Online-Talk mit Giulia Roman und Margherita Caccavella

© Roberta Netto & © Valentina Pillepich


25.11.2020, 11 Uhr via Zoom

Worin unterscheidet sich Upcycled Fashion von Mode, die nach dem industriellen Standard hergestellt wird? Wie kann man sich die Produktion von Mode aus Dead Stock Ware oder recycelten Fasern vorstellen? Und welche Rolle spielt das Design dabei? Welche Folgen hat das für die Modeindustrie und was bedeutet diese Art der Modeproduktion für die Konsumenten?

Diese und viele weitere Fragen rund um die Themen Upcycling, Recycling und Nachhaltigkeit in der Modeindustrie beantworten und diskutieren im AFA Community Online-Talk zwei Expertinnen auf diesem Gebiet: Giulia Roman und Margherita Caccavella.

Giulia Roman studierte Modedesign in Venedig bevor sie in London als Schnittmacher-Assistentin bei Marques´Almeida und als Juniordesignerin bei Wales Bonner arbeitete. Zurück in ihrer Heimat, einer Region mit zahlreichen international bedeutenden Produktionsstätten für Mode, konzentrierte sie sich als Product Development Spezialistin auf all das, was hinter Modekollektionen steckt und diese erst möglich macht: Handwerk und industrielle Fertigung.
Heute arbeitet Giulia als Upcycling-Produktentwicklerin beim französischen Modelabel Marine Serre, dessen DNA untrennbar mit der Weiter- und Wiederverwertung von Textilien und anderen, oft ungewohnten Materialien verbunden ist. Seit der SS 2019 Kollektion stellt das Modehaus faszinierende, von Giulia Roman gefilmte Videos online, die Einblicke in die verschiedenen Produktionsphasen der Upcycling-Stücke, den so genannten "Regenerated"-Pieces gewähren.

Margherita Caccavella studierte Innovationsökonomie und absolvierte während ihres Master-Studiums zahlreiche Praktika mit Fokus auf die industriellen und handwerklichen Prozesse, die in der Produktion von Stoffen, Fasern und Kleidungsstücken eine Rolle spielen. Danach entwickelte sie ein Projekt, das sich mit der Verwertung textiler Nebenprodukte auseinandersetzte und arbeitete von der Materialrecherche bis zur Prototypenentwicklung an der Realisierung eines nachhaltigen Kleidungsstücks, dessen ökologischen Fußabdruck sie während jeder Phase überwachte.
Seit März 2020 arbeitet Margherita zwischen Antwerpen und ihrer Heimatstadt Padua als Beraterin, externe Produktentwicklerin und Material Researcher für aufstrebende, innovative Labels und hilft ihnen dabei, die passenden Materialien und das benötigte Know-How zu finden, um kreativen Input in reale Projekte zu verwandeln.


Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what drives you and what is the specialty of your work?


I deal with innovative ways of developing textiles and garments.
Since I entered the north Italian high hand textile and apparel industry four years ago, I kept noticing systemic distortions and inefficiencies through all the value chain that end up affecting products both in terms of creativity and quality.
For this reason I decided to use the gained network and knowledge to help new/innovative designers. My aim is to enable them to access the industry and find partners to implement those that I consider the future virtuous trends of the sector, such as sourcing sustainable and traceable material, small scale supplying, upcycling (of both garments and other textile products).
My team of developers and I work on creating a bridge between new designers and high quality local producers to facilitate the development and production of sustainable innovative and captivating products/outcomes.


Three years ago, I went back to my home region and I started discovering all the steps involved in a garment development. In love with this hidden know how, I started working as product development specialist and nowadays I follow on spot the development and production of the upcycled line for the brand Marine Serre.
The upcycling at Marine Serre consists of using unconventional stock materials (e.g. towels, scarves, carpets, second hand garments and other textiles). It mainly involves innovative methods of cutting and sewing and I work in close contact with the labs in order to keep adapting traditional productive procedures to the upcycling needs.
Increasingly convinced of the importance of their unseen manual and technical know how that, even if crucial, in the last decades of the fashion scene has always been buried and undervalued, I decided to start documenting the processes creating series of “Behind the scenes photography and videos” and this became a crucial part of my job.

What exactly is your job description?


My activities consist of sourcing/stock sourcing, product development, flexible and on demand productions, made to order production, upcycling of textile products and garments (when working as stand-in of Giulia at Marine Serre), business plan and production plan definition.


My activities consist of finding the best product construction solutions to translate creative ideas into an upcycled garment, design, textile design, sewing and pattern making, ongoing factories and supplier research, photography and video making.

How can we imagine your usual working day?

Both of us have similar routines defined by two kinds of work days:
The first one consists of a lot of writing, calling and planning together with my clients to define all the aspects of their developments.
The second one mainly concerns moving between producers and seamstress labs, artisans, knitting labs, stockists, mills in my region and in northern Italy in general to translate my partners´ ideas into garments/projects (see my really embryonal page maia_archive or Giulia Roman on Instagram).
Giulia also spends time documenting, making pictures and post production.

What are the main differences between standard and upcycled fashion design and production?

Concerning the design we believe that:

  1. it reverses the process, which means that the first step consists of searching material or at least the material research comes along with the garment/collection design: what you find influences your possibilities and imposes restrictions on the aesthetic and functional results.
  2. To upcycle, a designer needs to acquire a lot of technical and productive knowledge in order to understand the potentials of an existent material and how to reach it.

Concerning the production, it mainly uses the existent processes/tools/technologies for new purposes. E.g. you can use a felting machine not for making normal felt but for doing a non-woven yarns felt and reuse stock yarns or a traditional cutting method adapts to second hand garments/materials for cutting.

What is the biggest challenge when designing and producing upcycling fashion?

Concerning the design we believe the real challenge consists of understanding the potentials of an existent material and which is the best process to transform it. This needs a lot of technical and practical knowledge and we think designers, to work with upcycled fashion, should become developers/producers themselves and experiment a lot.
To produce upcycled fashion you need to find the right partners willing to adapt their routines to new productive methods. This needs time and long-lasting collaborations.

And what is the future of upcycled fashion supposed to be once it ́s worn down? Can it be upcycled a second, third time?

We believe that the majority of materials won’t handle more than one upcycling process. Reparation, reuse or second hand consumption remain other valuable options to not have to throw away.

Is upcycling the solution or just prolonging the cycle until clothing becomes all waste again?

It prolongs the cycle.
We believe that upcycling is just one of the design and productive solutions we (designers and developers) can use to be sustainable.
Now, it is one of the main aims as in this historical moment we are turning from a non-sustainable way of consuming and producing fashion into (hopefully) a more sustainable one. For this reason one of our main goals should be to take care of the reuse of part of the garbage produced by this non-responsible system.

What special techniques do you use to work with dead stock and vintage material? Could you please give some examples?


I mainly deal with textile products. I do fibers re-spinning, fibers felting, yarn and bias (from fabrics) re-twisting, felting of fibers and yarns, fabric and deadstock based design and developments (e.g. end of cones knitting). I believe many other processes could be defined depending on innovative design inputs.


Usually, I deal with garments and material from deadstocks. I re-interpretate them, trying to give value to their main features. Depending on the surface, texture and thickness every material would bring to a completely different result. In this process we have to start from the material itself to define the design.
During the production process the pattern making and the cutting are the key steps where each problematic has to be taken in consideration.

In which way does the upcycling / recycling aspect influence the designs? Could you imagine a completely different design (e. g. minimalist, sleek) with upcycled products?

Depending on what material you choose to upcycle and the technique used you can reach a lot of different aesthetics and looks.

What do you think is more important for selling upcycled fashion: the design or the “history” of the item?
Both. We think it is very important to be able to:

  1. Define a non-impact process of upcycling.
  2. Avoid green washing and try to be able to communicate as transparent as possible.
  3. The garment look needs to be captivating. It is still crucial that a designer finds and expresses his or her aesthetic towards the upcycling tools.

In your opinion, what will the future of fashion be like?

A long-lasting shift in the sector depends on brands´ (and other influential actors´ of the sector) ways of producing, marketing and communicating and on the consequent changes in consumers´ ways of purchasing.
In the future, we wish that fashion production and consumption will become more sustainable in terms of both materials (e.g. using bio or regenerated raw material) and processes (e.g. low impact finishing or on demand production) consequently leading to a general decrease of pollution and leftovers.
In this new auspicious scenario, the need of upcycling will become one of the tools to lower the general impact of the industry that will however never be a zero impact one.

We think that fashion brands that are good for people and the planet and still make a business sense will exist: these can be of many kinds depending on the brand´s target consumer (e.g. niche, mass, high hand or lower, “mature” or “non-mature” etc.) and on the product type. Surely, the overall industry needs to experience a general decline in growth of volumes and consequently there will be much less space for brands and businesses that live on sales in all the textile and apparel value chain.
Giulia and I often think of the repercussions that the shift towards a new fashion industry asset will have both for productive players and designers.

And how can upcycling be a challenge for the old methods of the fashion industry?

It will quickly lead to a lower need of new materials and consequently to a decreasing demand for material suppliers (e.g. mills, spinning, finishing). Many businesses in the textile value chain will decrease their turnover and eventually close up.

In which way has COVID changed your working and private life? What are you doing differently now, what ́s new, what did you stop doing?


This period allowed me to rethink my professional life as I stopped being an employee and I started working as a freelance developer focusing on what I really believe in.
For what concerns the personal life, I moved back to Padua from Biella and I started living between here and Antwerp.
At the moment my life organization is quite messed up. I’m mainly at my parents’ house. I can’t do the sports I like (e.g. dancing) and the social life that is quite characteristic of where I live (e.g. “aperitivi”, eating out etc.) or going to the cinema which I love. On the good side: for four months from May to September I was living in the countryside hills near my home town and Giulia and I discovered my city surroundings and the pleasure of staying in the nature.


The quarantine was the first opportunity we had to completely stop and slow down. I took this time to rethink my priorities, life can be very overwhelming sometimes.
Work became quite complex, I didn’t stop doing anything actually, but everything became more tricky. Somehow, I really appreciate to see how everything keeps going and developping thanks to the passion and determination of the people I work with. 

What are you reading, streaming, listening to at the moment? Whom are you following on Instagram?


I’m reading little books. Now I’m reading a book set about Schio, a famous textile center where my family used to have a carded wool mill. The book tells about a murder that happened within the local textile trade unions in the seventies.
I watch a lot of movies on both commercial and non-commercial platforms (from Netflix to Mubi). I’m not a big fan of series and lately I started to watch more documentaries. I’m not an expert but I listen to all kinds of music (from electronica to Soul to Italian classics). I watch and read quite a lot about social and economic matters, mainly about those related to my professional field. On Instagram I try to follow people I believe to be innovative in my sector. Sometimes I also look for specialists of other fields and some people I find inspiring but I’m not a big user.


The last film that I really liked is Capri Revolution by Mario Martone. I usually stream films and watch Netflix. I miss going to the cinema very much!
I’m currently reading a book about Phranayama and trying to practice as well. I want to learn about circular breathing and its beneficial effects.

What do you feed your body and your brain with?


Concerning how I feed my body, I’m celiac so I have quite a lot of restrictions. Apart from that I try to eat healthy but I’m not vegetarian and I do not have other specific roles. I would like to eat mainly km zero foods without plastic packaging though.
Concerning my brain, I try to see as most as I can people I find interesting as I love speaking and discussing with them. In the future I hope I will be able to read more and do other activities such as drawing or things that I like but I never dedicate time to.


I always try to feed myself with healthy, mostly vegetarian food. This is one way to keep my brain healthy, too. I spend a lot of time in the nature, I always try to express creativity in some ways and surround myself with faithful people. I do exercises and yoga.

What / who makes you laugh?


Irony, sense of humor. I think I always look for very humorous people.


As Margherita actually!
And lately we got three new hens. They make me laugh so much! I also laugh of myself sometimes.

What ́s keeping you warm in the cold season?


The heater which I placed in front of my feet under my work desk (probably very unhealthy), hot tea and layers of wool jumpers and covers.


When it’s cold I love to take very long baths after work. And I love preparing the chimney and have dinner in front of it.

What ́s the best discovery you made in the last weeks?


I met five women that inspire me a lot and I start collaborating with. I also discovered Martini which I never drank before and I realize that it´s amazing with ice and a lemon skin!


I bought a new camera for my film and discovered how a new lens can change completely my way of filming and looking at things. I traveled through France and discovered some warehouses where the amount of garments rejected was so big that it almost made me cry. 



Giulia Roman:

Margherita Caccavella: