Genderless sartorial, upcycled from deadstock, and a strong opinion on how inclusivity matters. This is Bennu.
From Firenze to Milano, Niccolò Chiuppesi opens up about sustainability, the future, and Benuu. When I first reached out to Niccolò, I didn't have any hope of getting called back, so I sent the email just to see; two hours later, he replied. He openly talked about the brand, its interests, its goals, and how sustainability plays an enormous part in the creation process of every single piece. My approach for this article was to get to know brands that had no connection to inclusive design, to understand where this sector of the industry stands in terms of disabilities and if, in the future, the approach could change to invite this group to be included in the designs of certain collections or even be part of the brand's overall ethos.
Benuu, an Egyptian mythological figure, the Phoenix, rises from the ashes and starts a new life - a new cycle. This premise is applied to garments, revamping old fabrics and giving them new life.
It was February 2021 when Niccolò, the founder and designer, had a precise idea: bring back elements from the past to protect the future. From the research conducted in warehouses and stocks of unsold garments, the first collections of sartorial blazers were born. These unique and limited pieces, recovered and transformed, blend the desire to be the spokesperson for the process of change that characterises the long history of handmade Italian tailoring tradition. The process of reclaiming materials from contexts far distant from today is intertwined with the designer's identity of recreating a world where past and present coexist in each garment. It fuses an indissoluble bond with the elements of nature and the earth, to which we all belong, as well as the imagination of a past that continues to live within us. Niccolò speaks about the fashion industry as one of the world's most polluting ones, with leftover fabrics of good quality.
The main objective is to reduce pollution caused by the overproduction of new garments and fabrics, and consequently slow down the frenetic pace that characterises the world of fashion.
We then proceeded to discuss Benuu's opinion on the world of disabilities and where brands stand regarding the production of garments that prioritise accessibility for people with special needs. While Benuu is already a genderless brand, providing inclusivity where designs invite everyone to wear them without conforming to stereotypes, I asked Niccolò how he, as a designer and creator, feels about brands that are helping to break barriers towards inclusivity for the disabled. He expressed, "It is a big challenge for a brand, at least for mine, which must follow important steps of pattern making and designing. When we talk about inclusivity, we mostly think about gender and sexual identity, but it is hard to merge all these aspects into just one product. It is certainly one of the challenges we would face when developing something. As a brand, I haven't had the chance to work on something specifically dedicated to the precise needs of a person. Comfort and fit can be completely different."
"If you are going to do it, you have to fully commit, not just stay in the realm of propaganda or marketing campaigns where, as a brand, you promise development and growth towards change but then remain stagnant." -Chiuppesi added.
"I had the opportunity to get to know a sartorial laboratory that involves people with mental disabilities, but I never had the chance to work with them because they tend to be fully booked by big brands that often do it to improve their image and send a message to the public, making them appear as an inclusive brand simply because they work with people with disabilities. However, they still don't create garments for them. This is an incoherent way of acting, often seen in fast fashion.
This is why I believe that the fashion industry's dedication to disabilities lacks significant effort and action, as not everyone is adequately prepared and possesses comprehensive knowledge of each impairment and their specific needs.