Arianna Nicoletti is our current Goethe V&A Sustainable Fashion Resident. Here she tells us about her plans for her three month residency.
When I started my fashion design degree in Italy, I realised that my studies focused on the fast-paced industry, with little reference to cultural heritage or craftsmanship. All of this had no positive human value. Therefore, I decided to do my internship in a smaller studio to see what being a designer was really about. At “From Somewhere” in London, Orsola de Castro’s upcycling label, I learned about the beauty of making fashion on a small scale but perhaps more importantly, I discovered the sustainability philosophy behind circular textile practices. It was at this time I began researching industrial and post-consumer textile waste and thinking about possible zero waste design strategies.
How I became interested in sustainable fashion
After my time in London, I moved to Berlin, where together with a team of visionary friends I co-founded several best-practice projects. Each project tryed to address different stakeholders of the fashion industry. These projects included the upcycling label Aluc, and shortly after The Upcycling Fashion Store, a concept store exclusively for upcycling fashion. These professional experiences allowed me to build up a network of national and international actors connected to the sustainable fashion scene.
Parallel to this work, I continued my research on the textile recycling industry. I explored the recycling wool industry in Prato, a city that has the world’s largest manufacturing district for regenerated wool. I visited factories in Manchester and recycling centres in Germany, England and the Netherlands. In Berlin, I got involved in the creation of a material pool for upcycling designers. The project aimed to create a system of new sorting categories based on fibre type and textile quality in order to extend the life-cycle of second-hand clothes.
In 2015, I co-founded the non-profit association “Future Fashion Forward”. Here I started to work more actively in adult education. The project “Green Fashion Tours” allowed me to develop interactive educational experiences in the field of sustainable and circular fashion. These tours are transformative activities, within which the participants go through a self-empowerment path while personally meeting the change-makers of the fashion industry. The aim of this educational format is to create an understanding that as consumers or as designers, we can all play an important role in a systemic change.
My creative practice
My practice is all about creating disruption systems through circular design projects, and the creation of new transformative educational methods.
When I design fashion, I start from the materials and use exclusively left-over textiles. I let the limited choice challenge my creativity. I focus on finding innovative design methods to solve problems such as the restricted material quantities or the product circularity. I see a fashion design piece as a circular element having a past, a present and a future. Therefore its functionality, reparability and recyclability are essential components that should always be sought.
When I design educational projects, I aim to empower people. Uncovering the industry’s dangerous mechanisms and exposing people to alternatives is just the beginning. This transformative process aims to provide the tools to improve and expand the discourse beyond the educational realm. Through critical engagement with the fashion system, I aim to develop agency, critical awareness and self-empowerment.
My interest in the V&A collections
Within the V&A’s fashion collections, I have been researching garments that are relevant to the field of circular fashion. I hope to create more awareness about existing circular approaches while highlighting the synergies between them and outlining future evolutions.
Taking some of the Fashioned from Nature exhibition’s revolutionary examples as a starting point, such as the textiles by BOLT Threads and Orange Fiber, I will investigate other related pieces in the museum’s collections to compare and connect them in a visual diagram of circular fashion.
The ongoing output of my research will be a digital and analogue 3D map of circular fashion innovation. It will emphasise key innovations in this field and their combined roles in the bigger picture.
The analogue map will be created in the V&A residency studio and will be the medium through which I will explain my residency research to all visitors during the open studio days.