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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? The bronzed, smiling men? Sumptuous food and wine? Or ancient history and art?
You may not think of ‘sustainable fashion’ yet, but designer Tiziano Guardini may soon change that. His perception of Italy focuses on two main elements: the beauty of the natural environment, and one of the country’s biggest industries, fashion. He tapped into these themes in recent exhibitions where he has shown, namely as part of The Elegance of Food: Tales about Food and Fashion, shown at the Art Space in the Chelsea market,at the Summer Fancy Food Show, at magnificent spaces of the Museum of the Mercati Traiani in Rome, and at the Milan Expo in 2015.
Taking a cue from countryman Salvatore Ferragamo, who was a pioneer in the use of natural materials such as cork, raffia and hemp, Guardini uses simple, natural materials in his eco collections, such as pinecones and pine bark, used to create ‘couture’ dresses; raffa crochet, turned into ‘fringed’ handbags, and liquorice root to create women’s wear.
But what really stands out for us is his use of what he calls “Aimsha” or “Gandhy Silk.” This vegan-friendly peace silk comes from the Himalayas and is obtained only once the silkworm larva had completed its metamorphosis “producing a thread with an irregular effect.” If you touched the diaphanous lightness of the material, it feels like brushing your fingertips upon the wings of a butterfly, so no wonder the collection is called “Three Days to Butterfly.”
Guardini has used this silk to create a summer collection comprised of skirts, blouses, trousers, jackets, shorts and a maxi dress. This is not his first foray into the world of alternative silks; he has also created a full monochrome collection of ready to wear summer clothing for women using the soya fibres spun into a silky material. But ‘Three Days to Butterfly’ is something even more exquisite.
What really stood out for me are the glamourous shaggy coats: these are personal favourites, and I would like to see this material used more often to replace the Mongolian lambswool that is normally used for such garments. Guardini has proven this is a far more sustainable, lightweight and beautiful textile, as well as being cruelty-free. With his eco-friendly yet high fashion approach to dressing, this young Italian designer truly does have the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry in his native land. Who knows: with designers like Guardini breaking ground, one day when asked what people think when they imagine Italy, ‘sustainability’ may also come to mind.