Tunisian designers such as Mechri are going back to their roots, embracing environmentally conscious materials and local artisans.
In a world dominated by fast fashion brands like Topshop, H&M and Zara, Tunisian designers such as Mechri are focusing on environmentally conscious materials. Super thanks to the North African country’s old textile traditions, Tunisia is a great fit for the eco-fashion trend they want to support.
For the past 47 years, Ismail has been working on locally sourced cotton and wool, as well as China-imported silk thread. For him, his output is already part of his DNA. Their work is so precious for them, he said as he unwinds crimson silk yarn in the workshop.
Back in Tunis, Mechri and his tailor created a dress from scratch for Née, his fashion label. They combined a shining pink and traditional gold fabric used in Tunisian embroidery. They also used mesh material from the 1960s. These materials are deemed unsellable by the seller Mechri purchased them from. According to him, the materials didn’t fit the tastes of the people today. That is why they, the designers, are here to give second life to them.
The 2.6 billion dollar textile industry is a strong pillar of Tunisian’s economy. The industry employs 160,000 people and creates around 25% of the nation’s total exports. The thing is, fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the entire world. It is responsible for producing 10% of global carbon dioxide, the World Bank said. Millions of tons of clothing pieces are also discarded each year.
Mechri and other designers have resorted to the eco-friendly practice of “upcycling.” Upcycling is the process of taking unwanted or old materials, and then turning them into something modern or new by incorporating quality fabrics. Mechri combines old fabrics with the works of Tunisian artisans.
Different fashion brands in the western world are also exploring the idea of upcycling. More and more people are beginning to realize the negative effects of the desire to consume all the time, without taking even just one step back, pausing to reflect, and then asking questions about the future of humanity and the environment, Mechri said.
For Ben Ayech, a former computer scientist, fashion is an intelligent approach to honor local materials. It is a way to honor one’s ancestry. He founded a high-end brand called Bardo to revive Tunisia’s traditional and heritage crafts in an age of fear and uncertainty of environmental doom. His brand’s first ever collection evokes strong imagery from the popular Bardo palace in Tunis, as well as the era of the beys.
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