Earlier this year, the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, alongside Franca Sozzani, invited 11 fashion designers to the Cittadellarte Fondazione and presented them with the challenge of producing one look from a selection of ethically sourced Italian textiles. Here, Pistoletto elaborates on his philosophy of the Third Paradise and the thinking behind the Cittadellarte Fashion: Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend exhibition.
Some time ago, Michelangelo Pistoletto traced a wavy line that closed in on itself to form three connecting circles – one large central circle flanked by two smaller ones. This is the symbol of the Third Paradise, the theoretical and aesthetic essence that has driven Pistoletto’s practice in recent years. A symbol of a place where the first, Earthly paradise meets and makes its peace with the second one, an artificial paradise of the manmade resulting in a third, harmonious utopia of compromise and responsibility. A Third Paradise that Pistoletto describes as “a new civilisation model in which each of us contributes to the survival of the collective by assuming personal responsibility. The two outer circles are like the father and the mother. In the centre is a pregnant womb that will give birth to our new life.” Today, he pushes his symbol another step forward and adds a continuous motif of arrows – as used in the recycle sign – around its perimeter. This renewed symbol was created in association with his latest project, Cittadellarte Fashion: Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend, a new sustainable-fashion development centre inaugurating today at Cittadellarte, the “social art workshop” he set up in Biella ten years ago.
“I don’t think the expression ‘ethical fashion’ is an oxymoron. The idea of change has always been inherent in fashion and that change isn’t necessarily just exterior, superficial. Change happens on the level of renewable ethics, not just renewable aesthetics”
“I don’t think the expression ‘ethical fashion’ is an oxymoron. The idea of change has always been inherent in fashion and that change isn’t necessarily just exterior, superficial. Change happens on the level of renewable ethics, not just renewable aesthetics,” states Pistoletto. A pioneer of the Arte Povera movement, Pistoletto’s long career and diverse creative traits have led him to experiment with self-portraiture, mirrors, Plexiglas, waste materials, chalk and interactive installations. Now it’s time to start the engines of what Pistoletto calls a “lunar module” (“Because I hope it goes into orbit and opens the way to new worlds”) i.e. the Cittadellarte Fashion project created in collaboration with Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani, and a team of 11 up-and-coming fashion designers from across the world who have designed a look using only eco-friendly fibres. And this “lunar module” comes just at the right time – 2009, the year the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations [FAO] have declared the International Year of Natural Fibres.
During the intensive two-day workshop in June of this year, the designers were assisted by a number of Italian textile manufacturers in their research into organic yarns. “This is comforting and important because it summarises perfectly the two cultural spirits of our adventure,” says Pistoletto. “On the one hand Biella, an ancient, widely-acknowledged centre of textile-manufacturing excellence. And on the other, young people of different nationalities gathered together at Cittadellarte, a multicultural, artistic setting where there is harmony in diversity, where an individual is encouraged to develop his or her creative talent.”
A new mirror work, Prima Scena-La Presentazione by Pistoletto shall also be unveiled at the same time. Featuring the artist alongside Franca Sozzani and the designers all sitting at a long table, covered in yarns and fabrics, it’s a deliberate iconographic choice reminiscent of The Last Supper. A composition suggesting that “even an initiative based on ecology can lead to a spiritual dimension”. Cittadellarte Fashion is a trinity of bio-sustainability, trends and the interior value of art. And today, the group’s adventure reaches its zenith with the presentation of the designs in an exhibition that includes the raw materials, fabrics and finished clothes.
Born in Birmingham to Afghani parents, Osman Yousefzada combines elements of ethnic costume with draping and traditional tailoring.
“I was brought up by frugal and non wasteful parents. This probably made me into a hoarder. But we all need to become more aware of how wasteful we are. We can all live with less.”
We all need to have a sense of responsibilty, living on this earth. Metropolitan life & technological advancements has resulted in our lifestyles becoming very sanitised - in the way we eat, live, get our fuel. Rarely are we responsible for making/nurturing something from the beginning, and then having to dispose or recycle it, so it does not have any direct affect on our surroundings. All these processes are so removed from our day to day life. You dispose of your rubbish, by putting a bag outside your door and its collected. You go to the supermarket and buy your meat, already packed, looking identical. The fruit/veg piles look uniform, the oddities and mishapes rejected.
However with the recent trends of recycling we are hopefully becoming more aware of our waste, just the process of having to sort through it, put in different boxes, has hopefully made us more aware of how wasteful we are. I was brought up by frugal and non wasteful parents. My mother ran her own dressmaking business, clients use to bring there own fabric, and these scraps where heaped up and stored away in bags. At some points the mass of technicolour scraps would transform themselves into marvelous quilted patchwork bedspreads.
This has probably made me into a complete hoarder, I never throw anything away. Like a magpie I collect and keep everything, on the downside my desk is a landscape of piles, with just enough room to get to my keyboard.
Known for his devilishly sexy cocktail dresses, this Canadian-born knitwear wizard fuses couture craftsmanship with hi-tech materials.
“The question of sustainability and how it applies to my designs has become a major theme in my life. My goal now is to create garments that are timeless artefacts as opposed to generating an endless stream of disposable trend-driven fashion.”
As I enter my third season as a designer I am challenged to push beyond the boundaries of my education and skill to find my true identity in the fashion world. It is at this time that I begin to question and examine my beliefs about my work and the way that it affects not only the fashion industry, but the world at large. As a person of faith I am compelled to live in love and harmony and to share these feelings through the medium of my craft. The question of sustainability and how it applies to my work has become a major theme in my life. I had a great experience in Milan with the Pistoletto project. I met some amazing designers with ambitious hearts. To come together with others to work on a project like this was truly inspiring. It really pushed me to question the resources around me. I began to think and work in a different way.
With regards to my production I have always felt strongly against using factories that exploit developing nations. Both factories that I work with are in Italy, where I can be assured that the working conditions of the employees are not in conflict with their human rights. A large amount of my production is the work of home-knitters in Canada, England and France. My company employs these knitters and supports the craft of knitting which is a fading cottage industry. Although my work is innovative my design ethos is classic. My goal is to create garments that are timeless artefacts as opposed to generating an endless stream of disposable trend-driven fashion. To offset the negative environmental impact of the elastomeric yarns integral to my design process I am experimenting with recycled materials for my Spring/Summer 2010 collection. Looking to the future, I am researching sustainable and eco-dynamic fibres that minimise deforestation and negative effects on water. Human health and well-being is also shaping my new attitude towards my work. The S/S 10 show will focus on women's courage in modern society as a medium. For the first time I will be experimenting with the concept of sizing and will present garments in different size groups that are categorized alphabetically rather than numerically. The purpose of the alphabetised sizes is to draw focus to the concepts of draping, density, and volume as they relate to women’s bodies and challenge traditional notions of fit and idealized body shape.
Furthermore, in the near future I hope to become involved with a charitable organization that supports young people in the arts. I believe passionately in fostering the dreams and hopes of our next generation of change-makers.
From her hometown of Milan, 28-year-old Central Saint Martins graduate Marta Forghieri underpins soft shapes with architectural tailoring.
“Simple numbers no longer determine value. It is the durability, the craftsmanship and the raw materials of a garment that make it desirable.”
Having collaborated with Lacroix, Dior and Alaïa, Venetian Roberta Furlanetto went solo in 2007, constructing seamless designs directly to the body.
“At the moment eco-sustainability is only partly viable because the vast majority of dye colours aren’t yet achievable with biological or organic components. We are stuck with 30 - 40% of the options. So, let’s try harder, involve the whole industry and all work towards realistic and tangible goals.”
Fashion and ecology converging (fashion moving towards ecology) that's the great opportunity of the future: here is new creative passion and entrepreneurial spirit find a new beginning. Designers are at the core of this evolution. This is Roberta Furlanetto's firm belief. The designer has very clear ideas about the Ecofriendly theme launched in Biella by Michelangelo Pistoletto's BEST (Bio Ecological Sustainable Trends): “I fully subscribe to the need of a fashion with low environmental impact; it's a long and gradual process, but it is the right path. Today eco-sustainability is only partly viable: a designer can use natural fibres as I for instance, alredy do. The process becomes more complicated when it comes to coulour: natural and pastel dyes are ecological, but vast majority of the colour range isn't yet achievable with biological or organic components. Currently we are stuck with 30-40 percent of viable options. So I say: let's try harder, involve the whole industrial segment, from chemical manufacturers to fabric mills all the way down to the finishing, and let's all work towards realistic and tangible goals. Having said this, I like to talk about the “ethics of consumption”, which means to focus again on the fashion designer's own identity. To allow them to go back to their most spontaneous dimension, more creative than commercial, which also means ending it with those overblown collections made of hundreds of pieces, which try to mean everything to everyone and end up amounting to the opposite. My idea of ethical consumption can be summarised into: experimentation, research for quality, and clever designs. The resulting output is a collection that is focused on a target, where each single piece is conceived according to a multi-functional criterion: it involves top that evolves into an evening dress when associated to a petticoat (literally an “undergarment” or a skirt underlay), to the t-shirt which doubles up to become more than itself. Bringing forward the philosophy of the (deconstruct = or dismantle)-recombine, I have chosen to rationalise production to bring all my attention to those whom, at the end of the process, will wear my clothes. I have no doubts: fashion will only be ethical/ecological when, through a serious intellectualeve process, it will prove its ability to bring the individual at the core of the thought and the work of each designer. The workshop at the cittàdellarte di Biella with Michelangelo has developed in this direction for us designers. It explored new responsibilities of the creative figure. It measured us against our ability to connect project, production and commercialisation. It put man, the artist and the content at the core . It helped us find a dimension of respect of those values that hold the promise of a better future.
Based in London, this Swedish knitwear visionary creates sculptured objets d’art for the female form.
“We have always been consumers, we always will be and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to fight it. What we have to do is trade responsibly.”
When I was invited to be a part of Cittadellarte Fashion I was immediately very excited about the project. Italian Vogue was the only fashion magazine that I could find as a teenager in my small hometown in the north of Sweden that really trigged my imagination and I later had a similar experience discovering the artistic expression of Michelangelo Pistoletto. For me they both represent a perfect balance between a lot of traditional contradictions like art and science, reality and fiction and because of this I also believe that they are the obvious initiators for bringing together the beauty, innovation and business of fashion with ethical and sustainable principles, not only in theory but also in real life. It is nothing new that natural resources are not shared equally over the world and that some of us have been living beyond our combined assets for quite a while now. Even though the truth might be that it is already too late to repair most of the damage, it is still our duty to take responsibility for our previous actions in this matter. It is a difficult task and in my opinion impossible to solve if we do not loose our all-or-nothing mentality. "Many a little makes a mickle" might sound like a cliché, but sayings like that does not stem from nothing. Everyone have to approach this on a personal level and change their lifestyle after their own conscience. Since most of us are stuck in old habits and a bit too comfortable for our own best, this will of course not come easy. Someone once told me that we have always been consumers and that it is natural human behavior which we should not waste our time trying to fight. Since forever we have produced and consumed sights, sounds and sensations and that is something that we could never live without. The problem is just how to trade responsible. I often think about why I ended up choosing fashion, one of the most controversial businesses in the world. For me fashion is simply art. Some people write poems or something to express them selves, I do clothes. In my opinion fashion is in fact one of the most democratic art forms, something we are all related to, whether we like to or not. Anyone can use fashion as a creative statement, and in the end it is not a matter of money. People in general should be more self governed when it comes to fashion. If you like something you know it, even if it is so last season, and I think that is the attitude we need to have to be able to not only maintain but also increase the current bioethical sustainable trends in fashion. It is a big responsibility to be working as a designer at this time and very difficult to state the reasons why you should be one of the people with the right to produce new things into a world in affluence. I like to believe that it is true that we can not live entirely on recycled things, but also need to be treated with new visions and stories told in the language of our time. What we need to realize though, is that the main problem today is that there is just too much of everything out there and that all of us with the mission to create new things have to remember to concentrate on what we are really good at and leave to others to do what they do best.
Silvio Betterelli lends some dramatic flair from his Sardinia homeland to elegant, flowing evening dresses.
“Our biggest enemy nowadays is haste. The reckless pace of life, which feeds on us. It erodes the world we live in and its resources. We need to slow down for a moment.”
After balancing studies at IED Madrid with stints working for Sybilla, this 29-year-old Portuguese designer embarked on his own line of couture party frocks.
“To generate wealth is fine. But if the world is to change for the better, what really matters isn’t to seek profit alone. We have to pay attention to how the money is made.”
The workshop which took place at Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto has been very useful for us designers who participated to it. It was the ideal meeting place to share opinions and to start a common project based on Bio Ethical Sustainable Trends. During this workshop in the foundation's headquarters in Biella I learned that sometimes dreams can indeed come true. With willpower, effort, inspiration and a cleverness (intelligence) it's possible to implement a project of big calibre, such as as this foundation and its facilities (it's headquarters? It's setting?) If once a place like this was a dream, it is now a reality which allows me to dream and to think that many other projects and real changes are possible. If Michelangelo Pistoletto achieved this, why can't we?
31-year-old Italian Marco De Vincenzo blends Margiela’s high-concept approach with Versace’s hip-hugging swagger.
“The quest for progress is the most natural human quality. But it can’t be at the expense of the planet, which was here a long time before we were. Evolution must also be conservation.”
It is in front of the film Home, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, that the risks and real excesses of this new (recently started) millennium have taken shape in front of me, in vivid imagery. Ecology, new resources, energy conservation are all topics that are much exploited, but with little depth.
Even I, whom in daily experience am generally careful to avoid behaviors that aren't respectful of the territory, could have done more, and should do it now.
The opportunty offered by Vogue Italia to take part in a workshop on sustainable development at the Fondazione Pistoletto put me in touch with a reality that until now I had barely been aware of: a community of individuals who are actively committed to avoiding the collapse of the planet through constant pressure of the public's awareness.
The search for TERZO PARADISO (third heaven), which Pistoletto envisions as the age of a new balance (equlibrium) between nature and technology, between past and future, between conservation and innovation is a project at the same time truthful and possible.
If on one hand the human mind can't limit its natural strife (aspiration? Quest?) towards the improvement of the quality of life, on the other it can't be denied the delicate balance of the planet exist regardless of human presence which, incidentally, has appeared long after its birth.
I have always been a lover of the past (fascinated with the past?), even nostalgic at times, aware that conservation is as precious as its opposite. That “evolution” can't mean forgetfulness. That modernity doesn't necessarily engender (create) beauty.
Bio Architettura is the example of how design, intended as a form of civil expression, can leave traces of human race motivated by creativity, without having to exploit every possible method available ( I think he means this: without using extreme and potentially harmful materials and technologies).
In a similar way, through people such as Martin Margiela, fashion has found recycling as the perfect synthesis between aesthetic content and environmental conscience.
I'm always fascinated by those ideas that can turn me away from a convinction that is too entrenched, or by a stylistic dogma (creed) that doesn' tolerate diversity, my hope is that this is the first step in this direction.
Working out of Brooklyn, Matthew Ames brings a modernist sensibility to rigorously tailored yet voluminous silhouettes.
“Sustainability is not only about the materials and processes we use. It’s also about enduring design. It’s important that my ideas aren’t only good for now, but also over the course of time.”
Sustainability is an ideal, a goal, a principle, emphasizing an awareness of how creation impacts and relates to its environment- not only in the materials and processes we use, but also how well our ideas endure over time.
The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was dedicated to this philosophy and used the word “organic” to describe the relationship of his buildings to the natural world. “Organic”, in Wright’s words, is “what is profoundly interrelated, one thing to another, consistently as a whole.” This complex interrelation of life and symbiosis found in nature creates a sustainable ecosystem.
Over the course of time, artificiality, or what is manmade, has affected this equilibrium to the point that it seems a natural thing. Our natural state and that which has been hoisted on us by artificiality has been thrown off balance.
As a designer I contribute to a manmade world. Therefore, it is my responsibility to understand my place in the natural world and to reflect a harmony between what I create and the environment for which it is created. It is important that the ideas I set forth prove to be good not only now, but also in the course of time.
I’m interested in making lasting clothes, not defined by time or place. I believe enduring design, with an attention to material and construction, is a fundamental element of sustainability in fashion.
Through organizations like Cittadellarte we can continue to educate ourselves on the importance of sustainability and to distinguish between what is our natural state and that of artificiality, to produce a civilization, activating a responsible social transformation where the artificial can begin to coexist and restore life to the natural.
A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, Norwegian Siri Johansen reinvents traditional menswear staples with a frenzy of prints and patterns.
“When purchasing a garment, you are not only investing in a piece to treasure for years. You are investing in the integrity of the process it took to make that garment.”
The fashion designer Rebecca Early has questioned whether ‘clothes can be designed that help us develop an emotional attachment to them, that have stories and origins that make us want to cherish them, and to look after them well?’ For me this is an important part of sustainable fashion. I consider quality based design, manufacturing and production integral in the approach to sustainable fashion. For me, the most natural part of the process begins in the quality of the design, the selection of materials and the integrity of the manufacturing. I believe these fundamentals of sustainable fashion occur naturally in environments where each part of the process is carefully protected and nurtured, from production of materials to the actual manufacturing environment. When I purchase a garment, I invest not only in a piece that I will treasure for years, but also in the integrity of the process. I suppose in a way, it’s a little bit like how my grandmother grew up with fashion; she taught me the ability to appreciate and value clothes. Today, this approach seems replaced by one of over-consumption, “throw away fashion” and impossibly fast changing trends. As a designer, I am faced with challenges in the execution of my belief in sustainable fashion. One of the most important considerations for my work is the need for yarn and fabric suppliers to develop more interesting, beautiful and luxurious organic and ethical materials that designers want to work with. The materials available today are very limited, both in terms of colours and textures. As a result, compromises are made and sustainable aspirations are often discarded and rarely triumphed. I think the bio ethical sustainable trend project is a really great initiative by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Franca Sozzani. I feel very priviledged to have been invited to take part. It highlights the importance of a sustainable future in fashion and a willingness to try and do something about it.
Relocating from Athens to Central Saint Martins, the 25-year-old has made bold, hyper-real prints her design signature.
“As a print designer, i have abandoned traditional screen-printing and replaced it with digital printing. The chemicals are much less toxic and there is minimum wastage.”
Arriving at Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, we knew the objective of our visit was a creative project in which we could contribute as designers, raising awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion. We were trusted as “communicators”, as designers who can communicate the message of sustainability. We were guided through the concepts behind Pistoletto’s work and his vision about the “Third Paradise”. Our emotional response to his work helped to elevate notions of sustainability and ethical fashion into a higher state of significance. Designers are often asked in interviews about their views on Bio Ethical Trends. They are asked about the steps they are taking towards sustainable fashion. The reality is that most young designers hesitate to answer. We usually offer a generalised answer, asserting that we are trying to be responsible. WE ARE. But are we trying to achieve our aesthetic, having primarily in mind the notion of achieving a social transformation? The answer is, on the most part, doubtful. Without prior research there is a preconceived notion that ethical fashion is a utopia. Ethical fabrics can be less diverse and in some cases designers can’t find a wide range of options that are relevant to the higher end of the ready to wear market. Having been introduced to companies/suppliers in Italy that offer ethical fabrics, it changed this notion for me. More importantly it opened up the issue of wastage. In a strained economy, all designers are trying to find ways to have minimum waste. Being economical in the use of fabrics and avoiding wastage is one solution to building a sustainable business. As a print designer, I have abandoned traditional screen-printing and have replaced it with digital printing. The chemicals are much less toxic because they are contained and there is minimum wastage, when compared to screen-printing. This project also opened the door to vegetable dyes in order to colour our substrates. Natural yarns and fabrics have unlimited applications. Most companies have the resources to activate a change and source bio-ethical materials. I certainly will. We hope that with this project that is realized through Franca Sozzani’s vision and Michelangelo Pistoletto’s philosophy, we will demonstrate that fashion can be created solely with ethical materials. That can be achieved without compromising the designer’s aesthetic or the appeal of the collection. Every day more people join in this initiative to create Bio Ethical Trends. The experience certainly had an immense effect on the participating designers. We hope that we can communicate the message of sustainability effectively, as effectively as it was communicated to us through this project. Mary Katrantzou