Interview with Social Chic: An Italian Slow Fashion Organization

Julia Cappucci and Mariel Baquedano recorded a video introducing themselves and asking the following questions. With the help of Elena Giulia, the answers were translated into English and they expand on Social Chic’s impact on slow fashion. Michael Tondini, the current designer of the organization, was kind enough to thoughtfully respond to our questions. Below are the questions with parts of the answers (Julia compressed them so it is easier and more efficient for the reader to learn about Social Chic). Below the interview, you can find pictures of clothing items and more information about Social Chic.

 

Q1: Can you explain the background of your organization and why do you find the values of the organization important? Who do you consider the organization to be a resource for?

A1: “Social Chic was founded as part of “Case Zanardi”, a project created by the city of Bologna in 2013, with the aim of fighting ‘new poverty’…after receiving a large donation of fabric and clothes, we decided to follow our desire to experiment and start new projects – and this is how Social Chic was founded. Social Chic is a tailoring laboratory where men and women, Italians and migrants, who come from the ‘weaker sections’ (economically and socially) of the population, can find a second chance.”

 

Q2: Did any of the founding employees who work for Social Chic come from the same background of those they are trying to help?

A2: “No, none of the founding members/employees comes from a difficult background – but they all have a multi-year experience in the MondoDonna network. Irina Biafore, the coordinator of Social Chic, is the daughter of the president of MondoDonna, so she’s very familiar with social working. She is in charge of the group homes run by MondoDonna.”

 

Q3: How does Social Chic reach out to people?

A3: “It’s a complicated process. Most of the people who end up working here are people recommended to us by MondoDonna… MondoDonna is also in contact with regional and European programs…and works with other similar organizations, so there are also people that don’t come directly from MondoDonna.”

 

Q4: Could you explain the training process? Also, how long does it take to train people?

A4: “The people who work at the atelier already have some tailoring experience, so there is no ‘training’ required.”

 

Q5: How does Social Chic prepare people to enter the fashion industry, potentially outside of the organization?

A5: “The main strength of Social Chic is its “artisan soul”: this is a real atelier, where a fashion designer, a model maker and tailors work closely together to create unique and handmade clothes. Each item is handcrafted by our team, starting from the sketch, then paper pattern, to the final “packaging” of the product – in opposition to the general fashion industry, that mostly creates mass-produced items/clothing produced in series. Social Chic also stands out because it’s a sartorial laboratory that promotes social inclusion, and represents an example of ethical fashion.”

 

Q6: How long do people who are hired by Social Chic stay with the organization?

A6:”…We aim to maintain permanent employees… having a permanent team makes working with fashion brands and clients easier, as we are quicker, more efficient, etc. in creating high quality products... aim is to create new connections and partnerships, to slowly but steadily grow as a tailoring studio, so that they can hire more and more people, while of course keeping their current employees with us – and ideally, move to a bigger laboratory. Right now, because of the Covid and the limited space they have, they can’t afford to do that. As of now, there are six people working at Social Chic.”

 

Q7: What are some stories/journeys of people who have trained with Social Chic?

A7: “One of the most ‘successful’ journeys was probably Omar’s. Omar is an African young man who started working at Social Chic 4 years ago. We consider this a success because we helped him to valorize his tailoring skills and to bring them up to the ‘Made in Italy’ standard.”

 

Q8: Are there any other places that would be good references for us, other than the website, to learn about Social Chic?

A8: “Any information on Social Chic can only be found on our website for now, but we post regularly on our social media and show our daily progress and work. Instagram @socialchicdesign Facebook @socialchicdesign.”

 

END OF INTERVIEW.

 

Social Chic Design merges Bologna’s local fashion industry with social activism. By bringing together underrepresented groups to work in the fashion industry, Social Chic aims to provide a creative environment to produce new collections from recycled resources in the tradition of slow fashion.

The slow fashion movement is a response to the wastefulness of fashion’s mass production – also knowns as fast fashion. Slow fashion seeks to “identify sustainable fashion solutions, based on the repositioning of strategies of design, production, consumption, use, and reuse…” (Clark 428) Social Chic has incorporated the idea of slow fashion and sustainability into their organization in several ways. The first is their emphasis on “artisan soul”. The main strength of Social Chic is its “artisan soul”: this is a real atelier, where a fashion designer, a model maker and tailors work closely together to create unique and handmade clothes. Each item is handcrafted by our team, starting from the sketch, then paper pattern, to the final “packaging” of the product – in opposition to the general fashion industry, that mostly creates mass-produced items/clothing produced in series.

Example of Social Chic Design

Courtesy of Social Chic Instagram (@socialchicdesign)

Social Chic accepts donations of fabric, clothing from fashion brands, sewing machines and more. Michael Tondini, the current stylist and designer of Social Chic, notes that, “Using recycled or stock fabric is also a way to show that you can still create something beautiful out of something that has already been used or that would normally be thrown away.” Social Chic strives to create high quality items for their consumers while using recycled materials. By using these recycled materials, the tailors can extend the life of the garments by either patching them or creating a brand-new design.

Example of Social Chic Design

Courtesy of Social Chic Instagram (@socialchicdesign)

Another way Social Chic has incorporated sustainability into the organization is by using local resources. These local resources can be anything from the materials used to create the product to the people themselves. Not only are the donations Social Chic frequently receives found locally, but so are those who work in the organization as designers and tailors. Local production helps the local economy. A major aspect to the slow fashion movement is using local resources and materials. By partnering with MondoDonna, Social Chic provides an opportunity for those who are skilled in designing and tailoring to take part in creating their own collection.

Example of Social Chic Design

Courtesy of Social Chic Instagram (@socialchicdesign)

Unlike fast fashion, by practicing slow fashion, Social Chic produces only a limited number of the same pieces when creating their collections. This allows Social Chic to limit the amount of waste they produce. Producing minimal waste is a fundamental value to the organization. Their designers and tailors are able to focus on the fine details of their designs. They are also able to create collections that are culturally significant to their community compared to collections that are mass produced by fast fashion brands.

As much as this good effort looks to create sustainability through the reduction of waste of materials, it is as importantly creating an entry into the fashion industry for the local skilled workers and recent arrivals in Bologna who have not traditionally been part of the high-end fashion industry.

 

Clark, Hazel. “SLOW + FASHION–an Oxymoron–or a Promise for the Future…?” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body &

Culture, vol. 12, no. 4, Dec. 2008, pp. 427–446. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2752/175174108X346922.

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