Sustainable Fashion Awards finalist Themoirè presents footwear at MFW – WWD

MILAN – Francesca Monaco and Salar Bicheranloo discovered they were among the finalists for the Italian Chamber of Fashion’s sustainable fashion awards almost by accident, from a press report, on a sunny July morning.

The founders of Themoirè – a Milanese accessories brand that aims to have the lowest possible environmental impact – are in the running for the Bicester Collection Award for Emerging Designers, one of 12 prizes to be handed out at the La Scala theater here in a ceremony. hosted by Rossy de Palma on Sunday.

In the category, the pair will compete with sustainable brand Nkwo and fashion house Torlowei – both originating from Nigeria – for a chance to win a mentorship as well as production and distribution opportunities.

“The fact that finalists could be selected in all categories and not just accessories makes me even more proud,” said Monaco.

However, all the price buzz plays only a small role in marking a special edition of Milan Fashion Week for the brand. This season, the founders will expand their eco-friendly bag offering to debut their first footwear range through a capsule collection to be unveiled at Themoirè’s Spring 2023 presentation, to be held on Wednesday at Galleria Riviera of the city.

Although it’s not the first time the brand has done a capsule collection — in the past it’s done them for categories such as coats and jewelry — Monaco said Themoirè shoes are here to stay.

The shoe’s first drop will include three styles, each in two variants, ranging from platform mules in polyurethane leather and recycled cork to straw options.

Lyra shoe style.

The range will reflect the founders’ approach to bags, for which they work with natural, recycled or alternative materials for all aspects of the product, including from lining and threads to labels and packaging.

“But it’s much more difficult to make shoes: There are many different components, you need the right partner, and suppliers require minimum orders that are very high,” noted Monaco, who said the pair worked on the project for one year. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining the brand’s approachable position, revealing that prices for the shoes will range from around €250 to €550.

Looking to balance all these aspects, the pair could not find the right partner in Italy, but relied on a manufacturer in Greece for the shoes. “We are sad about it because we would like to keep everything in Italy, but we just couldn’t find the right value for money here,” Monaco said.

Adilia shoe style.

“The truth is that it is very easy to make an expensive product, but combining quality, an environmentally conscious approach, design and a good price is a whole other story,” said Bicheranloo.

A Mexican designer with 15 years of experience designing handbags, Bicheranloo founded his first brand, Salar, in 2009. More trend-oriented and still functional, the Salar label “feels a different way, with four collections presented per year”.

“But in 2019 we asked ourselves: ‘Why are we doing this?’ and questioned the pace of this industry,” recalls Monaco. “We wanted to commit to a project that was responsible for the planet and communities, not defined as sustainable because that’s impossible. We didn’t want to impose these notions on the brand we had because it would look more like a marketing move, so we chose a side project,” Monaco said.

Themoirè’s first collection immediately caught the attention of buyers, who confirmed orders even if the first delivery coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19 in February 2020. “You can already feel that there was a change from retailers and consumers,” he noted Monaco said, referring to the growing interest in environmentally friendly brands.

While Monaco and Bicheranloo focus on timeless designs, choosing vintage-colored clutches and geometric bags that can live longer in customers’ closets, they are constantly looking for new materials, which makes the most challenging part of their job.

Dioni bags by Themoirè.

Courtesy of Themoirè

So far, Themoirè uses four main categories of materials: natural ones, such as cork, cotton, raffia, wood and straw; recycled options such as nylon thread, post-consumer denim and eco fur; Water-based polyurethane leather and innovative alternatives, including fabrics derived from Nopal cactus, pineapple leaves, apple waste and orange peels, to name a few.

“There’s so much experimentation from suppliers, they’re really trying to do new things, but sometimes these just aren’t ready for the market,” Monaco said. “Plus, not everything can work and match our needs. Many options are suitable for clothing, others for automobiles,” she added, citing fabric obtained from apple waste as insufficient for developing shoes, for example.

“The search is the hardest part, also because it’s a circle. The more we use these alternatives, the more money suppliers have to invest and fix them,” Bicheranloo said. “But it all depends on consumers as well. For one, there is a mushroom-based material that is wonderful, but it costs more than leather. I can make a bag with it, but will people eventually realize its price?”

Another challenge is balancing what is available with their creative drive. “Usually these materials come in a limited range of colors, so developing a diverse collection is also not an easy task,” confirmed Monaco.

Feronia bag by Themoirè.

However, the elegant aesthetic and brand communication contributed to the increased perception of the product. Although the average price for a bag is around 270 euros, Themoirè is available in 230 points of sale worldwide in high-end positions, including Rinascente and LuisaViaRoma in Italy, and the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman in the US , where the brand was launched last year.

Italy is still the top market, followed by the rest of Europe and the US. The Middle East is catching on thanks to major wholesalers placing large orders in Dubai, while Monaco was particularly impressed by the brand’s performance in Greece.

In 2021, the brand reached 2 million euros in revenue, doubling the sales generated the year before.

Aria bags from Themoirè.

Courtesy of Themoirè

“An independent store can wait,” Bicheranloo said when asked about future distribution plans. “We work with a limited stock and having a store would also mean developing a strategy to offset what we do from an environmental point of view.…It would be in Milan, but it would represent more of a communication tool than a key. for sales. But if that’s his goal, it’s a very big investment, we prefer to communicate the brand in a different way,” he said.

The couple’s alternative approach involves social initiatives. First, during Milan Fashion Week, the company will unveil the second chapter of Together by Themoirè, a series of projects aimed at creating dialogue between artisan and brand communities, as well as spotlighting minorities in need.

After connecting with a Mexican community in Oxchuc, Chiapas, the founders headed to Madagascar for the second iteration of the project. Here they created raffia bags with local artisans, honoring their traditional techniques and shooting a dedicated campaign in the country to raise awareness about their personal stories. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the capsule collection will be donated to a local charity project.

A bag from the second chapter of Together by Themoirè.

Overall, Themoirè donates a percentage of its profit to organizations that are also committed to climate change and plants a tree for every bag sold in a partnership with TreeNation.

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