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L’Officina, creative laboratory
| 13 January 2020

Take a biologist, add a dash of creativity plus a dose of the latest trends and you get L’Officina. A rich blend of style and chemistry, the creative laboratory plays with combinations and textures to create new finishes and applications in the leather-making process. Let’s take a look at science and innovation, the core ingredients of a fashion company that is one of a kind.

 


The Glam Glam padded leather bag from Maison Martin Margiela.

 

Maximise effects

On the one side, a laboratory producing chemical products for tanneries, and on the other a style bureau to support major houses in their material developments. The result is a company with a hybrid activity, teeming with creativity, distilling its invention with each catwalk show.

A breath of fresh air is blowing over the fashion world! On the catwalks, there is a proliferation of exacerbated volumes, alchemy of outerwear and streetwear that is high-tech and glam. The highlight is the ultra-popular collection of bags from Maison Margiela in down-filled padded leather that has been sweeping the world since spring-summer 2018. Behind the scenes, the new process for quilting leather without the need for a heat-sealed seam encountered some difficulties before achieving success. “This project was conceived in 2014 but we only really got started in 2016. It was not easy at the beginning because the product was new to our clients and difficult to develop at a fair price,” Giovanni D’Onofrio, the Creative Director, tells us. ”Since then, it has become the speciality of the company’s design hub and last December received the best collection award from its peers during Material Preview, the bi-annual event dedicated to research, innovation and inspiration in this area.

With its key component being extra-fine and ultra-soft lamb leather, the procedure works equally well on bonded leather or textile, padded with goose feathers or on a bed of synthetic fibres. The quality will be the same: guaranteed warmth and comfort for accessories and puffa coats ideal for cocooning. “We finish the skins in a way that allows them to be stretched to achieve this effect,” explains the Creative Director showing us a sample that can be inflated like a balloon using the same system of seam-free closing. Maybe the next product will be a modulable bag with an extremely compact format that we will only inflate when needed? “Our own label, 83029, has been registered and next year we will offer our collections in Milanese showrooms,” Giovanni told us.

 


The Glam Glam padded leather bag from Maison Martin Margiela.

 

Reduce the environmental impact

Alongside him, Dr Gennaro Pierro, a trained biologist, supervises the laboratory, aided by a Product Manager who comes from the same school of Italian tanning. “Giovanni started with a laboratory to create new technologies, and today our team of 20 people is spread over 1500m². We present our Research & Development work every 6 months in the form of collections to promote these new ideas and technologies to our clients. We work directly with the buyers of the biggest houses (Balenciaga, Maison Margiela, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana…) as well as through the intermediary of tanners. The idea is to show what we can create using our products, such as this leather whose laminated effect is created using a specific dose of chemical products.”

Created in 2007 in the industrial district of Solofra, one of the four main capitals of the tanning industry in Italy, the company, which originally specialised in the processing of ovine hides, has gradually expanded its expertise to cover all types of materials and in recent years has concentrated all its R&D efforts on green chemistry. “We do our utmost to reduce the pollution emitted by our industry, because this is what customers are asking for: eco-responsible but high-quality products. Often, chemical products are incorrectly associated with pollution but it should be noted that most of the components come from plants. Mimosa is a widely-used tanning agent that comes from nature, for example. Our products are free of chrome and heavy metals (copper, cobalt, nickel, etc.), and the European Reach legislation controls their usage by limiting certain substances in chemical and finished products. In our case, Reach is just a baseline from which to work, as we go way beyond those standards,” the Quality Director tells us. As a supplier of chemical products that will be used to process the most beautiful skins for the biggest names in luxury, L’Officina signed up the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals best practice charter, created in 2011 by the giants of fashion and luxury (Burberry, Coach, LVMH, Kering, and more). “The list of banned chemical substances is updated every six months and by 2020, a number of substances will have been added to it. We constantly comply with this list in order to continue to work with our clients and in many cases have gone much further.  For example, even leathers that are free of heavy metals can contain a low level of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance, which must not exceed 6ppm, according to the Reach regulations. Consequently, we are already producing the film to embellish leathers that do not contain formaldehyde, as its use will be banned within 2 to 3 years. And he concludes: “The end product is a bag, but we must not forget that leather is a recycled waste product from the food industry and that we manage to make beautiful products from it. It is magic in action.”

 


The Glam Glam padded leather bag from Maison Martin Margiela.

 

Words by Juliette Sebille via Leather Fashion Design magazine 

Photos ©Alain Gil-Gonzalez

 

 

 

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