The NJAL Diary: Origin Passion & Beliefs
NOT JUST A LABEL will be reporting each day from the event as it unfolds. Read on to find out what has happened so far...
We’ve made it! The NOT JUST A LABEL (NJAL) team and 100 of our brightest designers are in Vicenza, Italy, ready for ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS (OPB). Here’s how we got here…
On Wednesday, the NJAL team arrived at the event space. OPB will be hosted in a 15,000sq m purpose built pavilion. We knew it would be brand new, and we knew it would be impressive. But architectural renderings, and even photographs, didn’t prepare us for the real thing.
The venue is vast and gleaming white. Lined up proudly amongst the ladders and boxes of the construction teams, are rows and rows of tall square booths, each one to be filled with the work of an exhibiting designer or manufacturer.
On Thursday, the real action began. Our designers flew in to Italy from as far afield as New Zealand and Beijing. They travelled from the airport to the OPB pavilion (head to twitter to see pictures of the journey!) and got straight to work on their stands.
It has been wonderful to see how our designers have completely transformed their booths – each of which is essentially a big white box – into a shrine to their creativity and skill.
From big black suitcases, a wealth of colours and textures have sprung out, and the bare white walls are no longer. All manner of beautiful ornaments, from flower arrangements, to driftwood, to 3D posters appeared, blossoming around clothing, bags, jewellery and shoes as the designers created their exhibition spaces.
It has been especially inspiring to see how some designers have worked masterfully with unfamiliar resources – eschewing clothing rails, Lara Khoury has installed her collection as a wall hanging, creating a stunning explosion of textiles, for visitors to her booth to marvel at. Anuschka Hoevener too has harnessed unexpected materials brilliantly, suspending a tree branch in mid-air as a delicate clothing display tool.
The stands have become a testament to the resourcefulness of these artists, and the vast array of different styles on show serves as a reminder of the diverse background and different environments that inspire their designs. The NJAL team has loved seeing how surprising and striking the results can be, when our designers are given a blank canvas and tasked with expressing their brand’s identity.
On Thursday the event begins. Going beyond the realm of the conventional trade show, ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS is a space where Italy’s finest artisan manufacturers will collide with the pioneering creative visions of 100 NOT JUST A LABEL designers. Stay tuned to find out what happens when the upcoming and the established, the virtuoso and the innovative, come together under one roof at ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS…
With the event officially opening in the afternoon, the morning saw the designers putting the final touches to their stands. Our Ukrainian unisex brand, Ksenia Schnaider, was unable to fly out to ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS, and for a split second it looked like the event might have an empty stand…
Miraculously, this wasn’t the case. A group of designers, including fellow Ukrainians who had brought some of Ksenia’s pieces to Italy, pulled together and assembled Ksenia Schnaider’s work, working together to create a beautiful display, with the pieces suspended in mid-air (head to Facebook to see the pictures!). It was touching to see our designers work together, to support a member of the group in need – on Ksenia’s behalf, thank you to those who contributed, for your compassion and teamwork.
The exhibitors used today as a chance to get to know one another; relationships are beginning to flourish, and collaborations are already beginning to take shape. A Copenhagen-based brand currently producing in Asia is looking into denim production with Italian manufacturers from OPB, and our leather designers and manufacturers are helping designers in Eastern Europe to locate solutions to issues they face with production.
Sharing expertise and experiences is what OPB is all about – and today’s NOT JUST A LABEL workshop took this to the next level. Happening every afternoon during the trade event, the workshops aim to provide all exhibitors with a space for open dialogue and a platform from which to present their ideas, past projects, start a discussion with their fellow exhibitors, or ask them questions.
Today’s workshop began with a panel discussion on sustainability in fashion. Tara St James of Study NY, Hans from Neemic, and Julia deVille, each shared their unique approaches to sustainable working practices, and the group discussed issues such as how a young designer can actually find sustainable production lines, for example, through using online databases or Fairtrade Certified producers. Vicksit Mehta, head designer at Arvind Mills, (the major textile manufacturer and fourth-largest producer and exporter of denim in the world), offered some enlightening advice on sourcing textiles.
Caterina Occhio, the founder of SeeMe, a brand of jewellery hand produced in Tunisia shared her label’s story –born out of the necessity to provide sheltered working places to the victims of domestic violence, each SeeMe piece is crafted by a team of women trained as artisans, who have suffered a history of abuse.
The designers also discussed shipping internationally – the costs and customs charges involved – and brainstormed ways to make this process more affordable for independent businesses. Designers from Ukraine, Bali and Chile shared their perspectives on what it is like to be based in an emerging fashion market.
The first day of ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS drew to a close as Matteo Marzotto, the President of Fiera di Vicenza, addressed the exhibitors to mark the official opening of the event. The closing words to his speech summed up the atmosphere amongst our OPB designers perfectly: “It is possible. Today all is possible.”
Today it seemed like collaborations, relationships and networks sprung up all around us. Many designers are meeting others based in their own countries – sometimes their cities – for the first time.
Press and buyers showed keen interest in NJAL’s designers, with Vogue, W Magazine, LUISAVIAROMA attending, and in many cases the first steps have been taken towards exciting collaborations in the near future.
Friday’s NJAL workshop was based around film and fashion. We asked our designers to submit films to screen – the response was overwhelming. The 15 films screened included documentaries, fashion films, collection presentations and runway shows.
Erin Lewis, a British designer from Carla Fernandez, Mexico’s largest sustainable fashion brand, showed footage of the women who make the clothes for ‘Taller Flora’, the label’s workshop, which that travels all over Mexico, working closely with hundreds of indigenous artisans.
Copenhagen-based brand Rosa Bryndis presented a collection film of a modern dancer modelling her clothes. Much of the appeal of Rosa’s pieces lies in the way her skirts and trousers hang beautifully on a feminine frame, and the movement of a dancer proved an inspired way to bring the delicate clothing to life on screen.
Julia deVille showed a documentary of herself at work, created by the artist to explain her taxidermy work to children. Johan Ku showed runway footage of a collection that responded to different visual conditions, using glow in the dark fabrics and clever lighting.
Michelle Lowe Holder showed a film film of her collection, based around the idea of a ballerina in a jewel box.
US label Chromat presented a collection movie, filmed partly on VHS, creating an atmospheric grainy effect. London designer Cassandra Verity Green showed the film accompanying her graduate collection ‘Neptune’s Daughter’, inspired by her grandmother’s days as a beauty queen, and featuring backpacks filled with goldfish.
As well as the NJAL workshop, Thursday saw the exhibitors attending conferences organised by Fiera di Vicenza, and presentations promoting the Made in Italy label.
Saturday coincided with the opening of Vicenzaoro, Fiera di Vicenza’s major gold and jewellery fair. ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS welcomed the press, with WWD, the Business of Fashion and Dazed and Confused amongst the attendees.
The designers’ work was documented not only by photography, but by Eleanor Rose Shenton, a London-based illustrator, who created beautiful artworks based on the designs on show (see the images on NJAL’s Facebook).
Saturday’s workshop opened with a presentation from Luigi Bevilacqua, who displayed his luxury Venetian fabrics, created by one of the oldest manufacturers of woven luxury materials in the world.
The workshop then welcomed the Angelo Van Mol, label, a leather shoe manufacturer based in London. Jalil from the brand shared advice on corporate identity, and how young designers can present their brand in a professional and commercially viable way to investors, buyers and businesses. His tips included writing a clear ‘story’ for a brand, and being able to clearly present its five key values.
The Creative Director and Assistant Creative Director from the Basel Institute of Fashion and Design, spoke to the group about fashion education, discussing ‘Doing Fashion’, the school’s unique teaching method, which offers a holistic approach to learning, including physical workshops with the students.
Lara Khoury, representing her eponymous textile label, and Ghita from the jewellery brand Margherita, spoke about working as fashion designers in Lebanon. Lara explained how she has found a solution to problems she faces with delays in production, by giving herself a two month window to deliver major orders, in order to achieve full quality control of her products and ensure deadlines are met.
Ghita makes jewellery from precious metals, and produces all of her pieces within Lebanon. She told the group about the positive experiences she has had working with Lebanon’s Armenian community, who are renowned for their artisan craftsmanship. Both designers acknowledged that the Lebanese domestic market for their goods is small, but that Lebanese designers’ geographical positioning gives them access to a strong luxury client base in the Middle East.
The last day of ORIGIN PASSION & BELIEFS saw the trade event transform into Europe’s largest temporary store, opening its doors to the public and offering them the chance to buy goods directly from the exhibiting designers.
Sunday’s NOT JUST A LABEL workshop began with a presentation from the Bonotto Factory in Northern Italy, which designs and manufacturers fabrics for clients including Chanel and Saint Laurent Paris.
Founded in 1912, the factory now operates a new manufacturing model – the ‘slow factory’ – which reinforces the importance of the handmade, producing less and using only the highest levels of craftsmanship. As part of a new project, the factory is currently looking to work with young independent designers.
Vega Zaishi Wang spoke at the workshop about working as a designer in China. She expressed how China is currently a land of opportunity for independent designers, as its growing middle class are opening up a new market and the taste of the country’s luxury clients is shifting from choosing a product for its logo, to caring more about unique designs and quality of craftsmanship.
The group then heard from Demelza Galica, whose career so far has seen her manage production at Matthew Williamson. She is now the Global Sourcing Manager at Designer – Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC), which assists high-end fashion manufacturers through business support programmes. Demelza answered questions from designers, and offered advice on how to select ethical factories in developing countries, and where to source certain products – for example, Brazil has a strong record on swimwear.
The conversation turned to costing, and issues with pricing that many independent designers face. Artsi from the Marrakech-based label Art/C shared his experience with pricing. His label heavily reduced his price points, finding more affordable production and manufacturers in order to do so, and shared how this has been a wholly positive decision for his brand; making his clothing more accessible, whilst retaining his original luxury clients.
With the retail day proving busy for many brands (it was wonderful to see our Serbian bagmakers Lamat and jeweller Harem Royal in such high demand amongst the shoppers), and the press attending (Vega Zaishi Wang sat down with German Vogue for an interview at the event), ORIGIN ended with a successful day.
Before the stands were dismantled, we sat down with every single one of our designers, to hear their experiences of the event. It was brilliant to hear how important NJAL and ORIGIN have been for giving these independent designers and small businesses a platform for press, retail, networking and support.
Angelo van Mol expressed how the networking opportunities at the event meant they had achieved months of hard work in a matter of days. Especially touching was the feedback that by bringing together 100 designers, many of them have been inspired by one another, and feel more driven than ever to carry on with their work.
100 designers coming together is not an unusual happening at a trade event. However, the feedback from the group was that while designers are brought into the same space at other trade fairs, the atmosphere can be competitive and not supportive. ORIGIN bucked his trend, and united 100 artists as a community, and a family of talented people who despite living at opposite ends of the world, speak the same language and experience the same struggles and triumphs in their work. The importance of knowing you are not alone, for a young artist, cannot be underestimated.
ORIGIN was about changing the status quo. Every single one of these designers was selected because their work offers something new, something different and pioneering to the fashion industry. Never before has there been a trade show in this format, bringing the traditional, local manufacturing of Italy into contact with pioneering young creatives on such a huge scale.
Western jewellery brands have signed contracts with distributors in China; designers have found denim and leather manufacturers in Europe that they have previously struggled to locate; young designers have shared their story with the international press, many for the first time.
NJAL would like to thank every single participating designer, for their passion and belief that together we can turn the tide against fast fashion, to quality craftsmanship and innovative designs, made by real artists. NOT JUST A LABEL’s community of designers will continue to receive our full support, as together we take even bigger steps to revolutionise the future of fashion.