2009 Weave of the Week #30: Luisa Cevese
July 26, 2009

Luisa Cevese coin purse

Luisa Cevese coin purse

Since I talked about recycling textile waste in my article about Shinique Smith this week, this seemed like a perfect time to talk about Italian designer Luisa Cevese, whose coin purse, made from laminated textile waste (shown above), is this week’s featured weave. I bought it, and another similar piece at Ad Hoc Softwares, long enough ago for them to qualify as vintage now.

Ms. Cevese’s bio says that she worked for a “major Italian textile company,” and while working there became aware of the artistic and commercial potential in textile waste.  She started to explore possibilities, and my little bags must have been a result of her experiments.

The company name on the bags, Riedizioni (which, I guess, means something like “reissue”), was Italian, and the laminated material was new and very unusual.  A simple hangtag (see above) not only noted that waste materials were used, but also named the sources, so I knew that my bags were made from pedigree Italian textile waste from the Mantero (silk) and Bonotto (woolen) mills.

Coincidentally, my sales rep at the time also represented Mantero, so he introduced me to one of their executives at a trade show where we were all exhibitors.  I excitedly told her about the coincidence of my new bag’s having been so ingeniously made with Mantero’s waste, but she didn’t seem pleased by this at all.  She didn’t explain, just asked me to bring the bag to the show.  I gave it to her the next day, and I don’t know what happened after that, because she never offered any explanation.  Worse, I never got my bag back, or my $25.00.

At this point I was going to continue with a straightforward business story about Riedizioni’s growth and how Luisa Cevese’s recycling concept was so suited to our times, until it dawned on me that her business encases recycled fiber in plastic.  I’m no chemist, and the Riedizioni website says that many different kinds of plastic are used, but aren’t they all oil-based products? And aren’t they non-biodegradable and contributors to pollution?  Yes, it’s a great concept, and it has been carried out brilliantly, but should it have the “green” image that the word “recycling” usually conjures up?

I was intrigued by the question, and, while researching found this surprisingly snarky piece on the treehugger.com website, written in 2006 about another Italian company, called La Tessitura:

“The outgrowth of high-end silk weaving company Mantero, la tessitura takes cast-0ffs from its clients and reweaves, dyes, prints and textures them.  Why go through all the trouble of reworking the fabric rather than using existing scraps to make new items?  Factories are contractually bound to burn or dispose of their clients’ designs.  At la tessitura, your gorgeous purse, hat or rug may carry the eco-burden of toxic dyes and lots of waste water, but at least your purchase helps divert the raw material from incineration or the landfill.  That’s a good concept.”

In the textile-waste-recycling competition both Riedizioni and La Tessitura offer wonderful — and very different — cutting-edge designs.  I’m not going to venture too deeply into eco-politics, but if you’d like to ponder such matters, you can check out the website links I’ve provided.

This article surprised me by taking a left turn in the middle and not turning out to be what I thought I was going to write.  I loved the experience and hope it happens again.