Recycled chic is the ultimate form of glamour escapism in fashion. Consumerism and mass production have become the industry’s main focus over the past few years. Desislava Todorova talks about the creation of a sustainable collection with London College of Fashion BA Womenswear student Roman Serra.
Designer Roman Serra’s approach to recycled fashion is a response to the industry’s oversaturation with goods. His most recent work experience with Simone Rocha has taught him the craft of crochet. For him, the future of fashion is about reusage. His graduate collection is based on realising the full potential of recycled materials.
Originally from Puebla in Mexico, 27-year-old Roman Serra recalls his earliest memories of fashion aged six. He remembers his digital textile specialist dad printing mannequins and drawing all over them. He always had a strong vision of what was going to happen – that he would be a designer but had no idea how that would happen. His father taught him to speak the language of the industry, gaining deeper understanding of the importance of fabrics.
Serra’s academic journey started at high school when as sent on an exchange with the United Nations in New York at the age of 16. This trip broadened his perspective and he realised he liked the idea of multicultural influences, communication with people from all four corners of the world.
“I wanted to be a lawyer,” laughs Roman. “I think I wanted to wear suits and I loved the look and then I told my dad.”
His creative dad wasn’t very happy. In fact, he strongly encouraged his son to leave home and pursue a creative career. A week before his enrolment at law school, he discovered the opportunities that Instituto Europeo Di Design Barcelona could offer so he left the following week.
Fashion took over as a career when he moved to London College of Fashion to study Womenswear. His creative expression until then came purely through his paintings and illustrations. “I had the drive to do things. There was something inside that was pushing through. My goal was to express myself on a bigger scale.”
Serra wants to preserve tradition. His Mexican roots kept him grounded to a certain traditional approach in his current design technique featuring heavy embroidery, lace, crochet and application of various prints.
Roman is convinced that there must be change in fashion – we need revival of couture, of strong looks, of personalities. We need to start a new “classic”. Modern, contemporary but still classic.
Escapism and fantasy are the missing elements of this. Serra believes it’s the only way to be conscious of how you’re creating fashion and still be relevant – “look at the past but still project the future”.
For his graduate collection, he is contemplating how humans will have to adapt to new technologies – “at some point we will have to incorporate a USB in our bodies.”
He’s fascinated how technology and evolution will intertwine in the future. We might lose a finger and instead we will have some electronic device with which to communicate. Technology will adapt to that.
And so will clothes. They will still be a consciously creative expression of identity. “I feel like more people want to dress differently. It will be more accessible,” he says. “The problem with this is that there is so much of everything – there are so many good designers, there are so many bad designers. It’s going to get harder because of this oversaturation.”
We are becoming more aware about how things are made, including fabrics. “It’s going to be like a cult. Imagination is crucial and it has to be relevant to the times where we’re living.”
When it comes to the formation of his creative identity, while his Mexican roots and his spiritual beliefs keep him grounded, his interests come from everywhere.
For him, being creative is at the core of everything. Ideas are precious and the role of the creator is unchanged in 200 years.
This concept was a starting point for his graduate collection. His main reference is the book “Against Nature” by French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans which represents a catalogue of the tastes and inner life of a wealthy eccentric man. The book was written in the late 1890s, a decadent time in Paris and London. It’s a story about an aristocrat who isolates himself from the world in a villa, filling it with artistic references, paintings and expensive fabrics. He wants to match his carpet to a life being so he buys a turtle and covers it in crystals and in gold to match the carpet and the rocks. At one point, the turtle dies because of the weight of the stones and that marks his life.
Notions such as symbolism, the femme fatale and the figure of Salome are woven into Serra’s creative vision. This idea of decadence and excess is reflected in the choice of his fabrics which he found on the street. In an act of opposition to the excessive culture that fashion represents, he uses recycled silk velvet for furniture. “Everything is recycled. I’m not buying anything. Use what you have. Don’t buy. I just want to reflect that decadence. We’re going against nature.”
The young designer is interested in the digitalisation of processes in fashion. Burberry has recently come up with a solution to reducing calico waste by digitalizing patterns. Big brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel will move on and embed technology in their processes, he believes, because it’s going to be more cost-effective. Fewer people will produce higher quantities.
Serra reflects that the beauty of mastering a craft in fashion comes from “mistakes”, such as a irregular pleat or off-kilter embroidery. This is called haptic quality. It’s the uniqueness of an imperfection – that’s the beauty of it. In photography it’s used to develop analogue films. There is sometimes something “wrong” with the light or colour, but that’s how you know that’s a one-off copy, and that is what makes it feel authentic.
At the same time, isn’t fashion capturing something momentous about society, just like a photograph? A collection is a reflection of the designer’s mental state, a reflection of the society’s morals and taste. “Like TV shows”, says Serra, “like something that’s already been happening and ends up on a runway.”
The soundtrack of his collection is a march called “the Death of the Parrot”. It’s a comment on humankind’s destruction of nature and life.
But he remains upbeat. Glamour in fashion will outlive minimalism, says Serra. Why so? He smiles, leans forward: “People always need to be inspired.”