Designer Focus

Designers Leading the Change: Meet Lucía Chain

This Earth Month, it is time for independent designers to lead the change towards a more sustainable fashion industry. And in an effort to become a part of the solution, rather than the problem, Not Just a Label is spotlighting designers committed to introducing sustainable practices in fashion. 

Meet Lucia Chain, Argentine NJAL designer based in Italy. Committed to the environment, her plant based designs are handcrafted in her atelier with raw local fabrics and organic dyes. Zero waste patterns, a-gender fits, and slow production make her biodegradable pieces stand the test of time.
Lucia Chain CollectionCourtesy of Lucía Chain


Your Argentine heritage is such a rich tapestry. How do you think it has influenced your way of thinking and working? 

I often speak about my roots and origin when it comes to designing. Growing up in Argentina has given me the possibility of perceiving the world with a particular sensitivity and facing problems creatively. Argentines are known for taking on challenges and finding solutions with whatever resources they have at hand... This is something that defines both me and my way of working, and I think it can be seen in the essence of the brand and in the development of my collections.


Looking back at your younger self, what advice would you give yourself as you were starting out in the fashion world?

I have grown and learnt a lot from my mistakes, but one piece of advice I would give myself is to learn to open up more and share more from the beginning... collaboration is always enriching.


Lucia Chain CollectionCourtesy of Lucía Chain


Usually, when designers start on this path towards sustainability, it's because they’ve had an “ahá” moment, realizing how harmful the industry can be. Do you remember what that moment was for you?

My journey took a slightly different path… I realized that I wanted to pursue a sustainable project, understanding that the most important thing for me was to be faithful to my principles. At that time, sustainability wasn’t a widely discussed topic, and there was no awareness around it. It is something that I discovered along the way, through constant studying. For me, from the beginning it was important to be faithful to the materials that made me aware, and to continue working close to the earth, reflecting a consciousness that I integrate into my lifestyle. Over time, as I became more and more informed, and understood the reality of clandestine and slave labor in the textile industry, particularly in the region, I decided to reaffirm my convictions and make my work a form of activism as well.


Sustainability isn't just a buzzword for your brand; it's in your DNA. How do you weave sustainability into every aspect of your design and production processes?

Sustainability is present in every aspect of the brand and in each collection, no decisions are made without first thinking about their impact. Our production process is slow, focusing only on made-to-order pieces, which I consider to be the most sustainable approach. Everything is made by hand with locally sourced materials (always plant-based, raw, or deadstock fabrics). I prioritize pattern creation, because it can help avoid a lot of waste, so each piece is thought of as a function of the textile, always developing zero-waste patterns. The pieces are crafted using only plant-based, organic and biodegradable threads, as well as sustainable or recovered accessories. If it is necessary to work on the color, we exclusively use natural dyes. Our entire process is plastic and toxin free.


Lucia Chain CollectionCourtesy of Lucía Chain


Transitioning to sustainable practices isn't always smooth sailing. Can you share some of the challenges you've faced and how you've tackled them?

The first challenge was communicating what I was doing, because at that time there were no projects like mine, and the audience was not aware of the importance of sustainability. This is why my communication was very strong in audiovisual methods, because it was the most direct way to "explain". The next challenge was to produce in Argentina with sustainable materials... I had to travel and study a lot about textiles and methods of production, until I managed to find textile cooperatives that developed a raw, plant-based product. The third challenge was to transform that raw material into something different... so I began to experiment and develop natural dyes and prints with bio-inks.


It's impossible to be 100% sustainable, but every little bit counts. What are some practical steps you believe everyone can take to reduce their environmental impact?

The first step is to really be true to yourself. If you don't lead a lifestyle similar to what you propose with your brand, then it is impossible to sustain... The main thing is consistency.


Lucia Chain CollectionCourtesy of Lucía Chain


You've  mentioned the importance of creating durable garments while using unconventional materials. Can you shed light on how this philosophy translates into your design process?

I make the garments with flat seams, so that they’re more comfortable, reversible and so that the joints do not wear out. At the same time, I use the highest quality materials, always plant-based and free of plastics and toxins, making the garment caress the skin and allow it to breathe, without generating allergies. The patterns are also important, because I work the space between the garment and the body, giving importance to the seduction of comfort and freedom of movement.


What unique tips do you recommend to your customers to ensure their pieces stand the test of time while aligning with your standards?

I try to explain to them that subjecting garments to excessive washing is unnecessary and harmful, as it can lead to contamination and damage. Since my products are crafted with natural materials, simply exposing them to air can eliminate odors and the restore their shape. If washing is necessary, I recommend using cold water and neutral soap, and drying the garment in the shade without wringing it. I encourage using and caring for the garment as a treasure that can be passed down from generation to generation, and if it becomes damaged, mending it.


Managing a brand with a focus on sustainable values in an industry characterized by rapid turnover of collections and shows demands creativity and adaptability. How do you manage this without leaving your values behind?

Staying true to my principles is what makes my brand different and attractive, it is what allows me to design through challenges, making my work exciting.


Lucia Chain CollectionCourtesy of Lucía Chain


Winning awards like Semillero UBA and being a finalist of "Who Is On Next - Alta Roma" is no small feat. But with recognition comes pressure. How do you stay grounded and true to yourself amidst all the expectations?

I always strive to work in the simplest and most humble way possible. I do what I love, no one forces me to do it. While it can be hard to resist external pressures, I always try to keep in mind that, apart from a job, this is my passion, and that I just have to stay true to myself, and try to have fun too.


What advice would you give to other fashion brands looking to make their mark in the world of sustainability?

Investigate, study, consult, inquire, ask, and work very hard.


Visit NJAL I The Shop and discover all of Lucia Chain's pieces