Meet Flavia La Rocca: The CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition Winner 2019

CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition winner Flavia La Rocca shares the story behind her sustainable design after being awarded The Franca Sozzani GCC Award for Best Emerging Designer at the GCFA, Italia 2019.

Emerging designers from all over the world took part in this year’s CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition, during which they were challenged to redefine sustainability in fashion. 

After whittling down the entries to 10 finalists who were selected to attend a judging day in Milan back in July, judges includng Livia Firth, Carlo Capasa, Clare Press and Christopher Bevans selected five finalists to attend this year’s Green Carpet Fashion Awards, Italia at Teatro alla Scala, where on Sunday night the winner was finally revealed as Flavia La Rocca.  Flavia was presented with The Franca Sozzani GCFA Award for Best Emerging Designer on stage by Arizona Muse and Sara Sozzani Maino.

Italian designer Flavia is the founder and designer of flavialarocca – a brand centred on ethical practices, modularity and sustainability. All fabrics in Flavia’s look are natural or regenerated, coloured using natural dyes and using modular design to enable the look to be worn in different combinations, as a comment on the reduction of consumption.

Here she describes the inspiration behind her winning design, her brand and how the competition process has inspired her to keep pushing for progress within the fashion industry:

What does winning The Franca Sozzani GCC Best Emerging Designer Award mean to you?

First of all I would like to say thank you to Eco-Age, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Milano Unica and to all of the judges. Winning this award is an important recognition for all the work, the determination, the mistakes, the small goals, the difficulties, and the passion that have marked my path from 2013 to today.

It’s given me a new energy to go on stronger than before towards the goal of creating a solid, responsible and ethical brand.

Tell us the story behind your winning creation?

When I sent in the application I was in Cittadellarte (Fondazione Pistoletto) Biella. Cittadellarte is a magical place for me, where I can feel the good vibes of the art and beauty mixed with the sense of social responsibility and the will to improve things.  All of this is also in my dress to – I designed and I produced it there. 

Following the two main concepts of the brand – modularity and sustainability – the dress can be worn in more than 40 different ways. It is composed of:  3 modules, 1 belt, 4 flounces, and an half bow – all removable and double-faced.

The key elements that make the 40 different dresses possible are the use of hidden zippers, which allow the modules to be detached and matched again, or be worn individually, and the buttons/buttonholes that permit an almost infinite play of overlapping, colour combinations and volumes.  Even with simple styling games the same modules take on different functions.

The entire dress is made using Lenzing TENCEL™.  TENCEL™ is produced by environmentally responsible processes using a sustainably sourced natural raw material – wood, which is biodegradable, so it comes from nature and can go back to nature. 

To minimise the impact, I ordered both of the fabrics in their natural colours and together with Laura Cortinoviswho is a master of natural dyeing, I dyed it.  It has been dyed using two different techniques: the standard method of decoction and a new way that Laura tested, which consisted of painting the fabric with a syringe full of colour concentrate. This fascinating, sustainable and artistic process allowed us also to save water (we used less than 3 litres of water and had colours left for a second and maybe third dye). For the colours we used ginger, dried goldenrod, red sandalwood, madder and cochineal powder. 

On the bow there is a net, also in TENCEL™. The net is produced in Sicily and it is used in the food industry to contain lemons or oranges. Adding this detail to the dress has for me not only been a style choice but a message. For me, it means that we have to think in a sustainable way also in our daily life when we go to the supermarket and choose what to buy.

What have you learnt from the CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition process?

For years I have been working only with suppliers that respect a high standard of sustainability, but working on this project has made me stop and ask myself again: what more can I do? And so I started new research and went to visit companies to know who is behind them and how they work, to see the production processes, and I discovered some beautiful worlds.  I have been to Lenzing in Austria, to see how the TENCEL™ is made and I have been to Lampo by Giovanni Lanfranchi near Brescia and saw all the process to make a zip. 

I have always worked on timeless and functional designs, often minimal, but this time I have pushed myself forward to create a super feminine and transformable to the Nth degree dress.

Through the design process I had the realisation that we must always question ourselves, be curious, and seek to know and see to learn and improve.  I realised that people make the difference.

These new realisations will be new and constantly evolving starting points for me and for the brand.

Last thing, doing this project I had the proof that if you really believe in something you can go for it and do your best; this is what I am doing in my journey into sustainability and people make the difference. I have worked with a really great team and I would like to say thank you to Olga Pirazzi – Cittadellarte; Carlo Covini – Lenzing; Davide Goria – EnzodegliAngiouni; Laura Piazzalunga – Lampo; Gianni Crespi Foderami; Laura Cortinovis and Valentina Donadel; without these people my dress would have been just a sketch.

How did you get started in sustainable fashion?

For me it was a need; a natural choice. It is something that I really believe in and I feel responsible for what is happening to our planet and the people on it. 

The idea of modularity started out by observing and experiencing the hectic life of a contemporary woman: little space in the suitcase and wardrobe, little time between the office and the event, desire to be perfect in every situation.

With this idea in mind, I have reflected and came to the conclusion that sustainability is not only about materials and production, it is about the approach towards clothing: the way we buy them and the way we keep them with us. And modularity was again the answer. It reduces the use of water, energy and raw materials, limits the environmental impact and make the life cycle of the product longer.

At the same time, I decided to set up a responsabile production line too – entirely made in Italy with certain and transparent suppliers using sustainable fabrics that are recycled, made by new technologies or organic. 

What inspires your designs?

I get inspiration from everything and everywhere. First of all when I design something, I think: Would I wear it? Would it help me to feel good?

I always think about different kinds of women and how my design would fit into their daily lives.

What are your sustainable priorities for your brand?

In addition to the concept in itself, which is constantly evolving, ethical production, when I can I work with social cooperatives or directly with artisans, and procure fabrics and accessories from suppliers that ensure a transparent and traceable process.

I am also working on a business model to make the production process circular using leftover raw materials and offering the opportunity to send back items that can be recycled inro new ones or fibres.

Learn more about the CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition, and see all the designs from the 2019 edition.

Read our interview with Gilberto Calzolari – winner of the 2018 CNMI Green Carpet Talent Competition.

Discover the highlights from the GCFA, Italia 2019.