“Quando non ce n’è più ce n’è sempre.” A wise saying in Italian by my colleague Signora Giovanna’s mother-in-law Chiara (Nonna Chiara). The phrase means, “When there is nothing left, there is always something left.”
Someone who shares the same worldview as Nonna Chiara is the Italian designer Daniela Gregis. Daniela is all for zero waste. In her collections, you can often find bits and pieces from the previous seasons. “There is always continuity between different seasons and collections; in a way that we can constantly change and improve upon what we are not satisfied with. As a matter of fact, the best ideas often come from mistakes.”
2011/12春夏至2021/22秋冬的作品，看不出時代，卻像設計生命的拼圖。 Collections from SS 2011/12 to AW 2021/22. Timeless pieces that are akin to the mosaic of life.
Even before she knew how to write, Daniela started picking up crocheting from an elder relative. It wasn’t long after that she learned about knitting and started knitting clothes for herself. After she became a mother, her mum would buy her fabric to make clothes for the kids. Those leftover pieces and scraps were gathered and saved for quilting. Daniela loves to wrap gifts with her double-faced patchwork bags which eventually caught the attention of a random stranger who ordered one thousand pieces of them. Later on the story was reported by Abitare, a design and architecture magazine, earning Daniela a much bigger crowd of followers. In 1997, Daniela opened her first store front in Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo and subsequently launched her first collection in 1999.
Going into the 10th anniversary of embarking on this upcycled fashion journey, one day I was pleasantly surprised by an email inviting me to virtually attend the real time online show of Daniela presenting her Autumn Winter 2023/24 collection at Milan Fashion Week. The email also included a detailed explanation on Daniela’s design concept that centers on “timeless” and “circular”, and how these ideas are manifested in her work.
2023/24（前者）和2017/18（後者）的秋冬季外套設計，同是用上用剩的羊毛物料做夾裡填充物。 The coats designed for AW 2023/24 (former) and 2017/18 (latter) both use leftover wool material as filling.
Bergamo, a beautiful medieval town in Italy, is where Daniela was born, founded her label, and started her studio which has slowly grown to a team of about 40 people. “We try our best to be respectful of natural resources, to minimize waste, and to upcycle as much as possible. Our whole team works closely together: from fabric design to cutting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and hand finishing. We spend a lot of time collecting and sorting leftover fabrics and yarns, and then transforming them into something new, such as the crochet bags, fillings, and other patchwork designs. Sometimes, members from different teams, including the quality control team, shipping team, and even cleaning team, swap roles to help each other. We all know how to crochet or do some handicrafts. Everyone of us participates in the design process in some way.” The team also weave some of their fabrics, and sometimes work together with the best factories in Italy to develop new garments.
「我們不隱藏布邊，也從不使用襯裡 —— 我們將衣服的面料視為第二層皮膚。」以雙面設計來達至衣物的最大可能性，也是Daniela的設計特色之一。 “We don’t hem the edge nor put lining in our designs because we consider the fabric an extra layer of skin.” Being one of the key elements in Daniela’s designs, the double-faced and reversible features maximize the possibilities and versatility that clothings can bring.
利用剩布條手鉤袋是Daniela的標誌性作品之一，此外也會編織帽子甚至發佈會的背景裝置。 The hand-crocheted bag with leftover fabric straps is one of Daniela’s signature pieces. Other crochet work, such as hats and fashion show installations can be frequently spotted.
Daniela loves working with artisans and weaving their traditional craftsmanship into her designs. Her love for craftsmanship is clearly evident by the fact that she once went to Majorca in Spain to start a project in a traditional Finca, a housing originally resided by farmers, and invited them to continue staying and living there, with a hope to share their wisdom of life and traditional craftsmanship to the future generations.
She believes that, “Being able to make things with our own hands connects us to the infinity, and with the timing and waiting that there is in Nature: in a way it turns us into gods.”