‘Catwalk designer’ and ‘ethically friendly’ are two terms that usually do not go hand-in-hand. As awful as it sounds, doing your bit for the environment or the community rarely scores you fashion brownies points. Using fur and starved models, however, often conversely puts you somewhere near the top of the leader board.
However, there are fashion designers, and successful ones at that, who care about the greater good. Design couple Clements Ribeiro are two such people, working on projects that aim to give something back through upcycling.
A year after their collaboration with Karen Nicol in 2008, an embroidery star who stitches for the likes of Chanel and Marc Jacobs, the team have created the obscurely titled project 3. The inspiration behind the projects was the recycling of ‘rubbish’ materials to make them into something beautiful; surely a key goal and undeniably rewarding challenge for any fashion designer.
The Karen Nicol collection , proved extremely popular on release with its range of delicately embroidered antique cashmere cardigans made from one-of-a-kind lost-and-found fabrics. Garnished with a dash of flower motif and beading, the designs were snapped up by net-a-porter, Dover Street Market and Barneys USA.
From projects 1 to 3, the capsule collections celebrate Clements Ribeiro’s innate eye for design and their unique ability to source materials. Trawling Brick Lane better than Kate Moss, the pair know what they are looking for and how to adapt the found materials into their designs. Handcrafting unique pieces for each collection, there is an undeniable element of fondness and care in their upcycling of individually cherished items.
Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s “objets trouveés”, each piece of found fabric is transformed into works of art. Duchamp’s theory of modern art rested on the claim that artists project meaning onto the found object giving it validity as an art object. Clements Ribeiro’s collection however, is artistic in its own right without the imposition of meaning. If any meaning were to be enforced, it would presumably be to encourage the reusing of the past to secure a healthier sustainable future.
A fashion compost heap if you like. On the other slightly less in-depth, artistic-spieled hand, the designers green concerns are apparent, through their use of good old fashioned recycling.
The second project capsule favoured the use of antique lace and luxury Italian knits, the pair had a lot to live up to with number 3. An ambitious project, with slim fit, v-neck dresses constructed half and half from brocade skirts and sequin busts. Each dress features the same simple shape but in a rich variety of fabrics and colours. Aptly termed ‘collage dresses’ these works of art combine radically different skirts and tops to produce a dress, which as the project code name suggests are “Half & Half”.
These limited pieces are available from Matches and Couture Lab in the not too distant future. If you are to invest in a single piece this season, try Clements Ribeiro’s project 3 and show your support for innovative ethical fashion.
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