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Old techniques will disrupt the fast fashion industry: the rise of natural fabrics

«The industry needs to change in its entirety, from production to sales – my generation is moving in this direction». Emma Bruschi about the future of fashion 

Self-produced fabric

While working with eco-friendly fabrics and materials is not a novelty in the fashion industry, the difference within Emma Bruschi’s work is more about how she sources the materials than on the fabric itself. «I focus on plants that I can grow. I follow the whole process from the plant to the fabric, working with old techniques». Following the rhythms of nature in a frenetic industry like fashion can seem hard. Fast-fashion brands can release up to twenty collections a year, with a design-to-retail style of about five weeks and while using sustainable materials has become more common, producing them from scratch is still a new approach to the matter.

Lampoon introducing Emma Bruschi

Bruschi has an  idea about how to combine her search for the slowness: «I am moving slowly since I need to wait for plants to grow. I’m influenced by seasons. I work on one piece at a time instead of focusing on the whole collection; I could not speed up even if I wanted to. I need to respect the natural time limits». Moving at a natural pace, waiting for plants to grow can be though in a market that moves fast. Producing fabrics from scratch, growing, and working only with plants that are native of a specific territory seems radical. Still, only a couple of centuries ago, this was the way the industry worked. Inspired by the old techniques from the Savoyard region in France, Bruschi primarily works with straw and second-hand linen fabrics: «I prefer not to buy fabrics when possible since it is hard to ensure where they come from and if their production is sustainable. I buy old bedsheets; sometimes they even have initials embroidered on them», she explains. «The material I am more fond of is straw; I now have my own plantation of rye straw that costs almost nothing in terms of money but a lot of time, work and patience». While straw could be seen as a relatively poor material to work with, there are benefits in using it as a material resource. Straw is a by-product of the food growing industry, and for thousands of years, it has been used in a variety of sectors, from construction to clothes and garments production. The issue with straw is about the techniques used to create the garments, as Bruschi states it is not easy to manipulate it: «The straw is hard to work with, but I wanted to bring back old techniques at risk of disappearing. I have first to remove all the leaves and impurities, then I work it wet to make it more flexible, and I divide it into six parts and make a rope. With this rope I can then make crochet and work it like a normal fabric».

Emma Bruschi at MBFW Russia AW21, Mercedes-Benz

Safeguarding craftsmanship and know-how

The risk of losing heritage and know-how in fashion is high, mainly because many brands relocated the production in other countries like in South-East Asia. As Bruschi points out, she decided to grow her materials since she felt that in France, «we’re losing the know-how, and it’s a challenge to get materials and fabrics from nearby». This fear of losing craftsmanship and heritage is not surprising, considering that fast fashion has become increasingly popular, jeopardizing a part of know-how culture. The craftsmanship element is lost; garments are made in series, and machines replace the human element. In today’s fast-fashion world dominated by mass-produced garments often made from synthetics materials, it becomes challenging to find fashion pieces made consciously and handcrafted. There is a rising sense of nostalgia for the human aspect of manufacturing and the use of old materials like straw, in contrast with a global scenario of uniformity that distinguishes the mass production. Self-production is thus being appreciated by customers who are conscious of the impact that the fashion industry has not only on the environment but also on cultural heritage. The market based on the uniformity of industrial production is being gradually replaced by a new approach towards fashion, based on differentiation, self-affirmation, and a more sustainable and respectful attitude regarding the environment and different cultures and know-how. «The biggest challenge the Fashion industry will face in the upcoming years is relocating itself more traditionally, to change the consumptions. Fashion needs to change in its entirety, from production to sales – but my generation is already moving in this direction».

Emma Bruschi at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia 

Thanks to her approach, Bruschi’s collection Almanach has premiered on the opening day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia on April 20th, through an insight into her creative process and the sustainably-minded craftsmanship that characterizes her collection. «I’m glad I’ve been selected for the showcase and the Mercedes-Benz and Fashion Open Studio mentorship for my eco-friendly approach» she claims. «My collection already focused on sustainability, but they encouraged me to explore it further, to experiment and learn how to grow my materials step by step». While it’s unlikely that brands will be able to grow their plants to produce fabrics from scratch, the fact that Bruschi’s work raised the interest of institutions like Mercedes-Benz and Fashion Open Studio and has been featured in a Fashion Week shows how the Fashion industry is aiming for a change. 

Emma Buschi designer

The French designer has been recognized by Mercedes-Benz and Fashion Open Studio for her sustainable practice as the best in the show during the mentorship program at the 35th International Festival of Fashion, Photography, and Fashion Accessories in Hyères. Bruschi also won the Chanel Métiers d’art 19M Prize. Her collection Almanach looked for inspiration toward the farmers of the French Savoyard region. In this place, the land is central to life, and it aims to reconnect with these communities and restore their know-how and craft.

Maria Bellotto

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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