Piero D’Angelo won the third Imagining Sustainable Fashion Award edition with ‘Grow Your Own Couture‘, a project to create a garment with lichens, using a simple to use DIY fashion kit, in order to absorb pollution around the wearer.

A vision of a future that communicates the importance of reconnecting with the natural world through fashion and repairing the relationships between people and the planet captivated the jury of the international award created by Connecting Cultures and Class dedicated to a new communication of sustainable fashion.

Piero D’Angelo is a Fashion and Textile Designer based in London exploring how biotechnology could influence fashion in the future. D’Angelo studied Textile Design at Central Saint Martins and earned a master’s degree in Fashion Womenswear at the prestigious Royal College Art. He received the Dorothy Waxman Textile Design Prize and exhibited at the St Etienne Biennial and was a semi-finalist in the LVMH Prize 2020 for young designers.

In Piero D’Angelo’s design studio, a multi-disciplinary approach to design is taken, with the aim of exploring how natural materials and Biodesign can be used to create new, innovative textiles and contribute towards slow fashion.

Born in 1987 in Colledimezzo, Italy, in the province of Chieti, D’Angelo currently lives in England. “I came to London 12 years ago, after attending Dams in Rome and gaining experience as a costume designer, with the desire to make a quantum leap in my education by enrolling at Central Saint Martins, where I graduated in 2016 – he tells in the interview after winning the Imagining Sustainable Fashion Award- . At Central Saint Martins I learned a very practical approach to research, process, and design: a method of study that encourages a creativity free to experiment without conditioning. During my studies I discovered a strong connection with materials and therefore with textiles. So I decided to continue my path in textiles applied mainly to fashion even though my training has frequently encroached on art forms such as sculpture”.

Grow Your Own Couture by Piero D'Angelo

Grow Your Own Couture Collection by Piero D’Angelo. Ph. Laureen Missaire

Your project has been appreciated because it expresses really different thinking. How was it shaped?
From my educational path that led me to become very interested in biotechnology and the study of lichens and to apply them to my profession through biodesign.A process that naturally led me to the awareness of the need for a different relationship between living things and for radical change in the approach to fashion. I have always been interested in fashion not as a commercial product but as the mean of expression of an idea, the possibility for everyone to tell his or her story through a garment.I have never been interested in producing clothes that everyone would want to wear indiscriminately as it is in the current logic of the fashion system”.

So what fascinates you about lichens?
Lichens are a very remarkable species and the most ancient on our planet growing everywhere on Earth, from deserts to the Antarctic regions. They are not just one organism but a fungi and an algae living in symbiosis. They exist in many different shapes, textures and colours and can be used as a bio-monitor to assess the level of pollution in our environment“.

How did the idea of Grow Your Own Couture come about?
“By studying the potential of lichens and from the idea of creating clothes that have the same functions as these living things. I was fascinated by the idea of growing garments in symbiosis with nature, as is the case with lichens that grow everywhere: stone, wood, textiles, nets, gums. I started the creative process for the dress and began to experiment with the aesthetics of lichen and its functionality in the dress. I liked that there was interactivity between the dress and the wearer.  Growing lichen is a long process: it takes 18 months before the first cell appears. As the plant grows, there is an awareness and meditation about the meaning of the dress itself and fashion in general that goes deeply against the logic of fast fashion. Nowadays we walk into a store and quickly buy a clothing, without attaching value to the garment and the work behind it. When, on the other hand, you are also part of the process, you understand it in all its stages while also recognizing the importance of the work required for production and thus its respect”.

Grow Your Own Couture  by Piero D'Angelo

Grow Your Own Couture Kit. Ph. Piero D’angelo

Can you describe the ‘Grow Your Own Couture’ kit?
“The kit was designed with the idea of enabling everyone to experiment with growing lichens and create their own clothing with these fascinating living beings, with the intention of envisioning the possibilities of sustainable, self-produced fashion in the future. First, a solution bath must be prepared, with warm water, protein powder and dried lichens.  Then the garment is submerged into it and left for 12 hours to start growing. After that, it just needs to be kept moist and can be enjoyed for years to come. In a few simple steps, anyone can create their own living garment”.

How it is that such a project is proposed for a communication award like Imagining Sustainable Fashion?
The vision of this project is to communicate the importance of reconnecting with nature through fashion and repairing the relationship between people and the planet. I wanted to convey the idea and a new way of thinking about fashion not as a product but as a system. The Grow Your Own Couture dress is not for sale, it is not a product you can buy, but it simply wants to communicate the possibility of an unprecedented symbiotic relationship similar to the one that exists in the lichens themselves. The do-it-yourself element transforms the futuristic idea into a tangible reality as opposed to the current fashion system that involves designer-created garment, production, sale, revenue, and profit. A business idea with a defined trajectory that has led to today’s disastrous consequences”.

Grow Your Own Couture  by Piero D'angelo

Grow Your Own Couture Collection. Ph. Laureen Missaire

How does your project evolve?
“Inspired by the idea of Grow Your Own Couture, I created a collection of clothes that walked the runway but was not conceived to be sold. I wanted to show it in the most recognizable context in the fashion arena, but the garments can be considered primarily as installations, to stimulate the possibility of imagining what the clothing of our future might be.”

What development do you foresee for your project?
“I would love to activate the exchange with different expertise in the field of biochemistry, biomimicry, biotechnology to deepen the knowledge of lichen cultivation.   In textiles and fashion I imagine applications in creating a fiber that can become yarn and fabric, endowed like lichens with the ability to absorb pollutants in the environment. I am also very stimulated by experimenting with lichens as a material to be declined for works in the artistic field”.

What does it mean for you to win Imagining Sustainable Fashion Award?
“This award gives me the motivation to continue on a path that I have chosen to take with enthusiasm but that is not always easy and smooth to pursue. I am happy that it recognizes the direction of a designer who has directed his creativity and profession in biodesign with very different applications from the fashion tradition”.