Brazilian fashion designer Gabriela Mazepa collaborates with AOD to bring down international creative expertise in engaging design and innovation with social and environmental sustainability
AOD— Sri Lanka’s design and innovation powerhouse recently announced another addition to its successful string of collaborations with embassies and cultural missions, with a new partnership with the Embassy of Brazil to Sri Lanka. The latest collaboration with the Embassy of Brazil hosted the multi award-winning Brazilian fashion designer Gabriela Mazepa to visit Sri Lanka for a series of workshops, mini-talks, hands-on studio sessions and fashion runway shows. Mazepa who is a passionate advocate and practitioner of ethical fashion, has been a long-term partner of AOD since 2009. Here, she connected with the Sri Lankan apparel industry to use the local manufacturers’ fabric scraps to create upcycled fashion— a relationship that she continues to date. Mazepa’s fashion brand Re-Roupa and initiatives like Conexão and by Mutation have always been centred around creating more conscious fashion that has a lesser impact on nature and driving social sustainability by working with low-income groups around the world. With AOD’s latest international collaboration that features Mazepa, all these strengths of the designer will be brought together. During the project Mazepa conducted several mini sessions for knowledge and fashion intel sharing for AOD at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and met with artisan communities in Northern Sri Lanka’s Jaffna and Mallavi village to help infuse new skills and trend based knowledge into their traditional weaving crafts. Discussing the experience, and the potential that she sees in Sri Lanka to contribute more to the international move towards environmentally and socially sustainable fashion— especially with influencers like AOD, Mazepa gave this exclusive interview.
Q: What is your design philosophy and what inspires you?
A: Design is the way I chose to express the issues that interest me and those that bother me in the world. It is a profession that makes sense if it is connected with the time that we live in, for after all, one of its functions is to find solutions to the problems of our time. Thinking about waste (excess production of fabric and clothing around the world) and thinking about working relationships that empower disadvantaged groups are issues of our time that should be thought about. So, my relationship with design is totally geared from that aspect. I've been interested in that and working this way since the beginning, one day someone told me that is was called Upcycling (reusing textile leftovers as raw material) and it was part of what is called Sustainable Fashion!
Q: What is the influence of Sri Lankan textiles and techniques on your designs?
A: What strikes me the most every time I come to the country are the colours. Believe me, I do not think we have the same colorations in Brazil. I realize that the yellow here is more yellow, the pink is more pink. As I usually work with a very vibrant color palette in my collections, being in Sri Lanka is always inspiring.
Q. How has your visit to Sri Lanka been? What are the projects that you have been a part of?
A: I've spent 21 days in Sri Lanka, and it has been amazing to develop exactly what I do in Brazil, in another country.
For AOD’s Island Craft Project, I met with two different female craft communities in Jaffna, and in Mallawi. The main goal of the project is to empower and generate more income for women through their traditional crafts. I also took part in the AOD organized Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka, featuring one of the collections for my project Re-clothing. I also did a hands-on studio workshop with AOD Foundation students, sharing my knowledge with them.
Q: Tell us a bit about the design workshop you had with the students of AOD?
A: During the workshop they experimented with upcycling as a tool for designing clothes. We've started with a talk where I've brought some theory and shared some of the projects I'm involved in and after that they worked in groups creating their own pieces. Each group developed a look made out of clothes they brought from home and fabric leftovers. They created, sewed and photographed their own pieces in class, in one day which was really cool. It was a great experience sharing my knowledge with a young, impressionable audience. There is a lot of potential for ethical fashion design in Sri Lanka and it is fundamental to create awareness about these issues and inspire future fashion designers to tackle them the correct way. They will be a major part of the Sri Lankan Apparel & Fashion Industry in the future and will be able to take these initiatives to the next level.
Q: How did the Brazilian Embassy support your visit and the projects you did here in Sri Lanka?
They were fundamental for this trip to take place, not only by hosting me but also with the concern to receive me affectionately in colombo. As a designer, it is very pleasing to see that your country's embassy cares and supports the exchange of cultures on the other side of the world.