Reading time 15 minutes
Photo by Vanessa Caliendo
Recycler. An increasingly widespread term in the field of sustainability, a figure that is attracting attention and that always joins our imagination with a view to thinking about a circular economy or an economic system in which the material is regenerated guaranteeing zero waste and the eco-sustainability of the whole system. But when it comes to craftsmanship, art is not just about recovering so as not to throw away. It is a matter of instilling your own ingenuity in a material to bring to light the intrinsic potential of what you have in front of you. It is bringing out beauty where no one thought there could be. It is giving back life, giving back hope and therefore giving back opportunities. In a society in which tears are increasingly commonplace, in which divisions are practiced with the lightness of a breath, rediscover the value of things, get involved and engage in what is in front of you without throwing it away every whenever it does not work, whether it is bond or matter, I think it is a real revolution for ourselves and for our home, the Planet. A year ago I met Greta Naselli, founder of the eco-sustainable brand Repunto and brilliant young artisan committed to creating objects of extraordinary beauty through the philosophy of recycling. Large and comfortable bags as well as elegant clutches made with wallpaper, precious handmade crochet baskets with regenerated fabrics, tailoring, embroidery courses and much more up to the recent opening of a delightful Atelier in the center of Catania in Via Umberto I 266, a place where the scent of the raw material, of the passion for handmade is breathed in the air. A few days after the opening, Greta told me about her commitment to create ethical fashion, a fashion that respects the environment and people’s rights, and she enthusiastically passed on her passion for working with materials to create unique and precious because, as she herself affirms, “any waste can become beauty”.
Where did your passion for fashion and recycling come from and how did you combine these two aspects?
They have always been a passion of mine since I was little. I have this wonderful memory of my mother who, instead of giving me the scissors, dangerous for a child, gave me the stapler to create Barbie clothes. I was already using waste materials at the time. I recovered old T-shirts or fabrics that I found in the house destined to be thrown away. From a very young age, therefore, I have always linked recovery to fashion creation. My family has always encouraged me to follow this passion of mine and so at the University I studied fashion techniques and cultures in Rimini, a three-year degree, and then attended Carla Secoli’s Academy Next Fashion School which is based both in Bologna and in Milan, a private modeling academy. The Repunto as a brand project was born when, at the age of 20, I tried to participate in a tender for young emerging entrepreneurs. Having to give a name to my production which at the time was of poufs made with patchwork of fabric recovered from old jeans, I thought of Recreativity. I didn’t win the competition but from there I started my production. After a few years I wanted to change the name of the brand to make it more Italian. Just king I thought. Re as an existential reinterpretation, as a recycling, as a renewal of matter. So Repunto.
So not only a brand but also a philosophy as well as a place to discover the art of recycling. What do you offer in your shop?
Repunto makes both accessories, furniture, clothing, ready-to-buy or custom-made bags, and creates workshops and workshops where I teach how to do what is in the shop. Then there is the Recreativity Area, a part that I decided to set up with recycled materials that anyone can lose up to one kg per day for free through the membership which costs 5 euros a month. I named it in memory of the original name of the brand. You can find wallpapers and materials of all kinds. It is a mix of realities that revolve around artisanal production and that is very fascinating to people.
As a child for passion but over time that of recycled materials I imagine it was a choice that you made with a deep awareness. Why did you decide to go down this path? Was there a moment when you felt that you had to continue in this direction?
Yes, it happened during the university period. At the time, there were still no courses on sustainable fashion but in the last 15 years the whole fashion world has changed dramatically. We have gone from seasonal fashion to large fast fashion chains. Seven years ago while I was studying I immediately had the feeling that what I was learning was not purely my passion. When at the time I was already making poufs with recycled materials, people sometimes glared at me and asked me why I didn’t use new fabrics. And I asked myself: “but what does new mean?” “Why do we have the concept of beauty because it is new?”. It is an illusion to think this. All artisans know that matter has a value. When the carpenter works the wood and pieces of it remain, he does not throw them away but will use them to create a new product. This practice of recovery for the craftsman is not even recycling but it is the norm, it is the ability to know how to recognize the value of the material and therefore it is possible to renew it, regenerate it. Then when I started working for a fashion company it was quite traumatic. I realized the discrepancy between what I was experiencing and my idea of fashion.
Have you experienced difficult moments in pursuing and proposing this new vision of yours?
Yes, the first few years were difficult in fact it was at that time that I understood the importance of finding a different way to raise awareness on this issue. The story of an artisanal production on an emotional level is precisely on another communicative level compared to industrial fashion. I realized that I had to start taking tailoring courses, making people really understand what craftsmanship is by putting people themselves to the test. A big problem today is that it is difficult to understand the difference between an artisanal product and an industrial product. What I decided to follow was a long and difficult path and it still is today. I made the madness of opening a shop in Catania where awareness of climate change and an ethical fashion that does not only think about the environment but also about people, workers’ rights, is not so strong. I live it on my skin every day but I am confident. Over the years I have seen that most of my clients are those who participate in my workshops because they understand the rhythms, the times, the value behind my production. In the end they see the difference between a bag made by them and those that I make.
It is a very strong form of education to learn through experience. When you acquire a concept in this way it becomes part of you. What kind of involvement are you experiencing in Catania?
In this period, people think about it at least twenty times before making a purchase. And I understand them very well given the moment we are living. When someone enters the store I don’t present the products to try to sell them. I prefer to tell the philosophy of Repunto and what I do. This is enjoying it, I have a lot of positive feedback. People are shocked when they find out that the Recreativity Area is free. Then there are also those statements that make me smile. Many ladies who come in and see what I do say “In our day it wasn’t like that. Now you young people have to reinvent yourselves ”. And I try to make it clear that I have been studying for years and years, that I have been taking courses in carpentry, ceramics, craftsmanship. I study and deepen continuously so in reality I am not reinventing myself. They make me smile.
Where do you get inspiration for your creations?
Directly from the fabrics themselves. When you are a recycler, fashion production is just the opposite of that of the classic designer. I don’t design the concept first. I work it out through direct creation. When you have to start from the material depending on the size you realize what you can make. So it is always the material itself that gives me inspiration.
And where do you find recycled materials?
We must clarify that when we talk about “recycled materials” we do not necessarily mean used fabrics. Through the representatives of fabrics I recover the upholstery color cards that would otherwise be thrown away because they were created only to show customers a sample. The most beautiful are often the most difficult to dispose of. In Bologna I had the Re Mida association as a point of reference, while now here I am creating my own material recovery chain. I have already found a historic shop that has embraced the Recreativity Area philosophy. They have a warehouse full of fabrics, wonderful materials that they recognize the value of. Now I’m trying to expand the network to create a circular economy here.
How has your move to Catania influenced your creations?
Definitely in a positive way. It was one of the reasons why I made this choice with great happiness. Here the climate, the food, the sea that is always close by give creativity the possibility of trespassing. In this period Catania is something wonderful. The scents, the colors are much more intense. Here, moreover, the artisan tradition is much more alive than in the North and has remained rooted in culture. It is tradition that the ladies still go to their reference seamstress to whom they bring the fabric to have the dress made. A lady did this with me and I too am starting to be part of this artisanal network. And then there are also many young guys who know how to work with their hands and who know the value of artisanal production.
Have you started any collaborations?
I have a girl who is helping me to develop the clothing line for both men and women that we have decided to divide into two lines. A basic without finishing, that is, without the particularities of real tailoring production and then a first tailoring line so we can explain the difference of the two products and why one costs less and one more. I realized that all the great fashion designers started from this: to create their know-how by involving the tailors who used to sew at home. So I’m not doing anything revolutionary but simply creating a production as it should be done.
The revolution you are bringing is in the material you use and in your desire to create a dimension where there is room for everyone. There is no competition but with respect for nature and people there is inclusion. This is revolutionary.
How many times someone said to me: “Why do you teach in your courses how your bags are made? Why do you reveal the secret? “. What? This is precisely the important thing. To reveal, not to hide but to share. The moment you do it you give people awareness. As we said before when I explain how to make a bag and when a person sees that she is different from mine, he understands its value. This concept of sustainability we have today must be overcome. We should also use the word regenerative. We must not only think in a sustainable way so not to impact on nature but we must also think of introducing positive changes in nature and in the world. The real revolution is to take these waste materials that are the result of this consumerist era of overproduction that is destroying the world and transform them by regenerating them thus bringing something constructive to the world made up of human relationships and greater awareness. I do it as an artisan and industries should do it too. When I sell a product I always say that I am the guarantee of my product: I will always be available to repair it, to transform it if one day the zip is broken I will be willing to change it, if you no longer like something I will be willing to transform it. On you tube I’m doing some tutorials to explain how to recycle. Many write to me and ask me what they can do with the material they have. People are understanding the healing importance of regenerating both for the good of the planet and for themselves.
Sustainable fashion brands are increasing a lot but there is still a lot to do. What change have you seen in recent years?
Sustainability is now a topic on everyone’s lips in the right way but also sometimes in the wrong way. There is a lot of green washing. Most conventional fashion companies have realized that their warehouses are full of merchandise and that it is time to change direction. However, if you are a company with a very polluting production chain and you go to create a sustainable line within your range of products, for me it is only green washing, it is giving people a sop. This is a very complicated issue, it takes a lot more transparency for this we talk about Fashion Revolution. A radical change must take place. I do not think it is wrong to outsource production, there is globalization, it was time for the evolution of the human being. What we have to do today is to find new forms of production that must be transparent. Those who work must have the same rights in all parts of the world. A product created by a child and therefore out of our sight is unacceptable. Producing having a positive impact on the planet by making the production chain as transparent as possible. This is what companies should do today.
If we look at the statistics on traceability, there are very few fashion companies that have 100% transparency. Many still rely on ateliers where people’s rights are not protected, where violence occurs especially against young women, where there is exploitation in working hours and where the salary is really low. Thinking about all this, how do you imagine the future of fashion?
With more rules, because they are necessary and a radical change from the point of view of production and consumption. Enough of overproduction, we need to find a new dimension. We should offer people one or two models and the one they like to make to measure. Enough of going to a store and always finding new low-quality things. I imagine that we will start choosing a garment that will accompany us throughout our life. We must therefore overcome seasonal fashion which has already been destroyed by fast fashion and climate change since the seasons almost no longer exist. It is also wrong as a concept to think that an object is cool for only six months and that it will then become démodé. We have to re-appreciate the products. All of this is already happening. The return to vintage is the bearer of this need. Why do we love it? Because we know that it is made with material that is no longer in the store. We know this and we have to go back to believing it.
You talked earlier about having direct experience. Is it the only way in your opinion?
Yes, it is the only way. Only with experience can we implement this revolution. When I started to expand the production I had to take pictures and shoot and everyone said to me “but you can take the photos too with the iPhone”. I decided to go to a photography course and buy a DSLR only to understand that I am not a photographer and that you need a professional to take certain photos. We live in a world that allows us to achieve anything but then we remain on the surface. Instead we have to study, we always have to go deeper into things and then understand if they do it or not for us. But in the meantime, understand the value of that thing. If I go to a photography exhibition now I can better understand why a photo is beautiful. You always have to get involved.
Leave a Reply