In recent years, fashion brand and designer collaborations have become a trend that doesn’t seem to lose strength, actually quite the opposite. If on the one hand creative partnerships may suffer the logic of profit, on the other hand the union and experimentation of common visions represent a space in which it’s possible to stay true to your creative identity and, sometimes, integrate it with current real life challenges. Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh, the designers behind the art duo Art Comes First, know something about it. Their new gender-neutral Rebel in Blue Jeans collection–the release date is secret–was created in collaboration with Mill Calik and Cross Jeans and it conveys a very strong, clear message: reducing the environmental impact of their manufacturing process and keeping creativity high as well as manufacturers’ productivity, in order to cross-pollinate methods and work for the greater good of people and the environment. In this project craftsmanship–and artisans–plays a crucial role again, also serving as a solution to promote and make sustainable fashion.
By engineering new fabrics and treatments to the old ones they love, such as denim, the classically-trained tailors prove that it is unnecessary to compromise an existing habitat’s conditions to ensure the quality of a product. Including the architects of the sourced fabrics into the conversation of the ecology of fashion, has lead to the construction of materials which create less damage to enviroment and that can be made in smaller batches to cut down on overall waste.
In line with their punk attitude and their way of seeing the world, Shaka and Sam show that humanism and environmentalism can literally be intertwined in order to create long-lasting and innovative garments. In their view, there is neither an expiry date for craftsmanship, nor a shortcut to sustainability, which includes people, live, social and human rights.
GRIOT: In October 2018, UN scientists warned that we have 12 years to limit the effects of a climate-change-induced catastrophe. Since the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the climate change agenda doesn’t seem to have got through to people and touched their conscience. Yet our very existence (and creativity) depends on the environment. What do this collaboration and ACF’s new approach mean? Do you see it in a long-term perspective?
Art Comes First: A long time ago we decided to really look into our social responsibility, on how we approach our ways of creating. It’s crucial that we use our creativity to build not to destroy, we can’t create in vain anymore. ACF lives by Nina Simone’s quote “Artists have to reflect the times” and right now together with our partners we are expressing it, from designers we work with, to the factory producing our garments, to even where the fabrics are getting weaved. We need to learn from each other, designers, weavers, manufactures, retailers, consumers. It needs to be a chain gang, teaching one another is the only way. Step by step we can learn how to look after our planet all together. Simple examples are buying smart, producing less, swapping, borrowing, lending, amending etc. The end consumer needs to know that it’s important that you buy an item that your kids can use in the future. For us luxury is not only how the garment looks, but how long the item lasts. Time is the true luxury, and when you have something that can stand the test of time, as opposed to being quickly disposable, then you truly have value.
It’s a lifestyle, so definitely we see it as a long term perspective, because we all need to work together and learn from each other. We have been very lucky to be able to work with innovative companies such as Calik Denim, Cross Textiles, Avery Denisson and The Bear Scouts for this kind of project. We are learning so much that the dream seems reachable now that we have strength in numbers and great people behind this to support us all the way.
How did you come up with this partnership idea?
We think it was something we had to do, just like us all ACF partners have already been looking into these ideas, so as they say: great minds think alike or–in extension–your vibe attracts your tribe. So, with everyone looking closely into a better approach to work, the whole thing just happened organically, it was like domino effect. But it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had the master of social awareness, Mr Dio Kurazawa from The Bear Scout, connecting the dots. He is a great link when it comes to bringing like-minded people together.
Do you believe that sustainable fashion is still an optional choice or should it be embraced by the entire fashion industry?
Let me ask you this, is breathing an optional choice? If not, then sustainability is not. Having said that, I think we all really need to think deeply about this, if we can’t breath because of the rubbish we are adding to this beautiful planet, then we have to take it seriously and make it part of our everyday life, not to mention things that are destroyed unnecessarily in a way that can easily be prevented.
I think the entire civilisation needs to embrace it and especially the fashion industry, since we are the main spoiler. If I’m not mistaken, statistics have the fashion industry as the number two main corporate industry.
Can you conciliate your environmental commitment to this “hit-and-run” economy?
Yes, by understanding that money is not everything. Our focus is to create and it was never for the financial reason. We believe in the future, so we use the present to prepare for the future. It’s about priorities. If you want to enjoy the future you have to work on it now. We take it one step at the time.
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All images | Photos by Justice Mukheli, courtesy Art Comes First
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Visual and performing arts, culture and music, traveling: I could just live on this. Graduated in International Cooperation and Development, I am an indipendent Culture Curator and Producer, and Artistic Director of GRIOTmag and Spazio GRIOT.