by Viktoriia Stanieva. Images courtesy of Tod’s Academy.
Our generation should emphasise the importance of sustainability, working on how to infuse a sustainable mindset into established fashion brands. For this reason, the I’M Firenze Digest editorial staff is glad to share our students’ experience with “Re-Generation”, the second edition of the Tod’s Academy. Istituto Marangoni Firenze Alumni – Anahita Alebouyeh, Maria Elvira Nates Bernal and Mousavi Seyed Erfan from the Accessories & Shoe Design Intensive course – were glad to share their experience on the project with the Editorial staff of I’M Firenze Digest.
In October 2021, 20 talented Istituto Marangoni Milano and Firenze alumni were selected to partner with Tod’s Academy on its new “Re-Generation” project. Tod’s Academy aims to work with promising young designers to share the brand’s DNA, where a new generation of creatives can study and analyse Tod’s designs, values, and vision, to propose their own capsule collections. Following the main topic of the current edition, this year, candidates were encouraged to use new materials, recycling and upcycling techniques to produce their projects.
The participants had the opportunity to visit the brand’s headquarters in the Marche region in Italy and meet the previous generation of Tod’s artisans. At the same time, six experts from the fashion and publishing industries – Laura Brown, Tonne Goodman, Gert Jonkers, Gianluca Longo, Simone Marchetti and Sara Sozzani Maino – became their temporary mentors guiding and tutoring the students on their final work.
I’MF: For Re-Generation, the second edition of Tod’s Academy, you were asked to interpret Tod’s DNA and design a capsule collection that embraces sustainability. How did the program help you face these challenges and learn more about Tod’s philosophy?
AA: As we were required to design a capsule collection that focused on sustainability and still followed Tod’s brand identity, it was very challenging for me to choose and combine materials in line with the brand’s key element – craftsmanship. We had to design a sustainable collection that reflected the Italian lifestyle. I observed that wine culture is a significant part of the Italian lifestyle. So, I decided that cork could be an excellent sustainable material, suitable for both visual and functional aspects. I found out that other fashion brands had used cork before, so my challenge was about how I could use this unconventional material in my collection. During my design process, I figured out that, during recycling, this material can be moulded and combined with genuine leather to create a personalised luxury look.
MENB: We had access to possible materials and new resources, for example, 3D printers, another tool for sustainable design. The idea of a luxury picnic inspired my concept, so I designed pieces made with chrome free-leather, which is much more sustainable than other materials. All the pieces in my collection were created with a leather manipulation process that uses cuts, involving less leather as it becomes stretchable. This way, packaging requires less space, improving sustainability even more.
MSE: I think it was crucial to study the brand’s values, identity and heritage while anticipating the company’s needs and demands. We had to use our point of view for the collection, and it could be anything from accessories to a ready-to-wear collection. I chose to work on shoes and bags made with 3D-printed mesh combined with genuine leather trims and other iconic elements of the brand. I strongly wanted to avoid the so-called ‘faux leather’, a common mainstream material, perceived as sustainable in the public eye. Still, all the leather alternatives available in the market are composed mainly of plastic and other pollutants that don’t meet the proper quality standards for the luxury segment.
I’MF: From this experience, have you learned new ways to present your ideas more effectively? How did the interaction with Tod’s Academy mentors and professionals help you develop your project?
AA: This project wasn’t simply a school project, but a very professional experience and a great opportunity. It forced us to think about the process and the functionality of the final product. It gave us a clear perspective of how things work in the real world of the fashion industry.
The company’s professional behaviour, the thoughtful comments from our tutors and mentors, and the jury during our presentations certainly elevated our level of education and precision for our future as accessory designers.
It was precious for me to get approval from a professional fashion critic like Gianluca Longo [British Vogue’s Style Editor]. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that whatever brand I will be working for in the future, I have to express the essence of my design within the brand’s vision. Tutor Melissa Maish really helped me achieve this critical skill.
Re-Generation. Mid-Review. Images courtesy of Tod’s Academy.
MENB: It was a fabulous learning experience because we dealt with totally new things. It was a fantastic opportunity to get to know many people, learn how to stay humble and control their emotions (as they say, fake it till you make it), and learn how to be confident about yourself and your project.
My mentor was Tonne Goodman [Sustainability Editor at Vogue US]. I got an incredible opportunity to meet her and present my project to her. She gave me the best advice I ever received on my work, and she kept pushing me to trust myself and my vision.
MSE: To present the collection, a designer must have the proper illustration and graphic design skills to show their idea in the best visual way possible. I think the whole project was a unique and splendid experience for every one of us, mainly because of the professional and respectful behaviour of the company towards us. We also had the unique opportunity to discuss the project with experienced mentors. But I would like to emphasise the contribution of our exceptional tutors Melissa Maish, Annalisa Bracciale and Enrico Ruffato, who helped us unconditionally throughout the project. It was crucial how they made us reconsider the production process to make the collection doable while maintaining the design aspects and involving sustainability methods. I’m very thankful for this experience.
Anahita Alebouyeh, Maria Elvira Nates Bernal and Mousavi Seyed Erfan are Istituto Marangoni Firenze Alumni. They studied the Accessories & Shoe Design Intensive course in 2020-2022.
Viktoriia Stanieva is an undergraduate student in Fashion Styling & Creative Direction at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.