CULTURE CRUSH: Not Just A Label, the e-commerce and editorial platform for emerging design talent from around the world, and Italian company Alcantara are staging a joint show called “Made In Italy, Designed In Britain” at Protein Studios in East London.
The show features one-of-a-kind artworks by 10 U.K.-based designers. It marks the culmination of a project that asked designers to construct bespoke artworks created from Alcantara’s material, a synthetic leather that uses the brand’s proprietary technology.
Alcantara materials are often used in the automotive and aerospace industries due to their non-flammable properties. The company supplies the interiors for Formula 1 cars like Ferrari.
The designers — Sadie Clayton, Per Hansson, Martine Jarlgaard, Kay Kwok, Lazerian, Mai-Gidah, Cat Potter, Qi, Fannie Schiavoni and Jule Waibel — were chosen for their innovative approach to materials which often come from outside the traditional fashion spectrum, according to Stefan Siegel, the founder and chief executive officer of Not Just A Label.
The 10, who earlier this year visited the Alcantara production plant in Italy’s Umbria region and its headquarters in Milan, were challenged to create a product fashioned from the company’s portfolio of materials.
“It is really interesting how fashion can innovate by learning from other sectors as well,” said Siegel, adding that his company also organizes an annual event in Italy “where we bring together designers and manufactures so they can cross-pollinate.”
Known for her chain mail designs, Schiavoni was drawn to the suedelike feel of the fabric. She riffed on her fall collection, which includes an acrylic mesh dress worn by Rihanna in a recent campaign for Puma. She fashioned the Alcantara material into a bag encased in this signature mesh.
Hopkins of the digital design practice Lazerian said he was inspired by the factory processes used to create Alcantara. His dramatic architectural “cage dress” features pieces of the material joined using tubular rivets and eyelets.
The Swedish designer Hansson, who is currently studying for a master’s degree in men’s wear at London’s Royal College of Art, worked with the fabric in thread form, using it to create a crocheted tabard in a pattern inspired by Def Metal graphics.
Jarlgaard created a two-piece outfit with asymmetric shoulder detail. “The texture reminded me of cracked porcelain and the Japanese technique of painting a golden line over the faults to highlight them,” she said. Her label, with its strong focus on sustainability, will stage its debut in a digital presentation during London Fashion Week in September.
The show will be open until the middle of this week, and Siegel already has plans for his next collaboration: “It will be with the construction sector,” he said, noting “the industry has spawned materials with similar properties to those traditionally used in fashion — but which are infinitely cheaper.”
In the current climate though, no talk of an Anglo-Italian collaboration would be complete without a reference to Brexit.
“Time will tell,” said Andrea Boragno, the ceo of Alcantara. “We have very important partners here in England like Aston Martin, McLaren and Bentley, so we will do our best to support them. I hope that intelligence will prevail.”