BRAND & ETHOS
Milena Silvano is a maker & designer based in London. Her eponymous womenswear label is built on an ethos of intentional design and slow production. Its aesthetic harks back to a romantic vision of 1970s British folk record covers and Californian dreamscapes.
Techniques such as patchwork, crochet, and hand-stitching – all skills that are traditionally associated with the feminine or the domestic – form the backbone of the label. Not only can none of these processes be rushed or readily mass-produced, but the inclusion of these techniques fosters respect for skills that are historically considered female.
This deliberate rejection of fast fashion, in favour of considered care and attention to detail, tradition and skill, infuses each garment with a personal touch, and sense of timelessness that transcends the whims of seasonal trends.
“Milena’s pieces remind me of hands, of fingers, of delicate work and coarse work, of the resonance we leave behind with our touch.” Amanda Kramer
The handcrafted aesthetic of our label has evolved organically and almost accidentally from a personal project. In 2011 Milena stripped down a handful of vintage men’s coats and used the cut-offs to re-create new shapes with inherently intricate patchworks. From this experimentation, our first collection emerged.
The patchworks are key to many of our designs. These were, to begin with, entirely stitched by hand with thread and needle. The value of these early hand stitched items is immeasurable, imbued with our love and physical touch, and we are grateful to our early supporters who believed in our values and invested in one of our pieces early on.
As the label grew, our signature pieces became increasingly coveted and we acquired a vintage fur stitch machine in 2013 to keep up with our growing following base.
Alongside making patchworks in-house, we have been working closely with the same family-run manufacturers in London to create beautifully finished and long-lasting garments.
The use of patchwork is a process-lead aesthetic, as well as an ethical design choice. When off cuts are too small to be incorporated into jackets, we reclaim the pieces into our CASA (home) range, which is made in-house.
Driven by principles of ecofeminism - a celebration of the feminine, in the form of mutual respect for women and the planet - our production ethos foregrounds responsible approaches to materials, resources and sustainability.
Honouring the principles of agriculture and zero waste, the studio never works with furs which are farmed exclusively for their pelts. We only use sheepskin hides, as they are a byproduct of the meat industry.
Recently, our work with sheepskin has gone beyond upcycling, and we now work almost exclusively with materials from Italy which comply with high standards of environmental, ethical and social sustainability and carry globally recognised certification. The tannery we work with is fully certified by the Institute of Quality Certification for the Leather Sector (I.CE.C) which ensures ethical accountability, sustainability and traceability.
All our sheepskin coats are individually cut and made-to-order. We have worked with the same family run manufacturers in London since our first sample, and closely with one cutter who understands our design principles and makes the most out of the ‘imperfections’ of our natural hides.
When ordering a custom piece, Milena herself cuts and assembles all the pieces from deadstock materials. This combination of structure (pattern pieces) and organic idiosyncrasy (combination of materials) means that each coat is unique and absolutely one of a kind. As a result of this process, these designer-made pieces are limited in availability.
Our knitwear collection was borne out of a desire to explore alternative sheepskin-like textures, with crochet stitches designed in-house that feature open weaves and loops.
When elements of the production process are outsourced, Milena travels personally to India and Peru where she fosters empowering working relationships with women entrepreneurs, who in turn work with local artisans ensuring good working conditions and a fair wage.
Our knitwear is produced in Peru` with a custom yarn of local undyed Andean wool and alpaca.
Our woven garments are made in India using local ethical materials, purchased directly from the artisans in the state in which our garments are manufactured.
This is a range of home wares developed with the purpose of reclaiming offcuts from production of the jackets.
The finite nature and unpredictable size of materials makes perfect reproduction of a piece impossible, therefor the patchworks are intentionally free-form and unique.
COMMITMENT TO SLOW FASHION & SIGNATURE PIECES
Our commitment to slow fashion is embodied in our line of signature pieces that are present year on year. Debuting in 2014, the now iconic Diamond Kimono/Diamond Liner reversible jacket has remained a constant, though it has undergone subtle evolutions in this time. Each iteration explores different colour combinations and textures, with small adjustments made to the cut of each piece. Milena sees this process ‘having a conversation with a style’.
This focussed attention to single pieces means that Milena Silvano designs are made to last. As Milena puts it, these are ‘heirloom pieces’ designed to be cherished year in year out and passed down through generations.
“I had waited many months for this precious piece and I was so thrilled. It’s so beyond a jacket...it’s a porthole into a new self experience” Taylor EyeWalker