This article is part of a series that examines: Responsible fashionand innovative efforts to address problems in the fashion industry.
As a Givenchy fabric buyer, Romain Brabo often visited the fabric warehouses of the French couture house, where they saw the leftover pieces of silk, lace, tulle, cashmere, wool and more piled up, all forgotten. The most exquisite were from previous Christian Dior or Givenchy couture collections, when a studio would use material for a runway look and possibly a few custom orders, and send the rest to storage.
“I thought, ‘Why not offer this to everyone?'” said Mr. Brabo as he stood in the middle of a small room at La Caserne, a former fire station in northern Paris that has been converted into a fashion incubator. The room was lined with racks of fabric samples.
“That’s how I got this idea,” he said, wrapping his arm around the room.
Mr. Brabo referred to Nona Source, a showroom named after the Roman goddess of textiles. He helped establish the showroom to offer unused fabrics – or “deadstock” – from LVMH brands such as Christian Dior, Givenchy, Celine and Fendi to in-house design teams for capsule collections, special orders or marketing projects, as well as emerging independent designers, at a competitive price. heavily discounted price. Nona Source’s dead stock is up to 70 percent below wholesale prices, Brabo said. In May, Nona Source opened a second showroom, in the Mills Fabrica, a tech-style co-working space and incubator in London’s Kings Cross. And there is talk of expanding into Southeast Asia – most likely Hong Kong or Singapore – and the United States.
“We wanted to encourage creative reuse and do it at a super competitive price,” Brabo said. “We revalue all our materials, so nothing goes in the trash.”
While some fashion companies are moving towards a more sustainable business model, there has been a lot of talk about circularity – the shift from a linear way of producing and selling products, known as “make-use-waste”, to one that makes recycling and zero-waste priorities. For global brands, that meant rethinking and reforming wasteful policies; for independent and often young companies, environmentally conscious practices such as circularity are often a fundamental principle.
These two segments of the industry rarely work together. With Nona Source, Mr. Brabo tries to change that.
In 2019, Mr. Brabo joined LVMH’s innovation program, DARE (Disrupt, Act, Risk to be an Entrepreneur), transforming his deadstock idea “into a concrete project,” he said. The platform debuted online in April 2021 and the showroom followed in September 2021.
“The Covid-19 lockdowns have actually accelerated Nona,” Brabo said. With the fashion industry almost at a standstill, with no shows or store openings, “we were able to push it through quickly. The doors were all open.”
In the first season, Nona Source had 300 clients and 90 percent were young designers, according to Brabo; by May 2022, that number had doubled to 600, across Europe. The platform is only accessible to registered companies and there are about 1,000 samples to peruse. Silk satin is the most popular, followed by double-sided cashmere. “We’re all sold out now,” Mr. Brabo said, referring to the cashmere.
Designers usually start by scrolling through the range online, with photos and movies of the materials in high definition. For Steven Passaro, a 30-year-old French designer who was an early tester of the project, Nona Source is a blessing for two reasons.
“One of the most difficult obstacles for young designers is to have access to small quantities of quality fabrics,” said Mr. Passaro during a visit to his studio at Les Ateliers de Paris, an art center near the Bastille that is owned by the city. . “Usually the minimum purchase is 50 or 100 metres. But sometimes we only do five pieces of each look. With Nona Source we can find material for such short runs.”
Then, Mr. Passaro explained that he does most of his designs on computers with 3D software. “We go online on Nona Source, take a screenshot of the sample and put it into the design,” he said, demonstrating on a desktop in his studio. “Then we can see exactly what the sample will look like. I still go to La Caserne to see the material – touch it, feel it. But by making our first selection in this way, we avoid a lot of waste, we save a lot of time and it is cost efficient.”
Brabo and his colleagues chose La Caserne for the first Nona Source because it is a hub for emerging designers, with budget studios and a vegetarian restaurant. One of the tenants is Benjamin Benmoyal, a 31-year-old French-Israeli designer.
“My brand’s DNA is to be sustainable – that’s why I use Nona Source,” he said. “Waste has value. It is a tool.”
He pulled a sleeveless shirt with a handkerchief hem from one of his studio clothes racks. It was made of a striped wool that looked and felt like cotton poplin.
“We bought all this fabric that Nona Source had, and we sold everything we made with it,” he said. “Never would I have had such materials at these prices.”
Arturo Obegero, a 28-year-old Spanish designer who was also an early tester of the project, started out buying small scrolls, which he used for samples he sewed at home. He was so happy with the result that he bought larger rolls of “a black wool that looked like denim – lots of texture – and black lace” for his fall-winter 2022-2023 collection of sharply tailored men’s and women’s clothing, which he let. see during fashion week in February.
“Sustainability is seen in fashion as a marketing tool, but it should be a rule to follow,” said Mr. Obegero. “Everyone should buy this way.”
Brabo chose the Mills Fabrica for its London location because it is a short walk from Kings Cross and St. Pancras train stations, as well as Central Saint Martins, the fashion and arts university where LVMH has Maison/0, a creative platform for regenerative luxury.
“I was the first British client,” said Sarah AlHamdan, a 34-year-old Saudi Arabian designer in London. She came across Nona Source online while looking for material for her Mood of Thought label and was so blown away that she took the Eurostar to Paris and went straight to La Caserne.
Mr. Brabo said that Ms. AlHamdan “immediately” understood Nona Source.
“Using leftovers forces you to be more innovative,” Ms. AlHamdan said. “And these fabrics are so fantastic, so lofty, so luxurious.”