Sustainability. Palorosa: a Bridge with Many Lanes

Sustainability. Palorosa: a Bridge with Many Lanes
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As soon as we open Palorosa’s website, we immediately get the impression that we have entered a minimalist, delicate universe, with very clear images of flowers and distant landscapes creating a dreamy atmosphere. Attention to detail is everything. To continue its survey of innovative brands with a mindset toward sustainability, I’M Firenze Digest explores the world of Palorosa, founded by Cecilia Pirani, an Italian designer with Latin American origins, who has been an architect before starting this new adventure. An adventure that made it possible to build many bridges between Europe and South America, between cities and rural areas, between contemporary aesthetics and ancient Guatemalan traditions.

by Giulia Volpini. Cover image: Palorosa F/W 2021. Stylist Ilaria Chionna. Photo credits: Simone Rivi. Courtesy: Palorosa

Palorosa was founded in 2014 and offers a line of accessories, basically woven bags and objects like fruit baskets in unique colours and shapes. Everything is handmade in Guatemala by local craftsmen who can add a contemporary touch to their creations. The aim is to give a new life to everyday objects such as baskets or buckets. “The core business,” says founder Cecilia Pirani, “has always been to create a collection of super-functional, beautiful bags, which at the same time could combine my aesthetics and the culture and craftsmanship of Guatemala.”
Each Palorosa accessory is unique and different from all others and tells its own story. It is very important for Cecilia Pirani to be able to create a contemporary brand, while staying true to the traditional techniques of local Guatemalan artisans. 
Her aim is to keep her country’s traditions alive, without feeling limited by the medium. Lately she experimented with new bag weaving techniques and she created new colours.
Palorosa essentially uses recycled plastic, cotton, and leather, with new natural fibres to obtain light, minimalist products that are made to last over time. “I think the meaning of these two words,” Pirani continues when asked about transparency and ethics, “lies in what I wanted to do from the beginning.
Exposing myself and creating what was necessary in Guatemala – the lab, the atelier. Even when I was an architect, I learned to have an ethical approach to my work. For me it is a duty to work ethically; I tried to do it from the beginning in 2015, when our brand was officially born in Guatemala, but also in almost two years of gestation and preparation.” 

Palorosa S/S 2021. Stylist Irene Barra. Photo credits: Simone Rivi. Courtesy: Palorosa

The independent brand at the moment operates only from two main locations: one atelier in Guatemala, created in 2015, and one showroom in Milan. However, it has great potential that can be seen, for example, from a recent collaboration with the French brand Eres. This collaboration led to the it-bag of summer 2020, a tote bag that recalls the brand’s roots. “Eres discovered us,” Cecilia Pirani told us, “and it was a collaboration based on harmony, a true four-handed development. It was very nice, a real first co-branding experience, the development of a project that lasted one year with a real production line for them”.

Palorosa shows great attention for workers. The whole team has a strong focus on staff training, something that unfortunately cannot be taken for granted in all companies, because training costs are often high. “The first workshop was set up in Guatemala City,” Pirani explains, “with the idea of working directly with local weavers and craftswomen. At the same time we have always worked with artisans, mostly women, from afar. We met them cyclically during the month, but we allowed them to work comfortably from home, even before the pandemic. Most of the weavers live in rural areas where the work provided by Palorosa is not their main activity: their top priority is to take care of their family and home. Our bags can be made with portable looms, so our workers are really free to manage both space and time; this has allowed them and us to work safely since the pandemic.”

Courtesy: Palorosa

With these principles, Palorosa will certainly go a long way and we will hear about them even in much wider contexts. Palorosa is definitely worth keeping an eye on as a bridge between cultures, between what is considered obsolete in fashion and contemporary trends that are linked to our future.
Unfortunately, more and more brands now tend to identify as sustainable even if they are not. As we learn about Palorosa’s philosophy, we immediately get the feeling that the brand is making sustainability a part of its mission.
But maybe being sustainable is no longer enough today. We think that brands like Palorosa should perhaps show their commitment more clearly and publicly. This would mean spreading more information about their practices to a wider audience, sharing with customers sustainability reports or explanations of the materials and processes they have used.

Courtesy: Palorosa

It is always good to see the commitment of young people like Cecilia Pirani towards creating their own brand. However, as consumers with a desire to make sustainable choices and buy a specific brand, we want brands that can provide clear information – on one side, so we can believe even more in their project, on the other, as a form of educating customers.
A small step towards a better world is what all of us, not just brands, should take. 

Giulia Volpini is an undergraduate student in Fashion Business & Marketing Semester at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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