Questions On is a video interview format created by C41. Three are the ‘simple’ questions asked to our network friends, partners and creative minds. They tackle the current situation: How do they see their future, what kind of changes do they expect and how they are going to react to this unusual situation that we are living these days?
The ninth episode is with Pietro Fareri and Yuri Kaban, founders of Rayon Vert, a project that started in 2017 with the aim of developing products and systems to better the ethical conditions and environmental impact of the clothing industry by involving the consumers in the production of their own items.
You can watch the interview on the C41 YouTube channel and also read it below.
1. Future — How do you feel about your future when everything will be back to normal?
Aside from complying with government rules, we don’t really expect our professional life to be too different from how it was before the outbreak. When we started working, we thought we wanted to design clothes so we started looking into how clothes are produced and where they are produced today. And what we found led us to realise that we actually wanted to work in research for innovation and new production methods. The aim of our work is to redistribute control over the production of clothing to the end user because we believe that through this knowledge, they will gain agency over the process and independence from other producers. We are designing our system to be as harmless as possible to the environment and to be as enriching as possible to all the people that are part of it as opposed to how it is now. So we don’t really expect to go back to life how it was before the outbreak and we’re trying to use this chance to transition to products and systems that better suit our context today and the context that will come after the end of lockdown. Although day-to-day life will be completely different after the end of lockdown, we are trying to produce work that will help us adapt to the new normality that will have new difficulties but we hope will have new added benefits as well.
2. Change — What kind of changes will affect society, work environment and world itself?
I believe that the crisis and the quarantine in which we are living right now have given us the opportunity to reflect on a lot of things, on ourselves in first and on our behaviour. I think that the fact that we have to stay at home and press pause on our lives allowed us to see everything from a distance. Certainly there have been errors that have led to this situation but I think that the moment in which more attention must be paid will be when the quarantine ends because there will 100% be an economic crisis. I think before the quarantine, we experienced a period of relative tranquillity in which there was a lot of room for important ethical and ecological work and I think those topics are easier to deal with in peaceful times. I believe that the great challenge will be to not compromise between the need for economic stability and the impact that any type of work has on the environment and people. We need work that satisfies ecological and ethical principles as well as economic stability I think.
3. Reactions — What are your reactions to this essential process of adaptation?
Well, I think as Yuri says this period of quarantine has highlighted a series of changes that had to happen regardless of the outbreak. And we’re going to try and respond with a system to produce clothing that we’ve been working on for the past year. Now, as consumers, we know that the clothing industry, especially mass-produced clothes, and fast fashion, are very detrimental to the environment but we don’t really know how much because we don’t see where the waste goes and we don’t experience it first-hand. We also don’t know who produces our clothes. We don’t know how they’re produced because, in many cases, if we did, we probably wouldn’t buy the clothes and this would reflect badly on the brands that produce them. However, we’re also not given an alternative because sustainably and ethically produced clothes can’t match the prices of mass production and fast fashion. And therefore, it means that if you want to dress sustainably you can but only if you can afford it. So, if all of this happens because we have to rely on others to make our clothes, we believe that if the consumer was in charge of the production, and the system was affordable to do so, they would be able to ensure that the material sourcing, the manufacture of the items and the disposal of the items were done properly. So how can we hand over control from the manufacturers to the consumers? Well, we know that statistically every local community, every small town, every neighbourhood in a big city and sometimes even every high street will have its own seamstress and repair shop. Their job is to disassemble and reassemble clothes and they’re experts at it so if we consider repair shops, sort of micro local clothing factories, we can pair them with customers to produce their own clothing. To achieve this, we believe the Fab Labs can play a very important part in the process. Now, Fab Labs are workshops where you can access the tools of digital fabrication and digital fabrication accelerates the prototyping process sort of exponentially. But the factor that really makes digital fabrication interesting is that anyone can achieve a physical object from a digital file. And this process can be repeated an infinite amount of times without necessarily needing a particular set of skills.
So, while Fab Labs are born for experimentation and research, after having been opened in major cities, they have become interesting for a different reason which is that if all you need to produce a physical object is a digital file, it means that you can provide consumers with digital files to produce their own items locally, which in turn means that you can cut down completely on shipping and the environmental impact that this has; you can move workload from potentially unethical production lines to local businesses who can thrive off of it. And you can allow for affordable one-off production. And you can allow different users to make different versions of the same object simply by sending a file to one another and sourcing the materials locally. So, to test our research, we’ve been designing a very basic line of clothing. And once it’s out, as a user, you’ll be able to download a file containing the pattern and the assembly instructions for a jacket for example. You’ll be able to order the fabric online or buy it locally and then take the fabrics and the file to the Fab Lab and laser cut the fabric or print out the pattern to cut the fabrics by hand and then assemble the item yourself or get it assembled by a repair shop. This means that if you assemble it yourself, you will have acquired the knowledge to repair it and maintain it in time. And if you’ve assembled it with a repair shop, you will have built a relationship so that they can keep doing this in time as the item gets worn. And then to close the loop of production, we’re researching companies that can recycle old fabric into new fabric so that you can send them the jacket that you’ve used and worn and is now ready to be thrown away or disposed of and they can turn the old jacket into a new sheet of fabric so that it can enter a second loop of production, thereby becoming a sort of circular economy. Our ultimate goal, but this is for further on in time, is for all of this process to become completely local and for the material to never leave the local community and for the only things to move around globally, potentially, to be the digital files.
Featuring: Pietro Fareri, Yuri Kaban @rayonvert.international
Curated by Riccardo Fantoni Montana, Luca A. Caizzi, Barbara Guieu
Words: Riccardo Fantoni Montana, Vicky Miller
Editing: Vittoria Elena Simone
Line production: Alice De Santis
Thanks to: Alessandro De Agostini, Robin Stauder