issue #18: whatever it takes
Caleido interviews Simone Botte (designer) and Filippo Leone Maria Biraghi (brand coordinator) of Simon Cracker brand. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here.
Diary of: @simoncracker
1. Simon Cracker – the name of the brand formed by the duo Simone Botte (designer) and Filippo Leone Maria Biraghi (brand coordinator) – originates from the onomatopoeic sound “crack”, which evokes destruction. Why is it precisely from destruction that something new can be born?
Metaphorically, it is the story of the phoenix rising from the ashes, but to be more pragmatic, every revolution is born out of the negation of what came before, especially in fashion and visual communication expressions in general, thus enacting a “destructive” process. The “rubble” is fertile ground and anything new, to be truly considered as such, should “break” what has preceded it.
2. Your work has to do with reuse. Where did this passion come from and what was an event that gave you this input?
More than a passion, it all stemmed from a teaching. Simone’s grandfather taught him from an early age not to throw objects away but rather to take them apart and reassemble them to understand how they were made and to try to give them a second chance. From a more fashion-related point of view, the arrival of Martin Margiela in the late 1980s, with his poor, recycled aesthetic of one-off garments made from vintage, was a kind of “epiphany”.
3. Most of the time we imagine fabric waste as clothing discarded by consumers. However, perfectly good rolls of fabric unused by companies represent a significant part of the waste, which can be a valuable resource. Can you tell us how your sourcing and creation takes place?
It is well known to all that fashion is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and this has not only to do with fast-fashion, but with the “over-productive” system put in place by brands to keep feeding “desire”. We, partly by necessity, but mostly by choice, have decided to move differently: we want to work with what others no longer need or want to get rid of. Depending on the “theme” of the collection, we start a search among stockpiles, garments that have never been collected from laundries, and especially Emmaus, a movement founded in 1949 to fight against poverty in the world, which we support by buying used garments in stock. The creative aspect is therefore often driven by the materials we find, considering that for us “throw nothing away” is a law!
4. Textile is historically a mirror of the geo-political situation of society: precious and therefore limited in times of war, conversely used in abundance as a symbol of opulence in times of economic expansion. You, Filippo Leone Maria, who has a “textile thermometer”, at what point in time are we?
The current moment is extremely chaotic: we live in the era of “everything is worth everything” (and, paradoxically, nothing is worth anything), with a geo-political and social situation that offers no certainty or way forward. We try to pay a lot of attention to the sustainability of new fabrics, experimenting with the recycling of polluting materials, but very often the technology required drives up the price of these new raw materials out of all proportion. I believe we are at a turning point, where a rethink on the whole system is not only necessary, but indispensable. Today, everyone knows the price of everything but the value of nothing: education for a perhaps less but more conscious consumption is the way forward.
5. What are 5 profiles on Instagram that you suggest we follow to raise awareness of reuse?
The issue with Instagram, as with all social media, is the extreme superficiality and “volatility” of the information that can be obtained. The nature of social media is unfortunately not to educate, but to appear, and sustainability is simply one of many topics. We admire realities that have to do with exchange, barter, km 0 and craftsmanship, which often don’t even have an Instagram profile.
Considering this, definitely @emmaus_alternatives, and on the more immediate communicative side @katharinehamnett, a designer who has always been really committed to human rights and sustainable fashion, and @nokiofficial, the pioneer of “sartorial sabotage” who has been upcycling, one-offs and customisation since the early 1990s.
6. There are those who argue that rapid design cycles based on limited product supply, such as those of low-cost chains, could minimise the overestimation of demand and stock, and thus limit inventories. What do you think? What is your solution to limit the waste you generate?
Every production, of whatever kind, creates waste that is more or less harmful and polluting but still present. One of the big problems in fashion today is stock (the unsold). Our project for Simon Cracker is precisely to turn a weak point into a resource: our upcycling project is in fact about using existing and “discarded” raw materials (be they ready-made clothes or fabrics). We try to create as little waste as possible: in the little dictionary we wrote to tell the key words of Simon Cracker’s DNA, there is also the term “end of the day”, i.e. the creation from other garments using the scraps of a day’s work. To quote a “peasant” saying Simon Cracker is like the pig: you don’t throw anything away!
7. Then there is the design component: the creative process often begins in a blank notebook in which the unconstrained artistic vision comes first. The fabric is then cut to fit the vision. How, on the other hand, does Simone see the possibility of a design that focuses on minimising the use of fabric? Would that be too great a constraint for a designer? Are they a replacement for the dear old activist road marches?
The working method Simone uses is guided by two currents: one is definitely the creative and “storytelling” current in the strict sense: we are inspired by suggestions, objects, films, books and images which then become a state of mind that forms the foundation of a collection. The second, equally important current is the sourcing of raw materials. We have created a network of sources of materials and finished garments with which we can direct research, as for example happened with the “On the horns of the moon” collection, which was a reflection on femininity concretised by the wedding dress, which continues to be one of the most important garments in a woman’s life. From this, very specific research on this type of dress began. The raw material and the “story” of a collection are equally important to us.
8. Which relationship do you have with the past and nostalgia?
Despite our first answer, where we spoke of the past as something to be destroyed in order to create something different, for us memory, memories, and knowledge of the past are an inexhaustible and endless source of inspiration. The past and our stories make us who we are today: there is no getting away from that. Awareness of the past also creates a strong basis on which to create new stories. Nostalgia – in the sense of missing something that is no longer there – we try to consider it less: the past is the past, a great resource but unrepeatable. If you look too far back, you are looking in the wrong direction.
9. A claim that speaks volumes about your work is “Be punk, be kind!”, which opens the way to an anti-conformism achieved through gentle ways (instead of confrontation). In the society in which we live, is this road really possible? Can you tell us about your experience in this regard?
“Punkindness” is perhaps the most important word in Simon Cracker’s little dictionary. We have discovered by working together that we have a different idea of punk from the stereotype everyone has in their minds about the most disruptive of all youth subcultures: in the world we live in today, it’s much more of a pain to say “Thank you” than “Fuck you”. We and the people around us, the Cracker Crew, are punks in the truest sense of the word (without a uniform, thinking outside the box, celebrating individualism, divergent thinking, non-conformity, and the communion of a certain way of understanding life). Our latest collection was made based on this, the help we got from the people involved came through a kindness of spirit that we share: we want to get as far away as possible from the whimsical, drama-creating, unnecessarily hierarchical idea of fashion that many people have. We like to make people feel comfortable, entertain them and allow them to enjoy the experience they share with Simon Cracker.
10. What is an object in your home that you would never go without? What is the memory attached to it? Would you send us a photo taken by you?
We like to look for objects from the most disparate sources, which change from time to time and become the amulets and symbols of our mood related to the projects we are working on. When we started working together, I gave Simone an old doll of a boy dressed in clothes that could have been created by him. He gave me a puppet of a pirate, a figure that has always stimulated my imagination. The wayfarer and the pirate, without knowing exactly which is which, and both found in flea markets, have become the emblem of a new course, this time by four hands, of the brand.