Natalia Culebras, the Spanish woman who brought sustainability to Dior’s men’s department S Moda: Fashion, beauty, trends and celebrity magazine

If you go to the LinkedIn profile of Natalia Culebras, the opening speaker at the Future of Fashion conference, held by the Fundació del Disseny de la Comunitat Valentineana and curated by fashion journalist Patricia Moreno, you will see only one signature in her working life: Christian Dior. Specifically, Dior Men, where she entered in 2007, at which time she was hired by Chris Van Assche after completing her design studies in Antwerp. A life in which he had time to experiment, specializing in t-shirts and denim work, and realizing how precise this last category allowed enormous room for improvement. “When Kim Jones arrived in 2018, I told him that we made denim traditionally, using 7,000 to 11,000 liters of water, and that I thought we could do it better, using technology we weren’t using,” he says. . Of course, no one said it would be easy.

“Natalia, well, suggest to me what you want, but if I don’t like it, I don’t like it, and I have to like it.” A completely honest statement that reveals what happens behind closed doors in a creative office and in a workshop: good practices have to be attractive, because if not, they won’t work. “You have to be realistic, because I want to make a product that I want to wear; it has to create in you the desire to want it, because we make clothes,” he says. Beauty and pleasure should not be lost along the way, which is why Culebras insists that “Sustainability in fashion starts with design.” Therefore, it was essential for the Madrid-born woman to have Jones’ support when making changes that would last over time and meet the LVMH Group’s quality standards. They found their perfect magic formula in just three months, and after some At the time, Natalia Culebras (also) became Director of Sustainable Design at Dior Men.

Among its functions is implementation Workshops “Involving and informing” his colleagues about what he discovers and this is the product of his curiosity and love for nature in general and the sea in particular: he spent every summer of his life in Denia and there he exercised, among other activities diving. It’s inevitable to see this passion in one of their collaborations with Parley for the Oceans, an organization trying to make plastic disappear from the seas and which is part of one of the most sustainable collections created to date at Dior Men: 96% reached From sustainable clothing. This record, of course, was not achieved overnight. “With the first collection, we had a bittersweet feeling that we didn’t achieve everything we wanted to,” he admits. “But all changes are made little by little, without trying to cover everything. Before, I even thought that if you can’t change everything at once, it’s not worth it, but you see that a grain of sand, the simplest things, adds up, And in the end, you have a mountain.”

These clothes, which sell out within a week, are not without problems when it comes to communication: although their intention and message are positive, they have to coexist with other product categories that seem directly incompatible. “You talk about sustainability, about a certified fabric, but next to it you have a leather bag that costs, I don’t know, 50 thousand euros, and they will buy it, because there is a customer and the designer says: ‘I’m still looking for this exclusive product.’” “You ask yourself what? “You can do to make everything more ethical, and in that sense, knowing who you’re really working with and what the process is really like is important.”

Transparency is one of the greatest forces at work in environmental activism and the people responsible for promoting sustainable fashion, but if there’s another conversation on the table (especially for end customers), it’s around production costs and retail prices. For Natalia Culebras, everything should be “more natural” so that these types of pieces are easier to access: “They should not cost 30% more.” Because it is the number that was dealt with in the last collaboration with Barley. “We have to invest in buying the plastic blocks that they salvage to give to manufacturers, and for those manufacturers to work on them into fabric, and that means more laboratories and more technology, and everything costs more because it is not standardized.” Of course, he says, after the successful assembly process, a consensus was reached with the people doing the manufacturing to “buy larger stocks, which implies a commitment from both sides that leads to a lower price.” “If all the brands and all the manufacturers worked together more, the prices would really be the same as those of traditionally made fabric.”

Natalia Culebras
Natalia CulebrasWell done studio

This may be one step that could be taken even in more accessible fashion chains, but where the designer finds instant change easier is at the mid-level, because “not everyone has huge salaries to be able to afford Dior, yet.” What You Like “There is (in the mid-pack) a huge second-hand culture and I think creating something from what already exists should be more appreciated, because we have a lot of stuff already made, so why else? And it shows in the many young brands that are committing to it Recycling, something that was rare a few years ago, however, it has a more original design that gives unique pieces. But does the average audience really appreciate it? “People are evolving and I think we will get there.” Provided that it supports the design, of course.

What Natalia doesn’t always find attractive is the term sustainability itself. He says: “It is a bit of a step backwards, but because it was used extensively and poorly by some companies, and because for years they were unsellable products that had nothing to do with design.” “I would love to say more Environmental innovation Or talk about new materials, because what we want is reinvention, right? Reinvent and recreate the product with less impact, giving a more positive message. “We can say that we will renew the future.”

In that future, we won’t even have to talk about what is sustainable or not, because sustainability will be the new normal. Not the ones talked about post-pandemic, but the ones in which ideas and processes have radically changed, in the same way that language and campaigns have done to accommodate other realities that were previously on the margins. She stated that this was already happening at Dior and that she was “astonished” to find in more and more places in the world young people committed to this cause. “Well, we should have changed 25 years ago, but in the end we live in the world we live in. At least we are modernizing and adapting and there are very creative people. “I like to see that there is a revolution.”

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