegration programme. In 2018, Gucci-Up was born, a project dedicated to the recovery and creative reuse of waste materials, including leather. Between 2018 and 2021, with Gucci Up, 1,500 tonnes of leather and fabric waste were collected from the brand’s suppliers. Since 2020, Kering’s flagship brand has developed an eco-friendly process to remove logos or other personalisation from leather.
Elvis & Kresse was founded in 2005 to save London’s disused fire hoses. Today, the company makes bags and homeware from 15 different reclaimed materials. Collaborating with Elvis & Kresse is the British brand Burberry, which gives the leather scraps from which the products of the Fire & Hide collection are made. Burberry has also funded a two-year research project, starting in 2020, with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles & Apparel to develop a system for recycling leather goods.
Upcycled by Miu Miu is a remarkable collection of vintage clothes reworked and transformed by the Prada Group-controlled brand, carefully sourced from vintage clothing shops and markets around the world. The project was launched in December 2020 with a selection of 80 vintage dresses. After a collaboration with Levi’s, in September 2022, Miu Miu launched a limited edition of leather jackets purchased from vintage markets around the world, then reworked, remodelled, and hand-finished in ateliers. Jackets that walked the catwalk for the Fall-Winter 2022 season.
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