Atelier Riforma: the clothing start-up with zero impact

Elena Ferrero has a master’s degree in food science in her pocket, Sara Secondo a master’s degree in law. Two paths hardly intertwined with the world of fashion, were it not for the meeting between the two in 2018 on the desks of  Fondazione CRT’s Talenti per l’Impresa (Talents for Entreprenurship). It was here that they decided to give life to what would be much more than a simple project: Atelier Riforma, a startup that today counts on a network of more than 20 tailoring shops throughout Italy.

The idea behind it is simple and brilliant: to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry by promoting the transition to a circular model. The motto is upcycling, which means “transforming something useless into something useful and beautiful” and giving used garments a new life. Here is their story.

How did you get involved with the fashion industry? And how did you connect it with upcycling?

Neither of us had any experience in the fashion industry: we started from scratch with the aim of creating a business that would have a positive impact on the environment and on people. Hence the concept of upcycling, the alternative model to ‘throwing away’, where fashion waste is not seen as waste but as a new resource. It is a process that goes beyond the common concept of recycling: it is not limited to giving new life to the old garment, but increases its original value thanks to the creative transformation by our ‘upcyclers’, designers and tailors. For Atelier Riforma, the focus is not only on the ecological aspect, but also on the social aspect.

How does this work?

To transform our garments, we work with social tailors who are committed to the inclusion of disadvantaged people such as migrants, ex-convicts and women who have been victims of violence. To bring about even more profound change, we have also chosen to work with fashion schools to teach tomorrow’s professionals the value of upcycling. We also want to make consumers aware of the need for more conscious consumption: to do this, we communicate our values every day on Social Media, through the Media and by participating in meetings and debates.

What’s next?

We are working on a technology that will allow us to apply the circular model on a larger scale: the first Artificial Intelligence technology for the cataloguing and sorting of textile waste. Separate collection of textile waste will be mandatory in Europe by 2025, and this project could make Italy a pioneer in the upcoming change of legislation in the sector.

What role did “Talenti per l’impresa” play in the development of Atelier Riforma?

Thanks to “Talenti per l’Impresa”, we realised that we could fulfil our desire to address current social and environmental challenges by creating an impactful start-up. We had the opportunity to acquire the skills to build our business, but not only that: in the second phase of the course, the most practical part, we developed our idea with specific lessons and mentoring, dealing directly with investors and stakeholders. This is where it all started: we joined the Community of entrepreneurial projects for social innovation SIT (Social Innovation Teams) and the certified incubator Dpixel by Sellalab.

Would you recommend Talenti per l’Impresa to people who want to create a startup?

Yes, but not exclusively. Developing entrepreneurial skills and the ability to innovate are not only useful for startups, but also for employees and freelancers. It is an opportunity not to be missed if you want to have the tools to make your dream come true.

Visit the Atelier Riforma website