Sustainable Emerging Brands to Watch at Pitti Uomo

Pitti Uomo returns to its physical format this week and here WWD rounds up some of the standout new projects that will be presented at the fair’s area dedicated to sustainable fashion.

D.N.I. 

Established in Paris in 2019 by Peru-born twins Paulo and Roberto Ruiz Muñoz, D.N.I., which stands for National Identity Document, is a conscious men’s label aimed at merging crafts and popular culture into modern fashion collections that are manufactured with sustainable fabrics and production processes.

Both graduates of the L’Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués in Paris, where they moved from Peru in 2005, Paulo, who studied textile design, started his career assisting Belgian designer Cédric Charlier, while Roberto, who has a degree in design and volume, cut his teeth at French department store Galeries Lafayette scouting men’s trends.

In 2015, they launched a collective of anonymous designers named “Collectif Aucun,” creating genderless designs and, after a few years exploring different paths, the twins decided to join forces again in 2019, funding D.N.I.

“We wanted through our work to highlight our history and above all a country, Peru. We didn’t want to create something unreal, we wanted to tell a story with real and tangible roots. To say that contemporary fashion is possible in Peru and try to make it audible,” said Paulo Ruiz Muñoz. “The goal is to create an unbreakable bond with our artisans. The value of the trade and the work of artisans is one of the axes that makes the cultural heritage of Peru, a country so rich in high-quality organic materials as in ancestral knowledge and techniques based on sustainability.”

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As Roberto Ruiz Muñoz explained, each D.N.I. collection, which has its roots in the memories of the twins’ childhood in Perù, is handcrafted partly in France and partly by weavers in Peru “in order to promote their economic independence.”

“We believe that sustainability comes from working with artisans, who carry valuable knowledge. We also choose sustainable materials with independent certifications and local and natural materials, such as baby alpaca or pima cotton,” said Paulo Ruiz Muñoz, adding that in order to avoid overproduction, their pieces are made-to-order. “It is about producing a garment with a material of lower impact for the planet, with transparent workshops and in the appropriate amounts.”

D.N.I., which is distributed through a high-end selection of stores, including VooStore in Berlin and Printemps Haussman in Paris, and is also available at the brand’s online shop, is presenting at Pitti Uomo a spring 2022 collection entitled “Mi Ciudad Natal” [“My Hometown” in English] inspired by the designers’ childhood in the Casa Grande district in the Peruvian city of Trujillo, located in the northern coastal province of La Libertad.

D.N.I. Men’s Spring 2022 Courtesy of D.N.I.

“All the aesthetics of D.N.I found its beginnings in that sugar plant district of the department of La Libertad. The inspiration for ‘Mi Ciudad Natal’ comes from all the colors, shapes and volumes we grew up with; representing a beginning, a transition and a future for the firm,” said Roberto Ruiz Muñoz.   

“The starting point of the collection is schooling. As if it were an analogy, we looked through the people of our childhood home in Casa Grande and saw ourselves: two children dressed in uniforms ready to go to school,” explained Paulo Ruiz Muñoz. “Such a stroke of nostalgia was the beginning of everything, that green and yellow wardrobe — which curiously coincides with the district’s flag colors — would become the greatest inspiration for the collection.”

Working with artisanal dyeing, the collection, which mainly employs linen and organic cotton, features charming tones of yellow, mint green, lilac and whites that have a sort of sun-bleached effects. Inspired by school uniforms, the cool items include jackets with pockets designed to carry pens, but also adorable pajama-like sets, rainbow cardigans matched with bowling shirts and baggy pants, as well as overalls, drawstring shorts and vests.   

The collections feature two Oeko-tex certified prints, called “Casa Grande” and “Enciclopedia.”

If the first shows hand-drawn paintings that represent a journey through the designers’ native streets with the movie theater, the factory, the neighborhoods, the church, the motorcycle taxis and their own house, “Enciclopedia” includes typical Peruvian icons, such as the alpaca, the guinea pig, some Peruvian birds and the coca leaf.

“This print also refers to our childhood memories, when we woke up very early in the morning to watch Discovery Channel, where we loved to see documentaries about animals,” said Roberto Ruiz Muñoz. “That print that is found on the shirts is like the memory of our childhood but repowered as an encyclopedia, highlighting the aspects that most marked us: the potato, the guinea pig, the alpaca, the papaya juice that we had for breakfast, etc. All of that is there.”

Sweaters and cardigans, handcrafted in Peru, also take center stage in the collection, highlighting the local artisanal craftsmanship.

The lineup, retailing from 90 euros to 580 euros, also offers a selection of handmade leather bags “crafted from an artisan who is one of the last saddlers in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho and who follows this tradition as a family heritage,” Paulo Ruiz Muñoz explained. — Alessandra Turra

REIMAGINE KATHARINE HAMNETT X PATRICK MCDOWELL

Patrick McDowell with Katharine Hamnett Courtesy of Katharine Hamnett

Relaxed, political and modern are the adjectives British designer Patrick McDowell used to describe the collection he created in collaboration with Katharine Hamnett and that will be presented in the sustainability section of Pitti Uomo. 

As two London-based sustainable designers, Katharine Hamnett and I have many synergies,” said the Central Saint Martins graduate, who made a name for himself for his creative take on upcycling and who last February was named sustainability design director at Italian fashion brand Pinko. “We wanted to send a message out to the world that together we are fighting back against Brexit. That together, sustainable business in the U.K. can push through these troubles and succeed.”

Titled “Help,” the collection was conceived by the two designers as a tool to raise awareness of the negative impact they think Brexit will have on their own country.

Along with slogan T-shirts, printed with the “Help” and “Fashion Hates Brexit” wordings, the two designers also reworked Katharine Hamnett’s signature Ted Jacket available in white and black and in two different lengths.

Reimagine Katharine Hamnett x Patrick McDowell capsule collection Courtesy of Katharine Hamnett

It’s a jacket that you can layer with your existing wardrobe and that will stay with you for years, safe in the knowledge that it had the least impact on the planet possible when being created,” McDowell said. “We reimagined past season jackets through working with London-based studios and printers Mesh and Blade. Everything was done within five kilometers of my studio. The prints are nontoxic and use much less energy than traditional screen printing and each of the cropped styles was adjusted by seamstresses in North London.”

The collection, available in limited quantities at Katharine Hamnett’s website, retails from 55 pounds to 350 pounds. — A.T.

PATCHOULI STUDIO

Patchouli Studio designer Andrea Zanola Courtesy of Patchouli_Studio

Patchouli Studio’s designer Andrea Zanola can be billed as a conscious designer in more ways than one.

A Politecnico di Milano graduate, he established his brand in 2020 with a sustainable bent that stretches wide, from material sourcing to focusing largely on made-to-order. He was triggered to do so after working for three years as a knitwear designer for luxury company Ermanno Scervino, during which time he ruminated on the downsides of the fashion business and came up with a purpose-driven business model.

“The [fashion] industry, as it is today, leaves behind a huge amount of production waste. So even if maybe nobody really needed Patchouli Studio, I’m also convinced that a lot of people might want to share this journey with me,” he said.

Taking the purpose-driven route, the designer sources deadstock yarns and knits otherwise destined for the landfill for his creations, disassembling them and imbuing them with his crafty, almost DIY touch.

“We’re guests on this planet and we have to respect it, hence my creative and manufacturing process targeting a virtuous and eco-friendly balance between what I do and the environment,” he said.

His handcrafted designs celebrate the endless possibilities the knitwear category has to offer — all the while adhering to eco-principles.

“Knitwear is limitless, the only real limit being the creativity you can channel in it. I’ve always been fascinated by knitwear and the way a yarn can be worked into patterns, silhouettes and colors that are as surprising as they can be…it gives you a sense of freedom,” the designer said.

In a constant search for new suppliers, they are left free to offer what they think is best. “I love the feeling of not knowing what I’m receiving, which is why the materials influence my creative process rather than the other way around,” he explained.

Zanola is gearing up to debut his next collection — a “best of” of old styles blended with some new designs that he will fully unveil in September — as part of Pitti Uomo’s sustainability section.

A look from the Patchouli Studio spring 2022 collection. Courtesy of Patchouli_Studio

The lineup, titled “A New Beginning,” celebrates life and joy after confinement and is inspired by lavish sunsets over the Isola d’Elba. It includes roomy knitted vests crafted from rainbow-colored yarns, cropped sweaters in pastel hues, as well as patchwork styles with mélange patterns.

Describing the brand as “unconventional,” Zanola noted that he still indulges in the DIY approach the brand stands for and currently doesn’t have stockists, but he is committed to leverage the opportunity offered by Pitti Uomo to network with retailers and forge potential partnerships with them and other creatives.

The collection retails between 200 euros and 1,200 euros. — Martino Carrera

MONAD LONDON

Monad London designer Daniel Olatunji Courtesy of Monad London

Nigeria-born and London-based designer Daniel Olatunji is a citizen of the world.

After moving from his native country to the U.K. at age 11, he graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins having already amassed a good chunk of experience in cutting and sewing old garments and fabric scraps to offer himself and his circle of friends customized clothing.

“The tendency to customize evolved into reimagining garments and magnified my attraction to handcraft. I began working toward what would eventually become Monad London, which I established in 2016,” he said.

While prepping his own label Monad London, Olatunji worked for fashion brands and saw firsthand the “prominence of waste, unrealistic expectations of consistency and uniformity, prioritization of profit, not product or people.”

“These weren’t things I saw myself wanting to represent or stand behind and I didn’t see any improvements on the horizon. I realized I wanted to make garments in a more conscious way. Monad was started in resistance to these ideals,” the designer offered.

To this end, he borrowed and embraced the Wabi Sabi Japanese aesthetic, celebrating the value and beauty of imperfection, conscripting artisans from all sides of the globe, including dyers and weavers based in Kano, in northern Nigeria.

“I draw inspiration from the ingenuity of the makers that I collaborate with and the relationship they have with the natural world,” he noted. “I was completely blown away that they were dyeing and weaving cotton the same way they have been for well over 500 years,” he explained.

Monad London’s social responsibility also has ripple effects on its sustainability credential. The designer collaborates with hand weavers instead of relying on industrial manufacturing processes embracing “slow production” and respecting “natural cycles.” This translates into reduced carbon footprints and less waste, in that only the right amount of fabric is produced by hand.

Presenting his spring 2022 collection as part of Pitti Uomo’s sustainability section, Olatunji continued to channel his own heritage and background drawing inspiration from traditional architecture of the Yoruba community of Western Africa’s inhabitants and the political meaning of clothing for Namibia’s Herero tribe as a means of resistance in response to colonialism and colonial costumes.

Monad London men’s spring 2022 Courtesy of Monad London

Deconstructing and reassembling traditional tropes of men’s fashion, the collection has a workwear-inspired feel, with military references and plenty of vintage tailoring in patchwork patterns that exalt the craft that goes into each piece, from the selection of fabrics to the hand weaving process and the handwritten labels that are numbered and personalized after each store or client.

Stocked at Hostem Blue Mountain School in London’s East End and at several independent stores in Japan, Olatunji sees his brand charting the same slow-fashion approach going forward.

“It’s about how we can expand but maintain the quality of craft and product that defines each Monad piece. With the time and care that each piece requires, we won’t ever be mass producing products,” he said, adding that he plans to capitalize on made-to-measure and commence a repair service to help expand the lifespan of each piece the brand offers. — M.C.

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