For the opening of Paris’ COP21, the biggest worldwide conference dedicated to the future of our planet, gathering the Head of States of our planet, we wanted to introduce you to a very talented young fashion designer. Half Belgian and half Lebanese, Mayya Saliba conducted a reflexion on the role of fashion in the alarming state of our planet, as part of her Master’ degree in ‘Sustainability in Fashion’ at ESMOD Berlin.
After she completed two bachelors, in Fashion design (ESMOD Beirut, 2006) and Graphic design & communication (Lebanese University, 2011), Mayya recently obtained the ‘Sustainability in Fashion’ Master Degree (2014/2015) from ESMOD Berlin – International University of art for fashion. As part of the program, she developed a very intriguing project: Sustainability & other stories.
She was invited to the Amsterdam Fashion Academy to present her critical study “Capitalism and sustainability: A mass seduction” as part of the Symposium Sustainable Fashion in Amsterdam (May 2015). Her study was published in October 2015 in the Amsterdam Fashion Academy White paper. In November 2015, Mayya received a Mentorship Award from Hendrik Heuermann, H&M sustainability manager, Germany, for outstanding performance in the international Masters Programme – Sustainability in Fashion – 2014/2015.
Capitalism and mass consumption, whether it is virtuous or not, is the system spreading worldwide with the help of fierce marketing and new technologies. Design defines our life styles, our values our cities infrastructures and the relation to our environment sold by the surrounding system we live in with intensive campaigns, manipulating our every desire and thought. Taken in this context the design definition cannot be minimized to a politically neutral aesthetic of design as a taste. The fashion industry is one of the biggest industries worldwide, one of the most polluting, wasteful and cruel, companies have a responsibility and they can become leaders for change.
“Sustainability and other stories” examines how circular economy could be a solution for the paradox of fast fashion and sustainability by being induced, opening the way to democratic sustainability. In order to determine the right stakeholders, the study discusses the political role of design and explores the link between consumption, human behavior and social pressure in the context of a globalized capitalistic world.
There is a clear business case for fashion to lean towards circular economy; it lies in a simple business durability dilemma. As a case study, with the sponsorship of multiple innovative companies (Cocccon, Lauffenmuehle, Zignone, and Climatex), she developed a capsule collection with a Cradle-to-Cradle, Waste is food optic tackling different pillars of circular economy: zero-waste, recyclable, mono-material, compostable, by-product, non-violent organic silk, alongside water based prints to show case how sustainable strategies can become a business strategy. The aesthetic of the collection was inspired by the 1920’s feminist movement art-déco, which represents a time of change and the search for a new equilibrium.
Mainstream and capitalism absorb clashing ideas and diminish their values by creating a homogenous structured world, an “arranged diversity”. It is therefor crucial for sustainable fashion to find its place in the capitalistic system and to learn how to engage with a mass, in order for it to expand rapidly.
The film relives iconic moments of change and consumerism (Andy Warhol eating a burger / burger king, Anna Pavlova from the 1920’s. It was shot in the area where the electrical industrialization/revolution took place in Europe.
ITW | how can we imagine a cleaner fashion industry?
We grabbed the opportunity to ask her a few questions about this great project, and about the program she studied at ESMOD Berlin, since sustainable fashion is not always the sexiest thing in the fashion industry, we’re happy to see such programs do exist.
Futur 404: Hi Mayya, thank you for your time. Please tell us more about you, how did you come to enter the Sustainability in Fashion program at ESMOD Berlin?
Mayya Saliba: Alongside working as a designer, my drive towards ethical and social fields lead me to conduct workshops with various NGOS in Beirut, I worked as a teacher and in the social field for years, using art as a tool for child development and personal growth. I was always interested in the psychosocial reasons behind human behavior and questioning the role of art and design today; the political stand it can accomplish. ESMOD Berlin’s Master program seemed like a perfect continuation for my mixed professional background, it allowed me to go deeper into the political aspect of design and sustainable standards.
F404: So for your graduation project, you did a research on how sustainable fashion could engage with the mass. What was your approach? When there is no WW scale legislation to regulate the fashion industry, how do you think people can make an impact to make things change in the industry?
“I have no friends, I only have accomplices now. On the other hand, my accomplices are more numerous than my friends: they are the human race” (Albert Camus, The Fall, 1956). “Sustainability and other stories” is the result of a deep believe that in order to create change we need to understand the motivations behind human behaviors and be realistic about the overall context. Acknowledging and accepting a situation to find better solutions is comparable to gathering all the data to a mathematical equation in order to solve it. The long-term vision of the project is to place sustainability as a normality of our everyday life. Coming from this point, it wasn’t hard to notice which fashion segment takes part of our daily lives, which kind of brands would be found in every household, around the globe. As a true fan of “fashion for all”, it only made sense to start a study that would constitute a starting point to democratic sustainability. Capitalism and mass consumption is part of our every day lives. Assessing the right tools to deal with the structure in place and to deal with a worldwide market is crucial. Today, money means power. When no international regulations are implemented, companies and lobbies are the rule setters. For sustainable values to be entirely normalized, sustainable strategies need to talk money. With a marketing focus, this project went from a critical analysis on human nature and behavior, which set the tone to depict the tools that could be useful to engage with a mass, to looking into circular economy as a possible argument for mass market to induce sustainability, without altering aesthetics and direction.
F404: You focused on the circular economy in your research, how do you think this concept could also help the fashion industry be more responsible, and us consumers as well?
“Sustainability and other stories” goes further into the consumer’s perspective on sustainability. Besides explaining the marketing tools high street utilizes, I went in depth into the different ways to convince a worldwide market, and use these same tactics working on all of us by the capitalistic system, to work for us, through a “mass seduction”/manipulation. In conclusion I introduced my idea of inducing sustainability, rather than imposing it. I am talking about a B2B level. The reality is, purchasing decisions are based on two key drivers: design and price, which are prioritized over social and environmental ethics. To acknowledge this part of the standard consumer behavior is the first step towards finding a solution, by accepting that so far sustainable fashion has been a niche-market and is unlikely to move forward into being normalized any time soon. When shopping for environmentally friendly products, more consumers read labels as they buy food or infant care products than when they purchase apparel. The consumers perceive fast fashion and sustainability as an unlikely match. Based on the critical study, the consumers’ perspective research, and the poor amount of laws concerning sustainable and ethical values, it seems clear our role is to also determine the rules of the game. If consumers are influenced by the governments and the companies (the whole capitalistic system), if the governments are influenced by the companies, acknowledging the huge amount of money this industry brings, the responsibility lies mostly on the companies to create a drastic change. It relies on us as experts in the fields to find the right arguments to convince, the right words to elaborate and the right marketing strategies to communicate. In fashion-land, the high street segment seems to be the most eligible conductor for reaching a mass, worldwide. International mass-market companies are experts in introducing their values, their lifestyle; their marketing strategies are flawless when it comes to understanding and translating the consumers’ needs. Mass-market business model works and continues to expand exponentially. The main question is: how to solve the imminent paradox between fast fashion and sustainability? Which could be the arguments to convince high street fashion brands to adopt deeper sustainable values when the current system is profitable? The financial aspect being the core driver, how to turn sustainable strategies into successful business strategies? How to get the companies’ input, back? Convincing mass-market giants that giving back the resources to nature is a viable business model might sound tricky. The circular economy could imply a long-term investment, into the planet, the people, the business and the consumers. From a consumer’s perspective, the creation of a conscious line with innovative materials but under the same fierce marketing approach would arise curiosity, create a buzz. The current marketing strategy could be reinforced with more emphasis on the events and social aspect, which could set the brand ahead of the growing competition.
F404: Please tell us more about the collection, the materials you used to create it…
The most common approach to tackling waste from the textile life cycle is to implement waste management strategies known as the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The Cradle-to-Cradle founding principle of compostable textiles is to turn waste into “food”/nutrients to the earth; which constitutes in some form a “reuse” statement. From a sustainable, waste management perspective the transition from a linear to a circular economy is necessary. A circular economy requires innovation of material and product reuse, as well as related business models. Radical change can happen with drastic measures and brutal revolution. What I am proposing is a Trojan horse, with the use of “Soft power” (Joseph Nye’s concept, Harvard University), seduction; by inducing profound sustainable standards through circular economy, alongside the same marketing strategy. I designed each garment according to its end-life, considering every component to organize accordingly.
Design for circularity
- Zero-waste: I used the whole piece of silk, without adding unnecessary pieces.
- Compostable: all the materials forming the same item were a mix of compostable,
- Mono-material: I found mono-material designing to be efficient when aligned with circular economy. It makes the process of recycling or composting quicker, and therefor more efficient, on a logistic, time and business aspect.
- Easy to disassemble: Each piece was meticulously thought of to be easy to separate from the inserts for recycling and composting purpose.
Materials & treatment solutions
- Cradle-to Cradle / Waste = food
- GOTS certified
- Pineapple leaves leather
- Organic non-violent silk (worms are not killed)/cotton/wool
- 70 % depolymerisable / 30% compostable
While circular economy does not necessarily consider the material’s health, the Cradle-to Cradle optic was created for humans and the environment. The capsule collection I designed offers different levels of circular economy with an ambition to move towards Cradle-to Cradle and giving the resources back to the earth. The idea would be to stop disassociating the people with the planet. When we give back the resources, we are giving back to ourselves, as we are allowing the natural raw materials to grow again.
Models: Sayo SHIBA, Sarah SEINI, Clara SCHUBERT
Photographer: Roland KUNOS
Models: Sayo SHIBA, Sarah SEINI, Amelie ZWEYER
Make-up: Angelique WALTENBERG
DOP: Kaspar KÖPKE
Concept, Direction & Post Production: Mayya SALIBA
Song: STEREO TOTAL – BABY REVOLUTION.