Why Gabriela Hirst creates luxury items from garbage

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Gabriela Hirst is one of the most prominent representatives of the galaxy of designers who advocate an eco-friendly approach to fashion. For example, last September, as part of New York Fashion Week, she organized the first-ever carbon-neutral show. This season, Hirst, in the name of a bright future for fashion, decided to turn to the past. “We should go back to a time when things were created very differently, and polyester has not yet had time to fill everything in the world,” says the New York designer, whose childhood was spent on a ranch in Uruguay. “We are now in a constant race for success and production growth, but what is the real cost of all this?”

“I try very hard to make sure that each of our products has a purpose,” says Hirst. “We also pay attention to other aspects: we support local craftsmen or a factory that wants to produce beautiful fabrics.”

Hirst believes that the fashion industry cannot be completely green overnight. However, by her example, she tries to change the situation at least a little. In an interview with Vogue, the designer told what she was doing.

Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

What is the concept of the fall-winter 2020 collection?

The main idea is that we wanted to work with “garbage” – residual materials – since natural resources are very limited. Many people believe they are living in a world of abundance, but they are not. Designers have the opportunity to use existing materials and create items that will still meet the criteria for luxury, quality and true craftsmanship.

Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Tell us about the materials you worked with.

We took vintage torn Turkish rugs and stitched them together, resulting in an outer garment lined with cashmere boucle. Each item from the collection is unique. We also used items from our archives, for example the same coat in two different colors, took them apart and remade them. This work requires a lot of manual labor, but you are using existing materials, rather than ordering new ones.

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Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

What other fabrics have you used in the new season?

The collection contains about 30 percent recycled cashmere – this is the first time we have had access to such a volume of truly interesting fabrics. We obtain the processed yarn from a single Italian supplier. Aesthetically, such cashmere is slightly different from new, but you can work with it. We also have a lovely cashmere twill that is perfect for suits. I like things that seem rather modest at first glance, but at the same time embody real luxury.

Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

The collection also includes a lot of knitted knitwear. Was this a deliberate choice?

I love that there is naturalness in things made by man. It is important not to forget what it is like to work with your hands. I love manual labor and human-made mistakes.

This season, we have been assisted by two craftsmen who knit by hand. I work with the non-profit organization Manos del Uruguay, which has been employing women for 15 years. Their experience is very inspiring. Magdalena, our local knitter, also worked with us. She specializes in macrame and often invites other craftswomen to help her. Together they create incredible things – a true craft art.

Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

The leather used in the collection has also been hand-dyed. Why is handicraft production so important to you?

We apply hand-dyeing to a wide variety of textures, including leather, which in turn is a by-product of the meat industry. This is one of the oldest techniques in our arsenal. I deeply respect handicraft and artisanal production, as well as teamwork. Our main goal is to maintain a high level of quality. It seems to me that today it is given less and less importance, but I am trying to fix this situation.

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Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Last season, you pioneered a carbon neutral show in the industry. What other aspects of your production support a sustainable approach?

We did not have a task to become the first. It was important for us to understand how serious the carbon footprint is per impression production, to get real data and numbers and try to reduce them. Of course, we have calculated the carbon footprint of this season’s show and have tried to offset it. But compensation is not the solution.

The carbon footprint of the show itself is negligible: we strictly monitor the rational use of electricity. There are no electronic devices on the backstage, the set design is made from recycled and reworked materials that we will use later. This season we have bales of recycled paper as decorations. We strive in every possible way to produce as little waste as possible.

Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Following your show, Burberry and Gucci also announced their intention to make their shows carbon neutral. What do you think of these changes in the industry?

I applaud the big brands that have decided to take the initiative: it seems to me that sometimes people are afraid to say or do something imperfect. Large companies are more visible than others, so in their case the risks are higher, as people like to discuss and condemn. If they really want to make a difference and can provide data that clearly shows that their efforts are not in vain, I think this is better than nothing at all. There is no simple and quick solution to the problem, so we have to put in a lot of effort.

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Gabriela Hearst Fall Winter 2020

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Once you talked about the goals you want to achieve in terms of environmental friendliness, for example, in the next three years to start using 80 percent of illiquid materials in the production of collections, and by 2022 to completely abandon primary raw materials. Are you already close to these indicators?

If we talk about illiquid assets, then we are fully following the outlined plan. These materials of good quality have proven to be more difficult to obtain than I thought. But these difficulties are a great motivation for me: if you are really burning with something, you want to solve the problems that arise. I think you need to use your creativity for a specific purpose.

Gabriela Hearst

© Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

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