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Under The Magnifying Glass Of Domenico Gnoli

Under The Magnifying Glass Of Domenico Gnoli

It’s been a year since I wrote my last post here, and, frankly, I forgot what is this blog supposed to be about. So today I’m writing about something that’s been occupying my mind lately. It’s mostly painted collars and buttons There aren’t many artists 

The Things I Think About

The Things I Think About

I think about a lot of things lately. Different things, weird things, mostly trivial. Not sure if it’s the pandemic, the earthquakes, or the fact I recently took my fourth staycation in 14 months. However, I have some thoughts and thought it might be fun 

A Fresh New Etsy Shop Owner Shares Her Views On The Company's Stock Rise And Sustainability After COVID-19

A Fresh New Etsy Shop Owner Shares Her Views On The Company's Stock Rise And Sustainability After COVID-19

In case you were wondering, the COVID-19 pandemic is still happening. What will happen with our jobs and the economy in general, is still largely unknown. However, we can already see some changes in specifics fields of the fashion industry. Today specifically I want to write about what’s happening with Etsy.

Their stocks are rising. Business Of Fashion recently reported a 7.9 percent growth due to this fresh, pandemic caused interest in e-commerce as well as a growth in their app downloads. That seems fairly logical to an amateur like me. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this could also be because people are getting more aware of their surroundings. They’re getting more aware of themselves, of where their food comes from, of who makes their clothes. Etsy is just a perfect place to connect with those people.

So I wrote to my college friend Valerija Cerovec, a designer and author who currently lives in London. She spent a majority of the quarantine in the UK in Brighton and used the extra time to create a brand and open an Etsy shop called Kalampierre. We talked about why she decided to do this now, how did she incorporate her storytelling skills into this brand and what is the pandemic doing to our perception of the world. Read our conversation below.

When did you decide to start Kalampierre? Did you come up with the idea before or was the pandemic a trigger?

I’ve never really had the intention of starting a brand and it’s quite honestly hard for me to imagine that I am building one. When I think about Kalampierre and where it is headed, I really think about the community I want to build around it. The pandemic was ironically really just a perfect time and place for everything to unravel.

What was your thought process while doing it? Why did you start it?

I started it because my family needed some face masks – can you imagine! We had borrowed a sewing machine from a neighbor and before I knew it I was making masks for neighbors and friends. In about two weeks’ time, I sold enough masks to buy myself a sewing machine. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without Helen, my mother in law, who was my Head of Sales.

How did you choose which items to create? Is there a story behind that?

Face masks were the first items I put on Etsy and then I was sort of thinking what else I could offer. It’s very important to me not to simply do things because they can be done. I need to have an entirely different process at the back of my head because I don’t consider myself a fashion designer at all. First and foremost, I’m a storyteller and for me, everything is about a story. So I had to create this character in my head that intrigues me currently. Her name is Anjelica, she loves hats and summer and cheese, and everything I make is for Anjelica to come to life. I imagine sometime in a few months, Anjelica will go away and there would be someone completely different taking her place.

You’re currently doing everything on your own. Do you intend for it to stay that way or would you consider an expansion if things started to go that way

I really like things the way they are now because I enjoy making clothes and jewelry. I guess, if there was a good way for me to scale things, I would certainly do it but it would be very important not to compromise the values that I think Kalampierre should have.

Etsy stocks have risen 7.9 percent a few weeks ago. There’s also been an increase in downloads of their app. Goldman Sachs’ analyst Heath Terry said that it’s due to the pandemic and people turning to online shopping. What’s your opinion on why it happened? Do you think that the reason could be that people both turned to arts and crafts themselves and to buying things that are locally made, handmade, and therefore more sustainable?

I definitely think people turned to online shopping more because that was the better and, in some cases, the only option, but they also flocked to Etsy during lockdown because that was a platform where they could easily find local stores that could ship faster than, for example, a high street brand with a warehouse in a single country.

Hopefully, the pandemic will teach us a lot about our consumer habits and shift them to be more sustainable. Now that we weren’t able to go to the shops as frequently, even more so, it was kind of a complete bore as well – queuing, always peeking in the isles, standing two meters away, using all the protection – it proved so much easier to shop online. It also gave us a chance to reconsider things that we are buying – do we need them, why do we need them, would it really bring us joy having them? I think pandemic might be an important milestone in how we shop.

I’m not sure what the situation is anywhere else, but here in London fabric shops were overflowing with people once they opened. Apart from it being an absolute fun, the good thing about people turning to crafts is the creeping realization that it is hard to sew, it is hard to make things and that perhaps that shirt or dress we bought recently in a high street shop for £10 is worth so much more in the grand scheme of things and that we really are the ones, not imaginary others, that are buying into the entire system of underpaid labor and unsustainability. I think that is the most important thing we have to come to terms with.

Do you think the pandemic will bring us that change or a small shift towards a more sustainable way of life, a way that’s not so dependant on the global economy?

I really hope that a great change is on the way and I think we are already seeing some of that in the fashion industry with some prominent brands deciding not to produce collections by seasons anymore. I don’t think that’s accidental – people are changing their consumption habits and companies have to respond to those needs. I get a sense that people are looking more for things that would be special to them, that really speak to the way of life they want to live, what they stand for – and more and more people stand for sustainability.

Check Kalampierre on Instagram and Etsy.
Images courtesy of Kalampierre.

Bio-design Is The Future Of Fashion. Designer Maja Halilović Tells Me Why

Bio-design Is The Future Of Fashion. Designer Maja Halilović Tells Me Why

I heard about Maja Halilović a few weeks ago on podcast (if you’re from the Balkan region, do listen to it). I’ve never heard of her before even though we live only 400 kilometers apart and speak the same language. She is from Tuzla 

Sustainable Fashion In The Age Of Coronavirus: 3 Designers Weigh In

Sustainable Fashion In The Age Of Coronavirus: 3 Designers Weigh In

COVID-19 has paralyzed the whole world in just a few months. People are dying. Economies are collapsing, unemployment is growing, our hedonistic lives are on hold. Experts are predicting the biggest economic crisis since The Great Depression of the 1930s. On the other hand, the 

Did You Know You Can Make Alternative Materials Out Of Kombucha SCOBY? Bio-Artist Adrienn Újházi Tells Me All About It

Did You Know You Can Make Alternative Materials Out Of Kombucha SCOBY? Bio-Artist Adrienn Újházi Tells Me All About It

I stumbled upon Adrienn Újházi on Instagram a few days ago. I’ve never heard about her before nor was I aware that one could make alternative materials for clothes out of SCOBY. That thought blew my mind, completely. Many of you are probably wondering what in the world is SCOBY?

SCOBY is usually used in the production of beverages like kefir or kombucha, and it is actually short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Although I am a passionate kombucha lover, SCOBY also interests me because you can make a material similar to vegan leather out of it.

Adrienn Újházi, a 24-year-old artist from Novi Sad, Serbia is very familiar with how to do that as she makes art pieces out of SCOBY. She shared the whole process with me as well as her thoughts on the future of this interesting biomaterial.

When did you decide to start using natural biodegradable materials in your work? What kind of materials have you used so far?

My interest in natural materials was always here. It started in my childhood and developed naturally with time through learning and experience. I think that nature holds a secret, and I’m trying to discover it through a game of aesthetics, researching organic and biomaterials. Most of my work is made of natural materials combined with digital tools. That means that I use minimal intervention to get to the product, to an art piece. We are bombed with unnecessary information in this colorful contemporary world, we are missing the raw, clean contact with something natural. My work is dominated by textures and natural colors of the materials I use and reframe in a different context. Mostly I used flour, straw, sand, wheat, and SCOBY.

Do you recall the moment when you realized you can make art with SCOBY? What did that look like?

I found out about it accidentally when I was researching unconventional art materials in painting. I dug deeper into research and practical work and came to an unexpected solution. My idea at first was to grow the material myself so I’ll be able to use it for different things later. The texture I got was similar to some experiments I did with flour and different other ingredients. I got a point where it became more elastic and it reminded me of faux leather. The moment I discovered SCOBY opened up a whole new field for research, I’m really happy about that.

What did your first process of making SCOBY look like? Were you excited? What did the result look like?

The first process was very exciting and I was also very nervous. Through my natural material research, I learned not to expect a lot because nature always does its own thing. I did the whole process of growing the SCOBY myself, it’s really simple. Sterilization is really important as well as adding just the right amount of ingredients to grow a SCOBY. Also, later you have to learn how to stop the material from further development.

I learned not to expect a lot because nature always does its own thing.

How do you make SCOBY today? Do you experiment more than before?

To grow a larger amount of SCOBY you need a big, clean room. I didn’t have that because I kept moving from one workspace to another. Now I grow it at home. When I make a SCOBY of desired thickness, I take it to my atelier to finish. To grow it you just need to be very patient and give it time so the culture could grow properly. That also dictates the pace of your experiment.

And what are you making out of it in the atelier?

In the beginning, I would take a small piece and incorporate it into my art pieces, they were miniatures presented through a series called Introduction to Biophilia. Those pieces were presented as a small experiment of notes about technological research. As I got deeper into it, I found new aesthetical solutions. I combined smaller pieces on larger formats in a lightbox. Those ambient works were gathered in a series called just Biophilia which represents a man’s connection with nature and other forms of life. The artificial light in those boxes highlights the texture of SCOBY even better. Using these tools I wanted to highlight human ability to manipulate nature. To make these large pieces you need a lot of time. While I wait for it to develop, I research on the internet, I discover new artists who do the same thing and share their visual journals online. I’m also putting extra work into discovering new abilities and the general capacity of SCOBY so that someday we might use it for different purposes in our daily lives.

Last year you posted about a hat you made of SCOBY. When and how did you learn that you can make garments and accessories out of SCOBY?

I always try to make a functional biodegradable object out of the material I grow. That’s why it was my choice to try and make a hat. It was also my answer to mass production in the fashion industry. This hat is a ready-made object primarily made of straw, a symbol of memento mori which reminds us to live in the moment and help each other. I made it when I grew a super thick SCOBY, I wrapped it up with layers of hemp and gauze that I used as connective tissue. The hat has six thick layers of SCOBY and it took me around two months to make it. My vision was to turn my favorite fashion piece into a biodegradable hat. I’m still researching that.

How hard is it to make SCOBY into something wearable? I read about how you can dye it with indigo, how to make it darker… there are a lot of options that allow you to still maintain a sustainable and biodegradable product.

Creating my art allows me to recognize new things about creativity, tolerance, and durability. Not having maximum control over my work is what I enjoy and that dictates my pace. Unexpected things can also happen like for example if your SCOBY gets moldy. Those are moments of dialog with the culture I grow that allow me to look for the best solution for a quality product. It can be dyed, best with natural pigments. However, I’m currently focused on its natural state and beauty that comes without other organic substances.

Not having maximum control over my work is what I enjoy.

Do you plan to keep making clothing and accessories with SCOBY?

I want to research it to the point where I can get the finished product faster and more efficiently, and for that, I need better growing conditions. I don’t have that right now but I will get there. As far as clothes are concerned, right now I just want to focus on accessories like hats. I feel like that’s a piece that can tell you about one’s personality and taste. I always pick a hat first and then build it with other pieces. When I started my research I was lucky enough to meet a biodesigner, Maja Halilović, who is a very kind person with good intentions. We are the only ones doing this in our region right now and have plans to spread our knowledge about new biodegradable materials.

How do people around you react when you tell them you make art with SCOBY? What do they say?

Every reaction is unique and positive which means a lot to me. Advice and support from the audience are precious to me and big motivation. That’s why I like to speak publicly about what I do. When I talk to someone about it I feel like it’s really important to show them the photos of SCOBY telling them also how I use it to make art. I saw a sparkle in most people’s eyes when I’d tell them about this. They tend to smile also. Aesthetically, I think this type of work is very refreshing and I also like the fact people learn something new through my work, something they can use in everyday life. It’s one of the reasons why I do this, there’s still so much to discover.

Goodwill and good time management give everyone a chance to make better decisions.

Generally, can the world that we live in today understand new materials? Or more precisely, are we ready to replace the cheap, often life-threatening, fabrics that we buy at high street stores?

Based on my current experience, I think people are quite open to accepting new materials that have their purpose and value for our future. The only problem is that most of us feel limited and trapped because of other resources that should eventually be reduced. Specifically, I’m talking about the mass production of clothing. There are alternative solutions like upcycling old garments, buying second hand, donating, recycling… Besides the food industry, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters of our planet and that can be balanced with a new approach. Goodwill and good time management give everyone a chance to make better decisions and take smaller steps to bring change in their lives.

All photos are courtesy of Adrienn Újházi.

March 2020 In News

March 2020 In News

What was this month anyway? The COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing AND a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit the north of my country. Therefore, I concluded that there are only two important news to highlight from March 2020. 1. Famous brands canceling their orders causing over 

Matea Benedetti On Controlling the Supply Chain, Non-Compromising and Trusting Yourself

Matea Benedetti On Controlling the Supply Chain, Non-Compromising and Trusting Yourself

I knew who Matea Benedetti was for a few years before I finally heard her speak in October 2018. A few of my pieces were exhibited at a large exhibition in Ljubljana, Slovenia held during their Month of Design. The exhibition was amazing but I 

February 2020 In News

February 2020 In News

Hi folks, February was a rollercoaster, March is an even bigger one. Let’s go through the news that caught my eye.

Fire In An Indian Factory Nandan Denim Kills 7 Workers

Seven people died in a fire in an Indian Factory Nandan Denim, one of the largest denim suppliers in the world. The company reportedly supplies denim to Target, Mango and Wrangler among others. However, it seems it wasn’t safe for its workers. A senior fire official who was at the scene said that the factory had only one door accessible only by climbing a steep ladder. Read more on VOA News.

Nitrogen Dioxide Levels Go Down Over China Due To COVID-19 Quarantine

NASA has released satellite images of China that show a dramatic decrease in pollution levels. Their scientist reported lower levels of nitrogen dioxide, a gas emitted mostly by motor vehicles and industrial facilities. “The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine.” China’s Wuhan was until recently the epicentre of COVID-19. However, the biggest struggle is now going on in Europe. Read more on BBC.

Gabriela Hearts Gives Garments Digital Identity

One of the hardest things for big brands in the fashion industry is keeping every bit of their supply chain completely transparent. (If they want to show it in the first place.) That’s why Gabriela Hearst teamed up with “software platform Eon that will assign digital identities to the pieces in the collection. When customers activate the QR codes on the labels of Hearst’s SS20 collection, they gain access to information about the garments, including the materials used, country of origin, production process, carbon footprint and the narrative behind the design.” Read more on Vogue Business.

Miret Starts Pre-Campaigning For New Generation Of Sustainable Sneakers

Miret is a Croatian brand of sustainable sneakers that is just getting ready to launch the second generation of their sneakers. There are two things to know about them. Firstly, the new generation sneakers are 97 percent natural. Secondly, they’re made from hemp, kenaf, flax, cork, wood, corn, jute, eucalyptus, natural rubber and natural wool from New Zealand. They launch on March 3rd on Kickstarter. Read more on Super1.

The UN Calls The Fashion Industry To Action

The night before the first day of New York Fashion Week, UN and Arcadia Earth hosted an Art exhibition. They used it as a platform to call the representatives of the fashion industry to take action. As a result, they expect them to help them achieve 17 sustainability goals they set in 2015. They talked about women’s rights, modern day slavery and water pollution, among other things. Read more on Vogue Business.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash.

January 2020 In News

January 2020 In News

In my new monthly review, we’ll go through some of the most important sustainability news from the past month. Without further ado, here we go. First Renewably Sourced Nylon Introduced For Wide Use Genomatica, a company from San Diego, announced that it has produced the