Leather bags-of-cactus-by roberto-di-stefano

The cactus leather bags by Roberto di Stefano

Sara Bargiacchi

Roberto di Stefano is a young Italian designer who is experimenting with the use of innovative material. The cactus leather bags by Roberto di Stefano are made from a leather-like vegetable fabric extracted from cactus leaves.

Desserto launched this “leather” on the market. It is a Mexican brand (from Guadalajara, to be precise), founded by Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cazárez and presented in 2019 at “Lineapelle”, an international fair held in Milan.

Prickly pear cactus has several properties, most importantly it grows on its own and does not need water. The leather produced in Desserto’s cactus plantations is not only sustainable but also biodegradable, durable, and high-quality. The entire production process, from organic cultivation techniques (without herbicides or pesticides) to drying and staining completely respects the environment and work ethic.

Roberto di Stefano, the finalist in the 2017 “Vogue Who is on Next” competition and featured on Sara Maino’s “Vogue Talents “platform, is the first Italian designer to bet on Desserto. With the use of this innovative material, Roberto di Stefano’s namesake brand becomes cruelty-free, vegan, and sustainable.

Velarde and Cazarez say of the collaboration with Roberto di Stefano: “We are happy to collaborate with this young start-up that has taken a big step forward in terms of sustainability, using our innovative material in Italy to produce an entire vegan collection of fashion accessories“.

We had the chance to let Roberto tell us about his new collection and we talked with him about the future of sustainable fashion.

Roberto di Stefano’s cactus leather bags: interview with the designer

First of all, thank you Roberto for granting us this interview. I would like to start by asking you how and why the collaboration with “Desserto” was born. Tell us a little more about your interest in eco-sustainable materials.

Thank you for giving me this space. My interest in eco-sustainable materials comes from the need to stop using leather of animal origin. During my research, the desire to make the brand 100% sustainable, cruelty-free and vegan arose in me. I had been thinking about it for years and personally, at this precise moment, it was unthinkable to go back to conceiving the collection as before. To carry out my project I wanted to have the best solution available and the choice could only fall on the leather made from the cactus of ‘Desserto’ which is what I considered most innovative and versatile.

Who is the woman who buys a “Roberto di Stefano” bag?

She is a woman who appreciates design, quality, and fashion. A woman who is interested in a product made in Italy and also in everything that concerns the realization of the bag; for a personality that wants to approach a more conscious and sustainable way of living style.

When did you make the decision to keep production in Italy and why?

I have always produced in Italy and I will continue to do so. First of all, because I am extremely happy to be able to support our artisans and, at the same time, to guarantee the highest quality, the key value of my brand.

Personally, do you think sustainable fashion will make its way into the Olympus of “fast fashion”?

I think it is necessary and essential. It can no longer be considered an extra. We should make people aware of the subject and I hope that soon fast fashion will seriously align itself with this philosophy.

What do you think the future of fashion will look like after the pandemic? Do you think something is changing?

I think the change will be total and will affect all sectors. In fashion, I think the first thing that is changing and will change is the pace of collections and proposals. More value will be given to the quality, history, and authenticity of the brand. All this will have to be accompanied by a more digital way of presenting oneself. These two apparently discordant realities (on the one hand the need to be authentic and on the other the digital representation) will need to coexist.

What is the creative process behind a “Roberto di Stefano” bag? Where do your ideas originate, what or who do you take inspiration from?

My creative process is free and without bias: from the choice of materials to the combination of colors, to the mix of seemingly discordant elements. I like to experiment. The design is deliberately essential so that the message arrives more clearly. Today, in addition to style, there is an essential content for me which is sustainability, cruelty-free, vegan materials, and continuous research.

Your creations are not symmetrical, on the contrary, they often have unstructured and particular shapes. Is this the expression of your vision of fashion?

The concept revolves around a clean and essential design, but full of oxymorons. In the latest collection, for example, the rope, a natural element, contrasts the austerity of the lines. The maxi-mirrored logo on the micro bags unconsciously attracts the eye of the observer. I try to do a mental job as well as a style one.

Lastly, I’d like to ask you what you would recommend to young designers out there, what to focus on and how to express themselves through their garments.

To designers who are entering the fashion world, I can advise having a clear vision. Different from others, to listen to everyone, but always follow their instincts. Having patience and working hard are essential characteristics.

Roberto di Stefano’s latest collection has been presented inside Altaroma‘s SHOWCASE (exclusively online). Furthermore, during Milan Fashion Week, the cactus leather bags debuted with an interesting video project called “Portraits”, which involved six personalities from the field of sustainability, who interpreted Roberto di Stefano’s creations in their daily lives.

Thanks to Michele Leva of “S2B Press” (Milan) for the images and the interview.

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