Home Accessories Sustainable Fashion Awards finalist Themoirè launches shoes at MFW – WWD

Sustainable Fashion Awards finalist Themoirè launches shoes at MFW – WWD

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MILAN — Francesca Monaco and Salar Bicheranloo found out they were among the finalists for the Italian fashion chamber’s Sustainable Fashion Awards almost by chance, according to a news article one sunny July morning.

The founders of Themoirè — a Milan-based accessories brand that aims to have the lowest possible environmental impact — are up for The Bicester Collection Award for Emerging Designers, one of 12 awards to be presented at La Scala theater here during a ceremony organized by Rossy de Palma on Sunday.

In the category, the duo will compete against sustainable brand Nkwo and fashion house Torlowei – both from Nigeria – for a chance to win mentorship and production and distribution opportunities.

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

Still, all the awards buzz plays only a small part in marking a special edition of Milan Fashion Week for the brand. This season, the founders will expand their offering of eco-friendly handbags to launch their first footwear line via a capsule collection to be unveiled at Themoirè’s Spring 2023 presentation, taking place at the city’s Galleria Riviera on Wednesday.

Although this isn’t the first time the brand has created a capsule collection – in the past it has done so for categories such as trench coats and jewelry – Monaco says Themoirè shoes are here to stay.

The debut shoe collection will feature three styles, each coming in two variations, ranging from platform mules in PU leather and recycled cork to straw options.

The style of Lyra shoes.

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

“But it’s much more difficult to make shoes: there are a lot of different components, you need the right partner and the suppliers require very high minimum orders,” noted Monaco, who said the pair were working on the project for a year. She also highlighted the importance of maintaining the brand’s accessible positioning, revealing that prices for the shoes will range from around 250 euros to 550 euros.

Seeking to reconcile all these aspects, the duo did not find the right partner in Italy, but relied on a Greek manufacturer for the shoes. “We are sad because we would have liked to keep everything in Italy, but we just haven’t found the right value for money here,” said Monaco.

The Adilia shoe model.

“The truth is that it’s very easy to make an expensive product, but combining quality, an eco-responsible approach, design and a good price is a whole different story,” echoed Bicheranloo.

A Mexican designer with 15 years of experience in designing handbags, Bicheranloo founded his first brand, Salar, in 2009. Trendier and still in business, the Salar label “follows a different path, with four collections presented per year “.

“But in 2019 we asked ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this? and wondered about the pace of this industry,” Monaco recalled. “We wanted to engage in a responsible project for the planet and the communities, not defined as sustainable because it is impossible. We didn’t want to impose these notions on the brand we had because it would have looked more like a marketing move, so we opted for a side project,” said Monaco.

Themoirè’s debut collection instantly caught the eye of buyers, who confirmed orders even though the first delivery coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak in February 2020. There was growing interest in eco-conscious brands.

While Monaco and Bicheranloo focus on timeless designs, opting for vintage-dyed clutches and geometric tote bags that might live longer in customers’ closets, they are constantly researching new materials, which is the most hard about their job.

Dioni bags by Themoirè.

Courtesy of Themoirè

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

“There’s so much experimentation from suppliers, they’re really trying to do new things but sometimes they’re just not ready for the market,” Monaco said. “Furthermore, not everything can work and meet our needs. Many options are suitable for clothing, others for automotive,” she added, citing fabric derived from apple waste as inadequate when developing shoes, for example.

“The research is the hardest part, also because it’s a circle. The more we use these alternatives, the more money suppliers have to invest and adjust,” echoed Bicheranloo. “But it also depends on the consumers. For one, there’s a fungus-based material that’s great, but costs more than leather. I can make a bag out of this, but will people ever figure out its price?

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

The Feronia bag by Themoirè.

Still, the clean aesthetics and brand communication helped to improve the perception of the product. If the average price of a bag is around 270 euros, Themoirè is available in 230 outlets worldwide on the high-end positioning, including Rinascente and LuisaViaRoma in Italy, and at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman in the United States, where the brand was launched last year.

Italy remains the leading market, followed by the rest of Europe and the United States. The Middle East is catching up with major wholesalers placing large orders in Dubai, while Monaco has been particularly impressed with the brand’s performance in Greece.

In 2021, the brand totaled 2 million euros in sales, doubling the sales generated the previous year.

Themoirè Aria bags.

Courtesy of Themoirè

“A stand-alone store can wait,” said Bicheranloo when asked about future distribution plans. “We work with a limited stock and having a store would mean also developing a strategy to compensate for what we are doing from an environmental point of view.…It would be in Milan, but it would represent more of a communication tool, rather than a key for Sales. But if that’s its purpose, it’s too big an investment, we’d rather communicate the brand in another way,” he said.

The couple’s alternative approach includes social initiatives. On the one hand, during Milan Fashion Week, the company will unveil the second chapter of Together by Themoirè, a series of projects intended to create a dialogue between the artisan communities and the brand as well as to highlight minorities in need.

After connecting with a Mexican community in Oxchuc, Chiapas, the founders traveled to Madagascar for the second iteration of the project. Here, they co-created raffia bags with local artisans, honoring their traditional techniques and carrying out a dedicated on-site campaign to raise awareness of 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.

In general, Themoirè donates a percentage of its profits to organizations also committed to the fight against climate change and plants a tree for each bag sold in partnership with TreeNation.