In a globalized world dominated by fast fashion brands such as Zara, H&M and Topshop, Tunisian designers like Mechri are increasingly going back to their roots, embracing local artisans and environmentally conscious materials. Thanks to North African...
eco-fashion, tunisia, renaissance, brands
In a globalized world dominated by fast fashion brands such as Zara, H&M and Topshop, Tunisian designers like Mechri are increasingly going back to their roots, embracing local artisans and environmentally conscious materials.
Thanks to North African nation's age-old textile-making traditions, Tunisia is a good fit for the eco-fashion they want to champion. Ismail has been spinning locally sourced wool and cotton, as well as silk thread imported from China, for the last 47 years.
“This work is in our blood…it’s in our DNA,” Ismail says as he unwinds a crimson silk yarn in his workshop. “It’s intergenerational, and for my family, this work is very precious to us.” Back in the capital of Tunis, Mechri and his dressmaker sew together a dress from scratch for his fashion brand Née.
They combine a shimmering pink and gold traditional fabric used in Tunisian embroidery with a mesh material from the 1960s. Both were deemed unsellable by the merchant Mechri bought them from. “They (didn’t) fit with the tastes of the day,” Mechri said.
“And that’s why they (the fabric merchants) need us, the designers...to give a second life to these materials.” The $2.6 billion textile industry is a pillar of the Tunisian economy, employing 160,000 people and producing roughly 25% of the country’s total exports, according to estimates by the Oxford Business Group.
Mechri and other designers have turned to the eco-friendly practice of “upcycling” — taking old or unwanted materials and turning them into something new and modern by incorporating high-quality fabrics.
Mechri mixes old fabrics with the craftwork of artisans across Tunisia - from embroiderers in Tataouine, on the edge of the desert, to seamstresses in Bizerte in the country's north. Fashion brands in the West are getting serious about upcycling, too, including American brand Bode and Hotel, a Danish-French brand founded by Alexandra Hartmann.
“People are starting to realize the negative impact of that desire to constantly consume all the time without taking a step back, taking a pause to reflect and ask questions about the environment and the future of humanity,” Mechri said in his Tunis boutique as clothing on the racks behind him shimmered and rustled at the touch. “Fashion is an intelligent way to pay homage to local materials.”