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ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE – HOW FASHION CAN HELP REDUCE OCEAN POLLUTION WITH PASQUALE LAURIOLA

Pasquale Lauriola

November, 6th 2020

The ocean is in crisis. And so is our society. Italian fashion designer, Pasquale Lauriola, is tackling the exigent global issues of plastic pollution and constraining gender labels head on with his innovative and research-driven collection of bomber jackets.

Words By Alessandra Di Perna

Pasquale Lauriola might be at the earliest stage of his designer career, but he already has a crystal clear vision of his values and goals. In a candid interview, the Italian fashion designer opens up to Staiy about how he approaches the fashion world with a distinctive – and sustainable – twist. “I have always been attracted by beauty in general,” Lauriola starts, breaking the ice. “This passion drove me to study Fashion Design at university in Naples, and everything took off from there.”

It may seem like the same old story of a young, fashion victim who suddenly awakens to the dark side of the industry, but Lauriola’s story is anything but. His interest in sustainability was already firmly rooted during the preparation of his first collection, developed as part of his graduation project. Here, he designed dresses made from leftover hems and other deadstock stitched together adopting a patchwork technique.

Following his calling, Lauriola went on to complete a Master’s degree in sustainable fashion, leading him on to his collaboration with Maneco. Proving to be an enlightening experience, Lauriola had the chance to delve deeper into this relatively new side of the industry. It taught him how to work with organic textiles like cotton and other lesser known organic fibers, such as hemp and nettle.

Living in the Italian peninsula surrounded by the sea has been Lauriola’s greatest source of inspiration for his most recent project: tackling the ocean’s devastating levels of pollution. Drawing on concepts by a leading brand in sustainable fashion, EcoHalf, he designs bomber jackets fabricated from 100% recycled plastic collected from the sea. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, with this volume equating to around 80% of the oceans’ debris. Whilst a mortifying fraction of this waste can be fatal to marine species who ingest plastic residuals, the remaining waste ends up on beaches, accumulates in seabed sediments, or remains floating at the surface, creating the appalling plastic waves famous on social media.

“Standard bomber jackets are already an issue in themselves: the production of duck feathers, praised for their ability to keep our bodies warm, often imply the killing of the animal itself,” Lauriola remarks, going on to explain that the process feathers undergo involves the use of chemicals that further contribute to industrial wastes. “Data shows that nowadays, PET shares many of the same characteristics as duck feathers. Despite being perceived as less luxurious, it is a breathable material and keeps the body at a steady temperature.”

Courtesy of Pasquale Lauriola

Durability is the keyword from which Lauriola conceptualised and developed his About Climate Change – nogender capsule collection. He explains that “I wanted to create something from existing materials that could be further reused once my design comes to an end. When a designer wants to be sustainable, he has to plan every little detail of his creation: a button may cause the whole product to not be discarded and recycled properly.”

Courtesy of Pasquale Lauriola

Courtesy of Pasquale Lauriola

According to the designer, “Companies must pay attention to each step of the production chain to ensure its sustainability. Nowadays, it is easy to find a collection labelled as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘sustainable’, only to discover that a very small percentage of the fabrics used are from recycled materials. Where does the process stand? What about the rest? Whilst most firms have chosen a more sustainable direction, this is not enough. We are running out of time.” Of course, Lauriola acknowledges the challenges that companies face, having struggled himself as a student and young designer with no external financial investments. He explains that “Sourcing and purchasing natural and eco-friendly fabrics is the hardest part. The prices are affordable only for giants like Adidas or Stella McCartney, who have made sustainability a key part of their brand image, and can therefore afford high volume purchases without impacting their profit margins.”

Lauriola admits he perhaps holds more faith in the customer side of the market. He believes consumers will be the main driver for this desperately needed shift to a greener fashion industry: “There has been a great increase in the consumer demand for sustainability, especially now thanks to the new LOHAS [Life of Health and Sustainability] consumers. This market group which is growing among the Gen-Z and Millennials, and is seeking greener, more organic offerings from companies that adopt a more holistic approach to creating their products.”

Lauriola’s collection is innovative not only in terms of the fabrics and techniques used, but in how it tackles one of the world’s most pervasive social issues of today: gender identity. The standardization of body types and the predefined labels we are assigned to are being challenged. With his nogender project, Lauriola is taking a step towards liberating those from society’s confining ‘norms’. Freedom should be synonymous with human existence, and the clothes one wears cannot contribute to the freedom of expressing one’s identity if they retain such labels. In describing his project, Lauriola notes that the collection currently only comprises prototypes and is limited to his Master’s project and that the pieces are not intended to be sold to the public. Rather, they embody the utmost expression of an intense and dedicated project thesis extending the frontiers of research in sustainability, design and fashion. However, such a collection could very well be a starting point for the development of an actual, marketed, avant-garde collection. Staiy most certainly has its fingers crossed for this one!