Gilberto Calzolari – The Art of Upcycling
Gilberto Calzolari is a high-end prêt-à-porter brand made in Italy with a “green” heart that believes that elegance and beauty must go hand in hand with respect for our planet. His style is represented by a glamorous and timeless design expressed in a reﬁned silhouette of clean lines, exquisite details and unexpected combinations. Precious fabrics, complemented by the highest quality in production techniques and tailoring craftsmanship, bear the hallmarks of a brand with a strong identity and code of ethics in tune with the needs of contemporary living, where innovation and environmental sustainability meet the creativity and elegance for which Made in Italy is known around the world, against the prevailing practices of today’s fast fashion.
Gilberto Calzolari’s “The Art of Upcycling”, a timeless collection that revisits the “best of” his most original and iconic upcycling works, and summarises in a new key what is perhaps the most creative and imaginative practice in terms of sustainability, and one of his trademarks: the art of transforming unusual materials, originally created for completely diﬀerent purposes, into glamorous couture items, radically changing their function and meaning.
This is shown by the garments of this collection, starting with the dress, winner of the Green Carpet Fashion Award, made from the upcycling of jute bags from Brazilian coﬀee plantations embroidered with lead-free Swarovski crystals: an example of how opposites can coexist in perfect harmony – materials considered poor, such as jute bags, together with precious stones, the organic world with the mineral one – and together, thanks to the elegance of the lines and volumes, create an extremely chic and reﬁned garment.
Speaking of contrasts, a military green cotton paratrooper backpack from the Second World War, rethought and reassembled, becomes a surprisingly sensual knee-length tight skirt, in an act of rebellion that wants to discover the feminine and the individual even in a world, like the military one, traditionally masculine and depersonalizing.
Or the total look boxy jacket + palazzo pants in striped organic cupro linen from the upcycling of fabrics used to cover and line mattresses, in an aesthetic short-circuit capable of turning chic and glamorous a material used for everyday and much more prosaic purposes.
In the same way, the packaging nets to transport oranges and lemons, embroidered with waste materials, become a couture tulle to create an asymmetrical evening dress and a pencil skirt, the latter combined with a blouse in recycled, Seaqual certiﬁed polyester satin from plastics recovered from the sea, embroidered with ﬂowers obtained from the upcycling of PET bottles and lead-free Swarovski crystals. And the same embroidery made from plastic bottles enriches the mini trench coat in EVO nylon fabric extracted from the seeds of the castor plant, in a sophisticated example of a rigorously sustainable neo(n) noir look.
Closer to a pure pop aesthetic, playful and fun, the “Flamingo” dress is made from the upcycling of one of the many inﬂatable mattresses that are thrown away at the end of summer, and the “Pantone” dress in Seaqual certiﬁed polyester (recycled from plastic recovered from the sea) made using print test sheets – the so-called Atlases – created by printers to set the color of the machines and then discarded. After all, sustainability also means limiting waste, including those generated by the production chain.
From a futuristic and hi-tech perspective, almost as if they were space suits, the tunic dress, and tote bag were created from the upcycling of exploded airbags and discarded seat belts (courtesy of Volvo Car Italia); and the total look consists of a blouse + A-line skirt made with the upcycling of transparent and non-toxic PVC from regenerated material in accordance with Reach certiﬁcation, which encapsulate and almost crystallize the female body inside them, in a sophisticated homage to Damien Hirst and his famous works in formaldehyde.
“On the other hand, with a vaguely surrealist and Dadaist tone, in the wake of the practice of the Ready-Made objects dear to Marcel Duchamp, the elegant total look consisting of a blouse and pencil skirt made from the upcycling of broken umbrellas, in this case with a print that is a tribute to my city, Milan; and the dress made from the upcycling of a recovered shower curtain, whose print, depicting the Earth, stained with oil, represents a clear statement towards the pollution that devastates our planet, and of which unfortunately the fashion industry itself is a major cause (according to the Changing Markets Foundation “Synthetic Anonymous” report more than 60% of the fashion industry relies on synthetic ﬁbres aka oil).
Moving on from the synthetic to the natural world, an example of how the most advanced technology can be declined in a glamorous key is provided by the coat and skirt with fringes in ecological cork fabric, obtained from very thin sheets of natural cork coupled with certiﬁed GOTS organic cotton. The skirt’s fringes are enriched with lead-free Swarovski crystals.
But upcycling also means reusing and transforming discarded clothing, if not actual fabric scraps. So here are the asymmetrical “patchwork” evening dress made with a mix of reused and sustainable fabrics (such as Seaqual certiﬁed polyester satin, recycled from plastics recovered from the sea, ReLive Tex certiﬁed recovered fabrics, and disassembled and reassembled garments); and the tailored-made couture dress crated with scores of folded, hand-sewn origami obtained by recovering the fabric leftovers from the scraps generated in the making of the samples – an authentic example of craftsmanship and slow fashion.
I have always believed that elegance and sustainability can and should go hand in hand. Not only that: I ﬁrmly believe that sustainability represents a splendid opportunity for a designer to be creative. And nothing like the art of upcycling best exempliﬁes this artistic and playful attitude, this real alchemy capable of surprisingly transforming something simply useful and functional into something profoundly beautiful and elegant. Because we can be glamorous without giving up our playful and extrovert side, our desire to experiment and surprise. And we can create with respect for our planet, re-using in a couture key even the waste generated by man.”