In Conversation: Gaia, The Sustainable Brand That's Making A Change In The Latin Fashion
1- How was Gaia born? Tell us a bit about Gaia’s story and those who make up the brand.
We are Agustín Petronio and Denise Rozza, textile entrepreneurs and designers from Uruguay. We met in the Industrial Design career at the University of the Republic (EUCD). Both of us share the concern of pollution and overproduction of the textile industry. For this reason, interest was aroused in working with the recycling of disused materials.
In 2016 we entered a contest called Lumina 11, organised by Punta Carretas Shopping, where we presented a collection with the name 'GAIA' in which the sustainable values that accompany us to this day were exposed.
In 2017 we co-founded the company "GAIA", with the same pseudonym of the awarded collection to market the garments made for the contest. Since then we have explored different inspirations, production methods and aesthetic visions to design garment typologies in which different combined artisanal and industrial techniques are appreciated, consolidating a work team.
'Currently, GAIA is a brand that has a model towards a circular economy which is based on up-cycling and production with a positive social impact that generates alliances with artisans / weavers, women's cooperatives, organisations of people with disabilities, local second hands and textile companies for obtaining the raw material'.
It offers a design with a differential value and standardised quality, besides of also a personalised made-to-order service. GAIA communicates consciously, aiming at the transparency of the people working behind and the promotion of a style without gender.
2-You have recently been featured in Vogue Latin America as one of the sustainable brands of the moment. What defines GAIA as a sustainable brand?
Sustainability is a concept that was born in the 80’s as a thought that aims for balance through the conscious use of the resources in the environment whilst preserving and taking care of it and the species within. This suggest that to develop in a sustainable way, we must take into account the nature, society, economy, and the culture. For this reason we created a working model to design garments that contribute to this philosophy.
During these years, GAIA has been dedicated to recycle disused garments and waste from the textile industry. We work in alliances with local producers and suppliers, and our products are designed for a universal body, in other words, without gender; always using upcycling techniques as part of our business models and circular economy strategies.
3-How is the creative and production process within the concept of up-cycling?
Most of Gaia's garments go through several hands before being finished. In these 4 years of experience, it has been possible to consolidate work alliances for the different production stages, starting with suppliers of disused textile materials, such as second-hand commerces and textile companies that give us their waste, then to the people who are in charge of disassembling these textiles to later be passed to the stage of weaving, assembly and preparation.
Regarding the design, we work on standardized models that we keep perfecting with each recycling treatment, such as shirts, jean jackets, flat-knit covers, jumpers, ‘enteritos’ (gardeners), and jumpsuits knitted with two needles or crochet, which are already brand classics. Additionally, we also create more exclusive and limited garments.
5- How do you perceive sustainability in the Latin American fashion industry?
At least in Uruguay, Ana Livni was a pioneer as a slow-fashion brand. Besides, the country is well known for its wool industry which produces a worldwide recognized raw material of excellent quality.
In recent years, more brands have emerged at the local level that are associated with this concept. Despite they work with a different identity and models than us, they communicate from that the same philosophy. The media have also been interested in the subject publishing articles that help to spread and raise awareness in society about these alternative brands in the market. At a regional level, it’s been more than 10 years since this trend was imposed, and platforms such as Supra and MOLA were created for the dissemination and network between brands and designers.
'Latin America has millenary countries in the textile industry with a rich knowledge in obtaining raw materials, and both artisanal and industrial techniques'.
Sustainability has encouraged companies to preserve and promote traditional techniques, being able to give them greater visibility and also investment in production models and technologies for both the treatment of organic materials and recycling. Examples such as Patagonia Argentina, Docena Chile, Comas Brasil, Mozh Mozh Peru, among many others that demonstrate sustainability in different ways.
6- Do you think that social media has influenced your brand and its recognition?
This year we presented ourselves to Fashion Revolution Global and we were selected to participate in their Open Studio event that featured brands with a sustainable profile (which was also filmed) where garments were shown in a performative way in Sinergia Design (co-working and multi-space) which is also where we have our atelier. Dancers, visual artists, musicians and models participated in collaboration with the brand.
7- What are Gaia's plans for the future?
Since last year, 2020, together with ‘Sinergia’ we applied and were selected in the so-called ‘Seed of the National Development Agency of Uruguay’ in which for a year we had to (and we continue to) implement a project to strengthen the brand in the productive, socio-environmental and market aspects.
Our mission is also to create one hundred percent recycled products, and to achieve this, we are working together with two local creative companies that are dedicated to recycling plastic. On of them is ‘Eme plastics’ that makes containers and packaging with nylon that comes from packaging; and the second one is ‘Fábrica maker space’ which is dedicated to the production of objects from plates created with plastic bottle caps, which from these we will make the buttons and accessories for our garments.
We are also part of the Supra community with which we are in constant communication to work together. Also we have created with Pakcha Argentina a virtual reality store with brands that carry out ‘supra recycling’ in which new products will be exhibited.