Not so superfluous: sequins go sustainable

Rahel Guiragossion
Rahel Guiragossian, graduate collection. Photo by I AM JOHANNES

Revolutions’ greatest successes aren’t on the barricades but at the breakfast table. When ideological upheaval comes commonplace, that’s when real change can be measured. Right now, fashion is experiencing a seismic shift. Ecological awareness is the height of fashion, with ethical lines becoming increasingly chic, designers interweaving consciousness-raising into their mindfully created basics. The most successful of these brands, such as AwaveAwake and Maiyet, champion a clean-living ethos with clear roots in Seventies fashion. Rahel Guiragossian is moving a step ahead by inventing an ethical alternative to a material associated with pure hedonism: sequins.

Because sequins are superfluous and superficial, Guiragossian demonstrates that they are one of most meaningful mediums for the next generation of eco-fashion designers.  Guiragossian, a fresh graduate of the Master’s program in Sustainable Fashion at ESMOD Berlin, describes her fascination with sequins originating from seeing belly-dancers’ costumes in a Lebanese souvenir shop in Beirut, while walking to her father’s artist studio. Her mother’s allergy to sequins made her question the material. From there, she began her research into sequins and discovered that most luxury fashion is produced using questionable chemicals, and sequins are particularly problematic. Guiragossian’s ambition became to create a wholly biodegradable version of the polyester product, since current forms of sequins take hundreds of years to dissolve and then disseminate harmful chemicals into the soil. Instead, she replaces conventional threads, base fabric and the disks with biodegradable alternatives.

As Guiragossian explains, “This changes the entire value of the fabric. Starting from the production phase; where there will no longer be a need for harmful chemicals to make the material. Then there is the user phase; where people like my mother won’t be allergic to the fabric any longer since it’s chemical free. And finally at the end of the life cycle of the outfit, if it must be discarded, it will be entirely nature friendly. The purpose is not to biodegrade such a valuable textile but to change the entire life cycle to a cleaner one. 

To achieve this end, Guiragossian’s most significant accomplishment is aesthetic. Rather than create a garment that conventionally embodies her high-minded ideals, she designed a black-tie collection with an invisible ethical pedigree. She cut her garments to produce minimal waste, while flattering wearers’ bodies. Her garments are eye-catching for their colors, classic drapery and sophistication.  Her grandfather Paul and her father Emmanuel’s abstract paintings inspired the patterns for her textiles and serve as an expression of her interest in art. “This was the perfect opportunity, to approach sustainability through art, “ she says, “after all, art has always been a great medium to communicate with the masses in order to make great changes in the world”…subversively, stylishly and successfully.  

Text by Ana Finel Honigman

Read an interview with NEEMIC on China’s sustainable fashion surge

Ana Finel Honigman

– Ana Finel Honigman is a New York-born and Berlin-based critic, curator and a PhD candidate at Oxford University – and maybe not human, because somehow she manages to fit more into one week than other (normal) people into their entire lives. Her writing on fashion and art features in publications such as Style.com, Artforum.com, Interview.com, Art in America, V, Art Journal, Dazed & Confused, Whitewall, Saatchi Online, sleek and British Vogue.

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