Today's fashionistas are used to seeing classic trends making comebacks on the catwalks of London and Paris, from bell-bottoms to animal prints to the mini. But in-the-not-too-far future, this year’s “newest look” may actually be last year’s style-setter, deconstructed and re-tailored using the same or repurposed fabric.
“Upcycling”—transforming used clothes, accessories, and textile waste into new products—is growing in popularity as contemporary designers, like Monaco’s Inès Bensalah, see sustainable fashion as a new form of high-end luxury couture.
Recently selected by Forbes Monaco for its annual “30 Under 30” edition, Inès has created unique bespoke garments for Olympic athletes, race car drivers, beauty queens, and football legends. A few years ago, Inès was a student at the University of Monaco, handing out VIP goodie bags at the Amber Lounge Fashion Show, the hottest ticket in town during the Monaco Grand Prix. Last year, the Corsican-born 23-year-old was the main designer in that same prestigious event, showcasing sustainable OOAK selections from her fashion brand, Inessa Creations.
CRACKING THE CODE IN HUMAN FASHION
Inès knows that today’s haute couture must adapt to changing climates—social as well as environmental. She uses organic and natural materials in her work: in one memorable collection, Inés incorporated real sea coral into a series of bikinis. Additionally, she recycles fabric offcuts from top fashion ateliers that might normally be sent to the bins and hand paints collection pieces with plant-based pigments and natural charcoal. Customer orders are wrapped and delivered in compostable packaging.
Inès believes that clothes should wear YOU, not the other way around. Her custom designs seek to reflect the wearer’s own personality and aspirations, which she uncovers by interviewing each prospective client. “Old fabrics carry their own stories of usage, wear, and life,” Ines says. “But my upcycled creations not only give a new life to the clothes, they transform the client’s own words and ideas into colors and patterns,” creating a truly unique and personal fashion statement.
MONACO STEPPING UP, STEPPING OUT
The tiny but glamorous principality of Monaco has always been famous for its links to fashion legends like Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, not to mention its very own Princess and style icon Grace Kelly. MonteCarlo Fashion Week, launched in 2013, has become an international rendezvous for designers from around the world.
Other members of the princely family have also been prominent players in the fashion community. Princess Caroline and her daughter Charlotte Casiraghi have both modeled for Vogue. Another Vogue favorite, Princess Stephanie, interned at Christian Dior and has worked as a swimsuit designer. Her daughter Pauline Ducruet founded ALTER, an eco-fashion and gender-blind clothing brand.
Monaco’s increasing investment in planet-friendly fashion maintains the iconic glamour and bling of the region’s couture but with core values of environmental and social responsibility. The Monaco Fashion Council has been leading the fight for sustainable couture since 2013. The Council recently selected Inès for their prestigious “Made In Monaco” entrepreneurial award and recruited the star designer to mentor young designers and artists in the principality.
Inès cites the late Princess Grace as an important influence for the Princess’ embodiment of the “authentic chic” that she hopes to infuse in each collection. She has also followed in the footsteps of the Princess, supporting Grace’s beloved Croix Rouge (Red Cross) and other local charities that aid the elderly and underprivileged.
During a recent Zero-Waste Week in Monaco, Ines took second-hand clothes donated to a Croix Rouge clothing drive and “upcycled” them into 12 one-of-a-kind couture pieces. She then sold the outfits to her affluent clientele for the benefit of the charity.
So how would Princess Grace, Inès’ royal role model and an iconic style “influencer,” see the role of fashion designers today? “We’ve always been taught that couture and fashion are luxuries but not a necessity.” Inés reflects. “I believe that if Princess Grace were here today, she would say that sustainable fashion must now become a necessity… for the planet."
This post was provided by Annette Ross Anderson. Annette is a partner and Marketing Manager at the iconic Monaco restaurant and sports bar, Stars'N'Bars. Over the last 30 years, she has hosted the Monaco multi-mix of royals, billionaires, celebrities, expats, university students, and yachtsmen that make up Monaco's diverse social universe. Annette also oversees the MonacoUSA Association, a social and business network in the principality. A trained journalist and business writer, she is currently working on a screenplay inspired by the legacy of Princess Grace