A line of bags, plush animals and other small gifts made exclusively for Casa Zegna. Barbara Guarducci tells us in this interview about the real value and meanings of these articles that show the work that’s done in the Community’s weaving workshop and the progress that’s been made
Set up 40 years ago in the San Patrignano Community, the weaving shop has been working on a project, thanks to support from Fondazione Zegna, to recycle fabric offcuts by creating a line of accessories: small, unique objects handmade by girls who are recovering from addiction and therefore symbols of “rebirth”, and bearing witness to a collaborative commitment which has been giving increasing satisfaction since 2013. Cuddly animals, bags, shoppers, spectacle cases, all made with Zegna fabrics, an exclusive line of accessories and gadgets on sale at Casa Zegna, perfect for those who opt at Christmas for gifts that warm the heart. Gifts that help to carry forward projects great and small. We heard about them in this interview with Barbara Guarducci, designer and art director of this creative enterprise.
Fondazione Zegna has been supporting the weaving workshop at San Patrignano since 2013. How has the project evolved in this period?
We’ve come along way and Fondazione Zegna’s support now has a far wider reach. At the start, the workshop was re-organized and its production updated in line with contemporary tastes, but maintaining our high craft quality. This involved serious stylistic study and experimentation with materials and processes. The workshop was transformed into a production facility that works with prestige fashion and design clients and produces for Italian and international brands, including Agnona. Thanks to Fondazione Zegna’s support there are now professional training courses and employment bursaries for girls who complete their rehabilitation in the Community but would like to stay on. With these bursaries they can continue working in the weaving shop and train other younger girls who’ve just arrived, thus teaching them skills and also providing a model that’s not only professional but also human.
How has the project helped the girls at San Patrigano grow?
Over and above the professional courses and work bursaries, thanks to Fondazione Zegna interesting new synergies have emerged and are generating collaborative relationships and international visibility. The most important is Conscious Contemporary Craft: Creating Communities, a platform promoted by Fondazione Zegna with the London College of Fashion. It has activated a network of creative and human relations between fashion design students, weavers at San Patrignano and dressmakers in the Downview women’s prison. The women interpreted and handmade the models designed by the students, with an exchange of messages and inspiration between the UK and Italy. Thanks to this collaboration, we organized State of Fashion, the first international event entirely dedicated to sustainable fashion, held at the Melkfabriek in Arnhem (Netherlands). This opening up to others, the outside world was one of the most important achievements. Discipline, concentration, confidence in oneself and one’s talents, but also the capacity to work in a group and relate with others: these are qualities you can develop at a loom, milestones on a journey that’s above all human.
How did the line of accessories made with Zegna fabrics develop?
When we received the donation of Zegna fabric offcuts, materials of enormous value to us, the girls in the dressmaking department turned them into original creations for the Community’s store, where they proved very successful. Hence the idea of producing an ad hoc line for Casa Zegna.
The accessories sold in the bookshop at Casa Zegna, in Trivero, are much appreciated by visitors. Have any of the girls managed to go professional on completing their stay in the Community, thanks to the skills learned there?
At least five girls have extended their experience by working professionally in the textiles industry. A world they started to know while in the Community. Since collaboration with Fondazione Zegna started up, constructive relations have been created with the labor market, with business people, designers and buyers who now come to the workshop. This opportunity to interact with players in the sector, to observe working methods, approaches to creativity and techniques, all from close up, arouses enthusiasm in the girls, who get more and more excited about textiles and clothing. The specialist courses and work bursaries also help towards the girls’ professional future and independence, offering them better options when they have completed their term.
Giulia: 6-month internship as a darner
We interviewed one of these five girls, Giulia, who chose to continue her experience by working at the Zegna Wool Mill in Trivero
“I joined San Patrignano three years ago and since then my life has completely changed. In the beginning, relationships with the other girls helped me overcome my difficult situation, in which I couldn’t even imagine having a future. In the Community there are various departments where you can learn a trade, from farming to IT, weaving… I was able to gain experience in the weaving and dressmaking workshop and bit by bit got to know a world that was totally new, and stimulating, for me, based on know-how but also, above all, on people, like the designers and business people who drummed up enthusiasm in us when they visited. I remember when we started making things with Zegna fabrics, we had such fun creating the models for the animals: sheep, goats, alpacas, squirrels… each of us personalized the toys with a different expression, putting our creativity into it and making every object unique. At the end of my term, I dreamt of becoming a darner, and I had the opportunity to study this trade in Trivero, in the Zegna Wool Mill. It wasn’t easy getting used to life in a little town in the mountains: there were people who helped me a lot and cared for me, and others who were diffident. Thanks to the assistants in the department I not only learned a trade but discovered the huge satisfaction you feel when mending a fabric. Now that I’ve finished my internship, I’d like to pursue the trade in Rome, where I’ll be moving to be close to my family.”