Vogue CS in English
Gabriele Moratti: on how Redemption changes the world through fashion
Denisa Palsha5. 7. 2020
He grew up volunteering at a rehab center, built luxury motorcycles with friends to auction off millions for charities, and founded a sustainable fashion brand that gives back half of its profits to good causes. Denisa Palsha zoomed with Bebe (Gabriele) Moratti, creative director of Redemption, to talk about his ‘brainy-rocker’ girl with a voice and how social sustainability in fashion can change the world.
I remember the day of the last fashion month when Milan started to lockdown due to the Coronavirus spread. Where were you at the time?
I was fortunate because Italy closed down while I was on vacation. I left after our last show to Switzerland, with my mom and 7-months-pregnant sister. I never used to take a break, working on 5-6 collections a year. So when I found myself stranded in the middle of the mountains, I realized this was a call to pause my hectic lifestyle and actually take care of myself. I slowed down, watched documentaries, re-connected with nature. Did the simple things in life that were long overdue.
The pandemic in Italy took a particularly serious course. How did it impact you and your creative thinking?
Negativity in the world never frightened me. I see difficult times as an opportunity. I try to turn them into creative fuel. With Redemption, from the day we started the company, we focused on supporting social issues. This is why rock and roll always inspired me. Icons of that era were involved in the social space. Our shows also are part of Hollywood glam, part rock, and roll, part social protest. We always use our position of privilege to help others.
Indeed, one of the things that fascinate me about Redemption is a commitment to giving back. What was your response to the pandemic?
Since we started the brand, we have been particularly active with charities and NGOs, giving back 50% of our proceeds. During the lockdown, we evaluated what more can be done through Redemption to help our society. It was a very rough time for so many people, and I wanted us to be there for them. We are donating 100% of online sales to COVID19 relief efforts, in addition to supporting hospitals with care for patients, and making donations for medical research.
Talk about positive change through fashion! What was your path to becoming a designer?
I actually studied sociology, and later finance, working as an investment banker in Milan and London. But since my teens, I had a huge passion for fashion photography. Growing up in Milan in the ’90s was like living in an open-air museum, surrounded by the work of legends. Every fashion poster was photographed by the icons of photography, like Peter Lindbergh, or Helmut Newton. Fashion became my second nature through photos. Eventually, I wanted to have a voice.
And you made it work without fashion schooling?
I took a leap of faith when I started a brand. I always had clarity about what the Redemption woman represents. The inspiration came from photography, music, and cinema, and my creativity was anchored in culture and history. My focus was style, not trend. I wanted the clothing to stay relevant for decades. Of course, not having a fashion education meant that I had to make up for technical shortcomings, but if you are passionate about something, you will work twice as hard.
How will the Redemption girl change as a result of the pandemic?
She won’t change. The same person inspired me pre-COVID-19: educated, sophisticated, involved in social issues. Brainy, but with a rocker side. This woman has a voice and wants to drive change in the world. People ask me about a sexy aspect. I think the sexiest thing on a woman is a brain and personality. Of course, now she may have to go to fewer rock concerts, La Scala, or Carnegie Hall. She will stay home more, and we have an athletic line for her. But she has the same mindset.
What does the new normal mean to you?
I hope we don’t go back to the fast track system, but rather get inspired by the ‘golden age’ of fashion. Great masters of the ’80-’90s, such as Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Armani, Versace, were true artists and artisans. They built an identity based on beauty, craftsmanship, and creativity. Creativity defines humans as a species, and the creative process takes time. In the last 10-15 years, there was a shift towards the number of products brought to the market. That takes away from the ‘human element.’ The new normal should be what originally made the fashion business so that we can buy well. It should be about longevity. That is also more respectful to the environment!
You are eluding to sustainability. There are many definitions out there. What is yours?
To me, sustainability is a frame of mind, take into consideration every time one makes a personal or business decision. It’s also a process - being better than you were a day before. Your next collection should be more sustainable than the last one, and there should be a trajectory, that keeps going up. But sustainability is not only about the environment. It has a great social aspect!
How does Redemption contribute to the ‘social’ sustainability area?
Since we started the brand, we have been particularly active with charities. And we always wanted to invest in people that are less fortunate, to create an environment that is more equitable and to reverse the social polarization of the last 20 years. For instance, producing in Italy, but if we go to a developing country, it shouldn’t be for our benefit, rather to bring prosperity, know-how, and job opportunities for people. We founded Redemption on the principle of being respectful to both, people and the environment.
So your clothing is sustainable…
Yes! We made substantial investments in research and business development to create cutting-edge fabrics and technologies that are less damaging to the environment. We use organic, recycled material, and creative fabric innovations, like VEGEA, Vegan Leather Alternative, or bamboo fabrics (bamboo grows naturally without pesticides, and uses much less water than cotton). We work with low impact dyes and revolutionary technologies for finishing processes. We contribute to protecting the ocean by making swimwear from recycled post-consumer waste, plastic bottles, and marine plastics (“SAVE THE BEACH” initiative). If we can do it, then it should be done! Fashion is a good communicator, not just a business. It can play an important role in changing the dynamics of this world.
Will you continue with the fashion shows?
I always wondered why an industry that relies on selling to the masses is so exclusive in the show format. I believe we need to re-start in a more inclusive manner. I am learning what we can creatively do with different platforms. Even if you won’t spend a lot of money on my clothes, I want you to enjoy my show. It might be virtual, but I want it to be accessible to many people.
Where do you see Redemption in the coming years?
I never knew what success really meant. Is it the number? A number of stores? A number of people you dress? To me, it is all about being happy with what you do. I love doing this, so I will continue because there is so much more to do! We look at needs around us as we go, and we keep adding development in those areas (we launched man, we added athletic wear, 100% sustainable leggings and sports bras, now evolving into a full-line, etc.). Most importantly, I want us to continue setting a good example! if I can inspire the next designers to contribute in a positive way to society, and brands to include more sustainable policies in their work, then I did the job. This is my mission and Redemption is here to continue driving positive change.