The story of the CHANGE project
Cartiera is a social cooperative specialised in the production of leather and fabric articles, realized with secondary raw materials recovered from the fashion industry otherwise intended for disposal. In order to propose concrete solutions both to social and environmental issues, Cartiera employees disadvantaged people investing on their professional development. In addition, Cartiera was born in collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative program, (https://www.intracen.org/itc/projects/ethical- fashion/), run by the United Nations in developing countries.
When Cartiera participated in the Second Call of the Worth project was a newborn startup. Starting the operation on July 6th, 2017 as a benefit Society, it was transformed into a type B social cooperative on May 10th, 2018 in order to focus on educational paths finalized at job placement of disadvantaged people (mainly migrants, asylum seekers, and unemployed persons) within the cooperative.
A few months later, in November 2018, Cartiera started to receive the first orders and the production of leather and fabric accessories was launched.
Sustainability has been always a central aspect within Cartiera’s production cycle: the leather is recovered from the production cycle of brands in the high fashion industry; the textile comes from production plants linked to the EFI (Ethical Fashion Initiative) program.
During this period, the working group involved in the research and development of Cartiera, was composed by Miriam Salussolia, Andrea Marchesini Reggiani and Nicola Pedrazzi; their objective was to find opportunities at national and international level in order to increase Cartera's know-how and create a network of partners and new collaborations.
The project idea came up in the winter of 2018 in a general spirit of enthusiasm and desire to plan initiatives that would have increased the opportunities for the new cooperative. Miriam Salussolia, at the time president of Cartiera, was studying new funding opportunities when she found the Second Call of the WORTH project. She immediately understood that it was a good opportunity for Cartiera and the team decided to make a proposal that would enhance Cartiera's skills in the production of leather and fabric goods. In particular, the project was expected to valorize Cartiera’s capacity to reuse raw materials otherwise sent for disposal and materials coming from the Ethical Fashion Initiative program.
The project would have talked about these issues and, at the same time, about the people who have started a process of empowerment in Cartiera. A process not only intended for the acquisition of new skills but also for the acquisition of personal autonomy, thanks to the inclusion in a network of relationships and working knowhow. The people who work at Cartiera as artisans are mainly asylum seekers and refugees: working in the cooperative, they start a path aimed at moving from a condition of economic and social disadvantage to a condition of increased economic possibility and greater inclusion in the local community. Cartiera is a place where new possibilities are created, for this reason, the project presented within the Worth program is called “Change”. The idea of change was an inspiring idea for the entire project, knowing that work is one of the most powerful levers to generate positive changes in the condition of disadvantaged people. Thanks to the collaboration with Swideas and more specifically with Sujan Varma, the designer who created the capsule collection starting from reused leather and EFI fabrics, it was possible to transfer the idea of “Change” to the prototypes. In Sujan mind:
“Change from the perspective of how migrant's lives change whether they are fleeing from danger or seeking opportunities like I am.
Change also relates to the manner and ethics Cartiera is employing in creating ethical sustainable fashion and it is the change that should be reflected in all of the fashion industry.
Change will also apply to the products that we design as I would like to employ some simple methods and ideas that will make the products change in the look by open zips or having reversible panels so that the wearer can choose their own preference and change their look and that of the product as they see fit.”
These inspiring reflections have been translated into three different prototypes of leather and fabric, which are multipurpose accessories, as they can act as a bag, as a pouch or as a backpack.
The challenge of this project was to combine this initial idea with Cartiera’s values. How to combine in a capsule collection the idea of the economic integration of disadvantaged people, the re-use of high- quality raw materials, and the ethical supply chain that provides handmade fabrics from Burkina Faso realized within cooperatives of artisans and craftsmen supported by the Ethical Fashion Initiative?
The accessories realized within the CHANGE collection took quite a long time in terms of material selection and design study. We met Sujan Varma at Cartiera in November 2019 when he came in Marzabotto to work with our staff in order to produce the first prototypes. Every model came out as the result of a stimulating discussion between Sujan and Cartiera’s artisan, working hard to find the right balance between the need to be creative and Cartiera’s capability in terms of equipment for the effective realization of the prototypes. Another relevant aspect considered was the economic sustainability of the production process as a relevant point for defining the final selling price of the product. This aspect is directly linked to the production time of the products which have been designed to ensure a final market price as accessible as possible to consumers considering the effective time needed for the craftsmanship.
Our partner Swideas is a multi-cultural organization with a focus on community- and business development. They partner with small and medium-sized enterprises, NGOs, and the public sector, contributing with expertise within start-ups, trade, international development, social development, and advisory services. Swideas has been actively working on different projects aiming at increasing the inclusion of immigrants in Sweden and helping to develop creative ideas into successful businesses through mentorship and capacity building programs.
The collaboration with Swideas was a great opportunities for collaboration: meeting Sujan Varma and Anna Farys gave to Cartiera the opportunity to broaden our perspectives on design and focus on our creative skills. The collaboration between Cartiera and Swideas created a team with complementary skills, able to implement a successful project. Together we made possible the creation of a capsule collection that addresses in a new and innovative way social and environmental issues, linking together the African Fashion Culture with the Italian Made in Italy.
In the future, Cartiera would like to sell the products created within the Worth project through its B2B and B2C networks, promoting the social and environmental values underlying its activity and the European experience that gave birth to the capsule collection. Customers will purchase a handmade product realized with high-quality materials, that produce a concrete environmental and social impact, and that it is the result of the fruitful collaboration between two European experienced partners. A targeted communication campaign will be necessary to support the sales: promotional materials will be realized and shared within digital communities as well through traditional marketing channels.
To achieve these future goals, Cartiera needs companies interested in embracing its story to promote Corporate Social Responsibility.
The Worth project allowed Cartiera to benefit of an acceleration process at European level which, on the one hand, favored increased know-how about communication management activities and the construction of a business plan and, on the other hand, it has greatly expanded our network, especially thank to the networking events promoted by the Worth project. Personally, the project was an excellent experience to further develop my management competences giving me the opportunity to better understand how to create a capsule collection.
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