FTA Prize 2019 winner Roni Helou was one of the first Arab fashion designers to talk about sustainability. Whether it’s making a collection out of rubbish or using deadstock fabrics, he always finds innovative ways to incorporate sustainable production methods into his design ethos. “Being environmentally conscious, or sustainable, means taking actions that consider and try to positively affect the well-being of other humans, animals and the planet. These values are embedded in me and are part of my day-to-day life, so it is only natural that they would translate into my brand,” he says.
The Lebanese designer is currently expanding his base, and has eyes on Doha and hopes to also be seen in Dubai more often. He was very active after the Beirut blast in August 2020, and was one of the founders the crowdsourcing fundraiser, “United for Lebanese Creatives.”
This Arab creative talent has also turned his attention to his eponymous brand’s actual labels, which will now be made of plantable seed paper. The project is in the testing phase and by mid-April he hopes that these eco-friendly tags will be on all his clothes. “The idea came right after we stumbled upon a lady that creates paper from all sorts of recycled materials. We immediately noticed the seed papers she creates and Ghiya (our brand’s art director) and I had a lightbulb moment to use them for our labels.”
Helou is currently working with a paper-making specialist that creates recycled papers and infuses them with any type of seed. The choice of the final plant will be decided by Helou’s social media followers – he will shortly be asking his audience to participate in a survey. “The devil is in the details. Although labels seem like a small thing, they require paper, printing and electricity. By using our new labels, we are promoting the recycling of different kinds of materials. We’re working with a small-scale printer, which produces much less waste and electricity and uses no harmful chemicals such as bleach in their process. And finally, we are encouraging people to start planting.”
Always looking for ways to be more sustainable the young designer is now looking at how technology can be better incorporated ways into his design studio. “It is always important to keep researching and not limit yourself to what you know.” And it is this forward-thinking attitude that has kept this FTA Prize winner at the forefront of the sustainability conversation in the MENA region.