UniCredit S.p.A. Partners Contacts My Pitti
Sustainability at Pitti:
Edition 100
Getting Carried Away With Vitelli x Bonotto

Sustainability at Pitti is a series of interviews that celebrate fashion’s climate-conscious innovators. By providing a platform for the designers that put sustainability at the core of their brand, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

There are few brands truly able to encapsulate the feeling of wanderlust like Vitelli. While many of us have spent the last 18 months dreaming of travel, Mauro Simionato has been turning the desire to wander into clothing, literally knitting it into the seams of his brand’s latest collection, created in collaboration with textile purveyors, Bonotto.
The latest offering, “Overland,” comprises one-of-a-kind pieces that take inspiration from “the Hippie Trail,”  the Eastward route that weaves through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India favored by travelers since the 1950s. “On the trail,” says Simionato, “you did not travel ‘from’ A to B, but ‘between’ A and B: for the hippies of the ‘trail’ in the ’70s, the destination did not matter as much as the experience along the way. [There were two] rules: travel as long as possible, as penniless as possible; "Decolonize" yourself, getting rid of the failed Western customs, to embrace the East, the new world, the Other.” 

Part of this shedding of failed customs has been to confront the vast amount of waste created by the fashion industry. Partnering with Bonotto, the brands worked together to build the collection from deadstock, taking waste yarn from Italian knitwear factories and transforming them into garments using special knitting techniques. 

We recently sat down with Simionato to learn more about this process and how the collaboration came about — find our conversation below. 
How would you describe the Vitelli brand aesthetic? 

Vitelli aesthetic is a constant exercise of reinterpretation and actualization of the original Italian “Cosmic,” a post-hippie club scene born in 1980 in the North-East of the country and somehow pioneering the art of (DJ) mixing through the so-called “Cosmic Sound.”

Can you talk us through the collection you’re showing at Pitti? What’s the story there?

The collection shown at Pitti is a series of one-of-a-kind pieces made in collaboration with Bonotto fabric makers. It was inspired by the Hippie Trail also called “Overland” — the route traveled by hippies since the mid-1950s through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India.

Why did you choose the Overland trail as the point of inspiration for this collection?

The theme of “traveling” was central for the Cosmic scene and still is nowadays, in and out lockdowns and with over-restrictions from all sides. Also on a cultural level, “orientalism” describes a yet occurring condition; we try to engage with the dichotomy West-East as the travelers of the trail did decades ago. 

We start with this tapestry work consisting of three different cartographic representations of the world "as seen from the East," inspired by the maps of Al-Idrisi (1154 AD) and A-Wardi (1076 AD).

You talk of decolonial thought in relation to your collection. How do you consider this while pulling design inspiration from nations and heritages that are not your own? 

For a brand like Vitelli to stimulate the discourse within the community shall be a duty, instead of indulging in trends or hiding behind common taste. 
I believe there can be no association between inspiration and appropriation. It is a matter of intention first, like the travelers of the trail leaving Istanbul towards Iran used to immediately get rid of their clothes and wear like locals, travel with locals, sit and eat with locals, share information, and somehow find a common language without the (immediate) use of money as a currency. We all know there is an unexpected common “world" we can disclose just by talking to each other. 

Humans inspire each other and inform each other. Inspiration is different from ownership and can be unrelated to appropriation. It can even be anti-appropriative [and rather] just informative. By opposing appropriation, we can find ways to communicate, exchange, embrace, evolve, unite, [while] staying in our element can cause a deeper separation, closure, ignorance, opposition, and eventually hatred.
Why did you decide to work with Bonotto? How did the collaboration come about?

Bonotto is not just a fabric maker, on the contrary, it transcends fabric to speak of form, substance, sound. Bonotto's invitation to create from scraps was an opportunity for us to experiment with the needle punching technique, but also to tell a story very dear to Vitelli and to the Italian “Cosmic” imagery that the brand wants to depict. This is why we conceived the collaboration as a common artistic practice. The collaboration will be part of our show during Milan Women's Fashion Week in September. 

Bonotto describes itself as a “slow factory.” What does this mean? 

When you walk into Bonotto facilities you are overwhelmed by two dimensions: the one of machinery, since they own and use weaving looms of all types and ages, even 19th-century ones, and the one of art. [The] Bonotto family [are] art collectors who use the factory as an exhibition gallery. Workers live and create surrounded by art. It’s magic. 
Can you talk us through your production process?

Bonotto gave us access to an archive of so-called “fazzoletti,” the weaving tests produced in small sizes and eventually discarded from production. We created patterns and cut the fabrics meticulously, then felted them with Doomboh (regenerated) panels. The result is a one-piece hybrid panel where fibers almost melt into each other, generating a “mold” effect. The tapestry leftover fabrics and panels were cut and sewn as three hippie vests and three [pairs of] travel shorts; and then from the cut-outs we made three “hoodies,” giving the collection a zero-waste status.

What is important for you when choosing to work with a particular supplier? 

Back to the importance of dialogue: The more you work with a particular supplier, the more you will be observed, understood, and helped. We work with small family-owned labs [that own] the excellence of the “mestiere” but know little of contemporary fashion. So we talk a lot, share as much as possible, give them information and receive information from them. Inspired each other. You cannot do that if you change suppliers every time, or if you don’t talk, express and share.
How do you pair your awareness about the fashion industry’s climate impact with designing and creating new products? 

We start by harvesting yarns from suppliers’ deadstock. What we find is what we will use for creating and producing the entire collection. In such terms, the goal of reclaiming-regenerating-upcycling, etc sets the very base of our creative process and outcomes.

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a designer in regards to creating responsible collections? 

The unique, one-of-a-kind nature of our products —the scarcity, which [is] an aspect of luxury — is easy to support with words but difficult to transform into the business system. 
How do you feel about the industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change do you hope to see?  

I believe we all have the same responsibility but different ways to act towards it. We cannot expect big players to do what we do. If LVMH stops buying new fabrics, fabric suppliers [would be] unemployed and thousands [of] families left in poverty. Still, they must invest in new and more sustainable systems, contribute to changing production processes step by step, season after season, and definitely STOP the “fast-fashion” disaster, starting by producing less and recycling stocks.
Do you have any top tips or words of advice for brands and designers looking to be more responsible in their work? 

I think they should have no choice but to be responsible in everything. I think there should be no more chemicals in any new products — anyone can avoid new productions and upcycle/regenerate instead. I think we can avoid overseas shipments for editorials. We can print less paper, buy daily supplies from local neighborhood shops instead of Amazon, pay attention to waste recycling, use little or no plastic, turn lights off, turn the water off while brushing our teeth, use public transportation or bikes. It’s not only about fashion. 
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