Special guest of the event “Sustainable weaves”, which wrapped up the series of seminars dedicated to “Fashion and Sustainability” at the Collegio Universitario Santa Caterina da Siena in Pavia, Maeko Srl in Milan represents a prime example of a company that has focused on the development of fabrics in natural fibres, which respect both the environment and individuals.
Maeko is born from the passion for hemp fibres of Mauro Vismara, who, in 1998, freed his entrepreneurial streak, deciding to eventually abandon his osteopathic activity, in order to take his first steps in the world of natural fabrics production. A new and exciting activity that combined his strong interest in the use of natural resources with a careful attention to the new needs of the fashion sector.
Through dynamic and constant growth, Maeko creates high quality natural fabrics under a controlled supply chain and participates in the development of a sustainable economy from an environmental and ethical standpoint, while offering its textile range to the international fashion and furniture industries. In 2019, Maeko acquired the historic combed spinning company Filarte, incorporating the entire Filarte team into its staff in order to enhance and carry on the wealth of knowledge that is part of the great manufacturing tradition of Italian textiles. “Craftsmanship is an integral part of our culture – explains Mauro Vismara’s wife Cinzia – it is part of our manual skill and how we live life. Maeko aims to pass on this ancient knowledge in inheritance and in custody to future generations, without sacrificing innovation. With a conscious production, and with the timing and methodology of artisans who are more interested in the quality of productions than in the quantity and speed. We are not interested in being the biggest, but rather strong”.
From where does this passion for hemp arrive? “It is an extraordinary fibre – explains Cinzia – It is an excellent material, which respects the environment and requires fewer steps in production to be transformed into fabric. It has excellent characteristics: with a high thermal insulation capacity and breathability, it shields from electrostatic fields, does not conduct electricity, is hypoallergenic and is antibacterial. We have used it by applying natural finishes, as far away as possible from chemicals, so as to benefit people and nature. We adopted it by first thinking of people, and then only afterwards of brands. Our passion for hemp has led us to establish the RIFLOC project, which is aimed at bringing the hemp supply chain back to Italy”.
From this extraordinary fibre, Maeko has extended its research to include other materials, both of vegetable origins like nettle, pineapple, soy, lotus, bamboo… as well as of animal origins like sheep, yak, alpaca, cashmere, crabyon (derived from crab)…Fibres that are collected and processed in the weaving mill in Turin, while maintaining a strict control of the entire production track and remaining in line with REACH Regulation directives. Dyeing is then done with GOTS certified colours by the technical dyeing department in the province of Como, which also offers dyeing and sampling services to other companies. “Our story is a story of sustainability and transparency – declares Cinzia Vismara – Transparency is the most important of all certifications: we allow our customers to see how the fibres are collected (from the fields and from certified ranches) and how they acquire value thanks to our eco-friendly artisanal processes”.
Fabrics made from natural fibres have the advantage of being recycled and/or broken down into compost at the end of their lifecycle: “In Maeko, some of the fibres are recycled – declares Cinzia Vismara – but we are not completely in favour of recycling for reuse in the fashion industry. For example, recycled wool when compared to virgin wool has a shorter fibre, which is often to the detriment of the yarn, which starts piling and coming apart when washed. So, it cannot guarantee a high-quality product. Rather, it is better to use recycled wool to create fertilizers for example…. Finally, fabrics made from natural fibres, if they are produced following our methodology, with natural processes and finishes, and no chemicals, are completely biodegradable”.
There are many who believe that natural does not allow for the glamourous effect required by fashion: “It’s wrong to think so – declares Cinzia Vismara – We have over 50 fabrics/weaves for fashion: making the difference are the colours, hand, and style. The hand is given by the fineness of the fibre, which is striking for the luxury world…”. Maeko also looks to the athletic world: “Natural fibres are already high performance and accordingly also suited to fabrics for the sports world – concludes Cinzia Vismara – We already make them: for the mountains, we have developed a wool/crabyon/hemp jersey; and for the world of cycling, a fabric made from algae”.