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Interview with Niccolò Chiuppesi, founder of BENNU

The words of those who, despite everything, managed to get up, like the Phoenix, carrying important messages of upcycling, genderless and hope

By Milena Soci

#BeBennuThinkForward

BENNU is a new Italian brand based on the recovery and customization of handcrafted sartorial vintage clothes or garments from unsold stock. The name BENNU, in fact, which derives from the bird of Egyptian mythology known to us as the phoenix, conveys a message of rebirth and hope in a second life.

The garments that are recovered and adapted to modern times are "reanimated" and removed from the natural process of disposal caused by the relentless production of cheap fast fashion. In addition to being recycled, all the garments offered by BENNU are literally unique, individually handcrafted.

The Acrìmonia team, met Niccolò Chiuppesi, founder of BENNU, and had the chance to learn more about the ethics behind the brand and the dynamics involved. 

 
 
 
 
 
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How was BENNU born?

BENNU was born during the first lockdown, after one of the umpteenth "glances" at my wardrobe. I had a lot of clothes in there that I hadn't worn for years and that I couldn't see in there anymore.

One day, together with some scraps of fabric that I had been keeping since my first work experience, I took a blazer that I no longer wore and started to experiment.

What came out was a contemporary garment and above all a garment to wear every day. That's how I came up with the idea of starting to work on an upcycling project, which brings with it my experience of almost 5 years in fashion and luxury companies and above all the desire to get involved in the first person to do something useful, in a small way, for our planet.

What does Slow Fashion really mean to you?

Slow fashion means taking the time to observe and appreciate. It is an operation to recover time that all too often tends to get out of hand and condition us. Slow Fashion means giving value to what we wear and, above all, re-evaluating aspects that we were slowly losing, such as the life cycle of our products and, above all, the emotional bond with what we wear.

Slow Fashion, however, is also the tool to fight everything that has led us too quickly to change our approach to our clothes, and will be what will allow us to abandon the disposable culture linked to clothes.

 
 
 
 
 
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How important is it for a possible buyer (apart from the fact that the clothes are sustainable) to preserve a certain authenticity, both from an aesthetic point of view (the pieces are limited) and from the point of view of craftsmanship?

The tendency to all wear more or less similar products is an uncomfortable legacy that fast fashion is leaving us: for years we have been buying clothes in the same places, in the same shops, with the conclusion that more than once we have found someone wearing the same clothes as us, making us lose that element of exclusivity.

As we are increasingly aware (and although there is still a long way to go...), the vast majority of clothes are produced in inhuman conditions by underpaid workers, using materials that are difficult to recycle and have a very short life cycle.

The rediscovery of craftsmanship is therefore also a direct consequence of the return to a slower pace: greater attention to the processes, places and conditions in which the garments are produced (for example, I am very pleased to know the person who made the garment I am wearing, there are stories, dreams, skills, inside a garment that we often underestimate).

Wandering around vintage markets I realised that the most popular (and at the same time most undervalued) item is the blazer. Probably because it is really versatile and above all evergreen. What I'd like to ask you is: why did you focus on the blazer (and waistcoat)? Is it a practical choice or is it also dictated by the uniqueness of the garment itself?

The blazer was immediately an element of distinction for the brand, an element that once reinterpreted could contain all the values and commitments that BENNU carries forward and on which it will develop.

From a stylistic point of view, tailored clothes and garments have their own inherent peculiarity: they have already been designed to measure, and therefore already present an element of exclusivity: the garment is already a unique piece, which contains the stories and shapes of the person who commissioned it (since some are garments that have never been worn) or worn it before.

From a more conceptual point of view, the reinterpretation of the blazer manages to break those categorisations and pre-set filters that we want to eliminate with BENNU: a garment that was born as a male garment is actually freed from the gender label and becomes a garment that anyone can wear, without having to resort to specific categorisations.

 
 
 
 
 
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This question brings me back to the concept of genderless, which is another important message that you at Bennu are pursuing, alongside that of environmental sustainability. Why do you think, in 2021, we feel the need to emphasise gender neutrality in clothing? How is Bennu committed to carrying this message forward?

As I often like to remind you, fashion is an art form and every brand therefore has a duty to use its products as messages for today's society, a society that is part of a revolutionary context in terms of gender identity and freedom of expression. In this respect, I find a very topical passage by the philosopher Foucault, in which gender is indicated as a fluid variable that changes and modifies itself in different contexts and eras.

With BENNU we want to be the protagonists of this non-binary universe, a conscious universe in which everyone who wears a BENNU blazer, waistcoat or shorts feels part of the process of change that our society is going through.

It's wonderful to think that despite the many difficulties dictated by the pandemic period, there are still people ready to start again. Was it particularly difficult to create a brand in this period or do you think that the issue of sustainability is now so important that it has cushioned the blow?

The difficulty for small brands (very small, in fact) such as BENNU lies in being part of a system that only in recent years, with more or less big steps, has begun to see sustainability and environmental responsibility as the pivot of its path.

Unfortunately, all too often we witness greenwashing that hampers and undermines the credibility of the entire sector, with promises or misleading statements for a public, especially the Italian one, which has only recently begun to experience sustainability as a fundamental element in the choice and purchase of a garment.

It seems, however, and fortunately, that we are dealing with generations that are increasingly aware of and attentive to these issues, and this has certainly helped us and will help us to reduce the gap with other realities.

 
 
 
 
 
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As a supporter of simplicity as a powerful means of communication, I find your communication project very effective. What is really behind it?

A lot of stress (joking, ...). Behind every communication project there is a research of what we want to achieve and a study of what the real needs of the brand are. It's very difficult to get lost in overly complex messages that are unlikely to reach the public, a very attentive public, as I said before, but above all a public that is constantly bombarded by thousands of editorial contents every day.

Simplicity often conceals detail, something that sticks with you. So we try to pursue this type of communication, this way of interfacing with our public and the outside world, trying to understand what the public wants and then translate it into our image and our values.