Ilaria Fendi: Up-cycled Accessories & Organic Farming
One of five sisters in the Italian Fendi fashion empire, Ilaria Venturini Fendi— who spends much of her time these days at I Casali del Pino, the organic farm she owns in northern Rome—has taken a stark departure from the world of haute couture into which she was born. Several years ago, Fendi launched Carmina Campus (“chants of the field”), a line of accessories made from up-cycled materials. In her eco-chic line of handbags and jewels, Fendi uses everything from repurposed airplane cushions to marine rope to safari tents, to create fashion-forward pieces that sell from about $250 to $1,500 on the web (yoox.com, farfetch.com, voguevert.com), at Barneys New York and at her Re(f)use boutique in Rome, which also carries other designers’ up-cycled pieces.
“Carmina Campus actually started in quite an unplanned way,” says Fendi. “I left fashion for some years when I gave up my job as a designer in my family firm, because I wanted to become an organic farmer. After such a radical change, I understood that I could find a way to enrich my old job with the values I had rediscovered, like my love for nature and the environment and an involvement in social projects,” she continues. “Using leftover materials, I customized some conference bags for a friend’s NGO, working on women’s human rights, and they were very successful. This gave me the idea for the project that became Carmina Campus.”
Fendi is quick to point out that she doesn’t actually cultivate the farm single-handedly, though she does supervise all of the activities there. “The farm has given me the opportunity to change my life; it’s been my primary inspiration for a different way to approach creativity,” she says. The entire Fendi family has been extremely supportive of Carmina Campus, she says, though she enjoys the freedom of being totally independent—particularly when it comes to giving back.
In addition to bags crafted by Italian artisans, a small selection of Carmina Campus products are made in Kenya and Uganda by rural women in a collaboration with the United Nations’ International Trade Center (ITC) and its Ethical Fashion Program, which develops work projects for women in marginalized African countries. “When I met the people from the ITC, I shared a belief in their motto ‘not charity, just work.’ ” Currently, about 80 people—mostly women—work solely for Carmina Campus in Nairobi. The benefits of the program, including free education and health services, extend to all workers’ family members, Fendi says. “The most important thing is that the workers who enjoy fair labor working conditions are trained to become self-sufficient micro-entrepreneurs.”
Fendi travels to Nairobi at least once a year, often with an Italian artisan who collaborates with Carmina Campus, to create designs and provide video training. The project has been so successful that the ITC has asked her to help create a similar collaborative business model in Haiti, a project which is just now getting underway.
“I am very proud of the fact that this line is successful, with mutual benefits for both the fashion line and the African workers, too.”
—Kristan Schiller, carminacampus.com
Eloise Lapidus: Sustainable Fabrics & Slow Fashion
Born to a French designer father and a German model mother, Eloise Lapidus was bound for a life of fashion. After a childhood that included tagging along with her father, esteemed couturier Ted Lapidus, to studio fittings and design sessions, Eloise followed in his fashionable footsteps and launched her own clothing line, BoBo, two years ago.
Short for “Bourgeois-bohème,” BoBo’s eco-conscious line of tees, blouses and dresses blends Parisian sophistication and glamour with the breezy cool of Los Angeles, the city Lapidus has called home since 1997. “It was about merging my two worlds,” the designer says. “I’m a Parisian at heart, but I consider my home to be L.A., which is very much about casual, every-day wear. I always joke that it’s the only city in the world where you’ll see a woman wearing sweatpants and carrying a Chanel bag.”
Her penchant for mixing opposing aesthetics is a fitting tribute to her father, who was best known for introducing a unisex look to haute couture; he famously became the first designer to convince Twiggy to trade her mini-skirt for a suit and tie ensemble. “My father dressed both men and women, and he loved to make them look more elegant and refined,” she says. “He designed with a certain joie de vivre, and that’s certainly something I was inspired by in my own collection.”
While the designs might take inspiration from Parisian haute couture, BoBo is made entirely in L.A. with sustainable materials like Tencel, a fiber extracted from wood. Compared to fast fashion shops like H&M and Zara, and an increasingly busy fashion calendar that now includes Pre-Fall and Resort collections, Lapidus wanted her collection to reflect a slower, perhaps more thoughtful period in fashion.
“We are overwhelmed today by the number of options in clothing, and as a result, you see a lot of water pollution in the textile and fashion industries,” Lapidus says. “I knew I had to think about the environment and really wanted to be conscious of that in starting this line. I’m not perfect, but I try to make as much of a difference as I can, whether that’s using natural fibers or staying local and producing the line in L.A.”
This fall, Lapidus will debut a fall collection inspired by nostalgia—in particular, her fondness for the prints of Jean Cocteau, the famed French writer, artist and thinker. “I love the originality of his work, and that’s always something I try to convey in my line,” she says. “I want each piece to be unique—and I want the customer to be able to feel that handmade touch when wearing it.”
—Feifei Sun, bobo-house.com