Gabon and Italy. Two cultures that meet, dialogue and live through the craftsmanship of Double Trouble Bologna, founded by Margherita and Caterina Libouri, an ethical brand with a cosmopolitan, contemporary spirit but whose essence is rooted in the historical traditions of these two nations that have always been a lifeblood for the creativity of these two splendid and young entrepreneurs. Life flourishes, seek new paths to explore and expand them. The travels, the experiences in the world of fashion, their experiences, the love for Berber culture so full of evocative force and folklore are what prompted these two young people to embark on an artisan enterprise that highlights the value of time, the durability of an accessory, a garment, the importance of reusing rather than recycling to set creativity in motion and leave the planet what it deserves to feel good and make us feel good. An art that of leather goods and handcrafted clothing that requires a lot of attention, dedication and above all passion.
When and how did you create the Double Trouble Bologna brand?
Caterina: It was born in 2016 from an idea that my sister and I had immediately after her degree in Fashion Design at the Academy of Fine Arts. For the thesis she created a line of leather accessories and clothing that was so loved so much that she was able to sell a few pieces. We therefore thought that the idea to create something that was a real entrepreneurial activity could work. Once we decided we got better structured by creating a site and promoting ourselves on social networks. At first, we worked in the living room of our home, then we found a laboratory in Via Santo Stefano until, in April 2021, we came here in Via Albari with the intention of growing, of having a larger space with a showcase and making easier access for customers.
Margherita, what inspired you to create this first line?
Margherita: At that time I was studying the concept of upcycling so the difference between reuse and recycling. So what I did was recover a series of materials, mainly leather and fabric, by turning to businesses that were failing and that alternatively would have thrown away those fabrics. Thus the first bags and the first pieces of clothing were born. All the lines we create are basically influenced by our Italian-Gabonese descent, so in addition to leather I use wox fabrics made of waxed cotton. The specific inspiration for bags, on the other hand, is more linked to our passion for Moroccan, Algerian and Egyptian art. Many of our creations in fact draw inspiration from the Berber culture in the decorations and shapes.
You are a point of conjunction, a bridge between African and Italian culture. This is truly a richness for your creations.
Margherita: The first scraps we had at home weren’t grandma’s lace but wox fabric that is traditionally given to Africa. It is a 6-meter fabric called pagna and which looks like a rolled fabric where various things are printed depending on the occasion. For example, if you just got married and tomorrow I come to dinner with you, I would bring a wox depicting rings and particular characteristics related to that ceremony, just as here in Italy we give a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine.
Caterina: When we were little girls in Gabon a tailor made us three tailor-made suits. It was crazy. There it costs less and it is normal as it was in the past in Italy. I think that was our first Double Trouble Bologna collection. In everything we do, there is so much of our travel experiences that always open our minds to new knowledge and ideas. Then we also had the opportunity to live abroad. Margherita in Turkey where she did Erasmus and I in Paris where there is a very strong Afro community.
Where does your sensitivity to upcycling come from?
Margherita: Today it is a topic that is talked about a lot. Ten years ago, however, it was less felt. As far as we are concerned, it was a necessity. When you don’t have a lot of money, you have to do with what you have like the used clothes of grandmother and mother. Then I went to search among the production funds in the warehouses where there are already a lot of things and where you realize that there would be no need to put anything else into production. You are able to make unique pieces because using that type of material you can obtain a maximum of 4 or 5 bags that will still be each one different from the other. We are often asked when a certain type of bag will return. It won’t come back. It is important to be aware that you are buying a unique piece that only you will have in the wardrobe.
How strong do you feel your commitment to sustainability both at work and personal level?
Caterina: I would say that nowadays we have constant attention. It is growing and involves every aspect of life. It starts here from the lab with the reuse of materials and as far as I’m concerned it also arrives at home. Instead of the soaps in the plastic box I use solid ones for example. There are many creative ideas on the market.
Margherita: I think they are small gestures that everyone can implement in their daily lives. Our area is that of clothing. When a person consciously buys a bag ranging from 200 to 350 euros, he buys an accessory that he knows will last over time. He is sure to make a useful and ethical choice. For example, we have produced cotton shopping bags that can be used in many ways and can be washed. They thus become part of your daily life. We have also always offered our customers the maintenance service of the bag which consists in treating it every year with our creams so that it can resist and remain beautiful. Here the concept of reuse is always linked.
Margherita, could you explain from a technical point of view the difference between reuse and recycling?
Margherita: To recycle something you must put resources into motion. For example if you want to get a fleece sweater from a plastic bottle, you have to operate machines so there is a consumption, a surplus. Upcycling, on the other hand, aims to reuse, so for example, take a sweater and make it a handbag. No machine is operated so there is no need to exploit other materials.
One thing that struck me when interviewing other artisans who rely on upcycling is that they do not start from the design of the product but the idea comes from the material, by touching it they imagine the model. Are you doing this?
Margherita: I always do a project at least for clarity. For example, I design five bags and then based on what I find I try to implement the various ideas. We use a lot of the patchwork technique which does not mean making a bag using many different and small leathers but to cut out larger pieces of leather into strips which are then glued, sewn and on which a sort of carpet is made. From there you make a front and a back of the bag. These are techniques used when you have a lot of scraps.
What identifies the Berber style in your works?
Margherita: On the last bag I put into production, the Selma Bag, much appreciated but unfortunately finished, there are hot stamps that represent decorations that the population of North Africa uses for the tattoos that are then the same ones present in front of their houses often in place of the civic. It’s like saying the family crest. These are the same ornaments that you also find in the tattoos on the faces or hands of Berber women. Being Muslims, they have no way of depicting the human being as for example we did in churches with Jesus, Mary, etc. This makes you understand that there is a constant search to express their creativity through a strong expressive charge.
Instead, what is the story of wox fabrics so colorful and full of patterns?
In reality they are the result of colonialism. The main productions come from Holland. They have been there for centuries and so they have taken root in African culture but originally they were fabrics imported from Europe and destined for India. They liked them so much that they conquered an entire continent to become its distinctive brand. Until the mid-nineteenth century, therefore, this fabric did not exist in African culture, you only saw tribal costumes. Now from Africa we would like to import other Moroccan baskets and other materials such as wood to make small sculptures. We would like to find some craftsmen to collaborate with in an ethical way. Furthermore, the last time we were in Morocco we discovered a very colorful beautiful pottery that we would like to import here.
Caterina do you take care of the web part right?
Caterina: it is less interesting and less creative but it is a fundamental support for visibility. My role is to find customers, make us known, participate in tenders, run our e-commerce. It is an important part of both creating and building a network around creation. Over time we realized that in order to sell we need to expand and make this project more and more productive.
You started this big challenge when you were very young. What difficulties have you encountered in these years of activity?
Caterina and Margherita: The main difficulty is not having studied economics. No one does the Business plan for you if you are not capable. So it was challenging to learn how to develop something that was not only fun but also profitable. The fiscal and legal part is the most complicated for us but in the end we managed to create an understandable dialogue without the need for a translator even with the accountant.
What future plans do you have?
Margherita: This year we would like to dedicate ourselves to teaching and increasing production. With the first Incredibol call, we hope to be able to access spaces with reduced rents or on loan for use. We are starting to do courses to teach how to make bags and wallets so we hope to expand. Ours is an activity that needs space.
Have you had any recognition from the company in recent years?
Caterina: For the creation of the key ring with the leather tortellino we won in December, in the tourism sector, the Barresi 2021 Award organized by the Metropolitan City of Bologna and dedicated to young and sustainable businesses. They are great satisfactions. Last year we sold 3,500. This year we are aiming for 4,000.