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Young and creative, just graduated in "Shoes and accessories design" and vegetarian, Marta Antonelli has found the alternative to "cruelty free" leather using wood, laser and cotton. Same softness and ductility, but totally sustainable. If high-end leather costs from 40 to 300 euros per square meter, in processing, its “green” alternative only costs from 60 to 150 depending on the quality of the wood. Marta and her father, Aldo, founded MyMantra and started with the line Ligneah: bags, belts, wallets, hats, shoes and fashion accessories with natural shapes and low environmental and visual impact. Not happy, for every product sold, they have a tree planted in Nigeria.
1) When were you born? How did you get the idea?
As vegetarians, the need arose about a year ago to replace animal skin with another material it was at the same time sustainable and cruelty free, so we thought of the wood. After a long series of tests, we arrived at the result we wanted to achieve: a soft wood that could be worked like a leather or a fabric. The field in which we have decided to operate is that of fashion accessories, having recently graduated in Shoes and accessories design at the IED in Rome, but the sectors in which our material can be used are many.
2) What materials do you use? Do you also care for dyes? How do you select them?
The materials we use are cotton, wood and a low environmental impact glue which is used to couple the two materials. We buy the woods already dyed and undergo a water treatment; for now we have finished working on the phase dedicated to prototypes for which the materials used are not the definitive ones that will go into production. In fact, in the future, our goal is also to use naturally dyed fabrics.
3) How do you certify the materials? What impact does this choice have on the cost of your products?
The companies we source from are certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), while for the prototypes we have not been able to request a written certification because the quantity of wood required to obtain it exceeds our current needs: this will happen during the production phase.
When it comes to sustainability, all these factors such as certifications, attention to dyes, fabrics and all the various components to be used require a greater economic expenditure which actually falls on the price of the final product. In the start-up phase it would be unsustainable for a small company like ours but we are working on it. Meanwhile, we are participating in an initiative that the organization is in charge of Tree Nation, where we are committed to planting a tree in Nigeria for every product sold
4) Are you developing patents?
About a year ago we filed the patent application for our processing, which consists in coupling fabric and wood through the use of an adhesive. Laser micro-engravings are made on the wood, the final effect is that of a finely worked leather. Later we would like to apply this processing also to recyclable metals, which we have already given the name of Metal Textile.
5) Are you entirely Made in Italy? How many are you? In which area do you produce and where are any suppliers located?
The manufacturing, production and supply process takes place in Italy; my father and I manage our company alone and we collaborate with small businesses, even family-run ones, like ours, which operate in and around Rome. This allows us to better follow the processing and have more possibilities to personally check each phase while maintaining a certain level of quality.
6) Do you pay attention to the environment even in the shapes of your products?
When I design a bag or a shoe, I think of simple and sinuous lines that bring back the essence and shapes of nature. Moreover, thanks to the essentiality, we are able to maintain our sustainability in the design phase. This happens because, by providing the exact measurements, we are going to create as much material as we need for that specific model, so as to limit any waste or even completely eliminate it. The advantage of self-producing the material lies precisely in this.
7) Has the interest of users / buyers in environmentally conscious products changed over the years?
Buyers are increasingly attentive to sustainability of the products they buy and with attention the need also grows. The critical mass is also increasing in Italy, especially in the last two years, in the wake of the countries of Northern Europe which, on the other hand, have long since developed a certain sensitivity regarding these issues; however, it is up to us, who work in these sectors, to ensure that sustainable products can compete with other types by emphasizing quality and further developing the aesthetic sense, so as to bring more and more people closer and respond to every type of need.