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Artisan crafts and digitalization … or how to make a better world

What do we mean exactly when we talk about slow fashion or sustainable fashion? Both concepts have become fashion’s mantra, guests to all speeches, parsley to all sauces … Both are so over used, and in too many occasions so in vain or in such an empty way, that, sometimes, we fear that they will end up losing all their content; and yet, that banal approach is not something we can afford, unless we want our planet to have an apocalyptic future shaped in the manner of Mad Max.

Precisely during last week I was able to witness two ways of approaching sustainability in its full and deepest sense, being two ways of doing so that, though they might seem in principle very remote, are similar and complementary.

I refer on the one hand to Helena Rohner and her 3D jewellery pieces made in collaboration with Comme des Machines, and on the other to the presentation of an artistic collection of bodies by Leandro Cano created by eight different artisans.

In the first case, that of Rohner and Comme des Machines, jewellery design and digital printing have been twinned in an exemplary collaboration in several ways: because they link crafts and digitalization; because they apply new materials to traditional trades and, last but not at least, because the non-generation of waste is one of the pillars of their creations.

Helena Rohner, a jewellery designer with 25 years of trade behind her, is manufacturing most of her current production in PLA, a biodegradable plant biopolymer made with dextrose (sugar) and from products such as corn, beets or wheat. These jewels, as visually delicate as ever, are “printed” by the Biscay company Comme des Machines, pioneers in 3D printing applied to fashion design, and who have collaborated with other young fashion creators such as Palomo Spain or Moisés Nieto. This way of producing is flexible, fast, allows customization and does not generate stocks, since it does not require minimum purchase of parts. As Carmen Mañana analyses in a recent article, “together they will champion what is termed as digital crafts, an alternative for the future – in terms of sustainability and business – that, in their hands and machines, has proven to have both creative and commercial potential”.

In Leandro Cano’s case, his intention is to bring the beauty, skill and modernity of traditional crafts to the forefront. The 8 bodies that he has just presented at the Spanish embassy in Paris to the international press are reinterpretations of his work carried out by esparto, ceramics, embroidery, macrame, knitt or wool artisan craftsmen. From Úbeda, Cádiz, Jaén or La Rioja, through Galicia or the Basque Country, these pieces are in themselves a journey through the best Spanish crafts, and have been made mostly by young professionals. The result is rabidly modern even if they have been done in the traditional way. The artisan’s hand is the basis of these creations. For Leandro, “it is a declaration of intent and a call to the world for the impetuous need for conservation and broadcasting of what I consider is a part of the Heritage of Spain”.

With their way of working, both Helena and Leandro understand fashion and its processes in the same sense, that in which sustainability, wisdom of the trades, personalized pieces and thoughtful consumption contribute decisively to create a better and more humane world. Fashion has a lot of responsibility and a lot to say on all these issues.

Photos: Juan Jerez y Juan Carlos de Marcos