The beautiful region of South Tyrol in Italy ticks lots of boxes; picturesque Alpine farmsteads, clear as crystal mountain air, stunning views of the Dolomites – but fashion? When I visited South Tyrol in September I met with two different fashion companies run by energetic young entrepreneurs who offer sustainable fashion inspired by the natural environment of South Tyrol and also the modern spirit of Italian design.
With the fashion capital of Milan only a couple of hours away these companies can enjoy a lifestyle surrounded by nature while tapping into the best fashion design and production facilities in the world. Read on to find out how fashion and design is thriving in South Tyrol as we meet two local designers: WAMS Socks and Re-bello T-shirts.
Where Are My Socks? Italian Designer Socks from South Tyrol
My first stop on the South Tyrol Designer trail was to meet Robert Larcher and Daniel Kaneider, founders of WAMS?! Socks in their office just outside Bolzano. I call it an office but in true start-up fashion, they have crammed their showroom, warehouse, design hub and working space into a basement room of Robert’s apartment. I instantly felt the fun, fashion vibe with washing lines of latest sock designs strung over their desks and promotional leaflets from their latest collaborations covering the tables.
The two entrepreneurs met when studying economics in Innsbruck and decided they wanted to start a fashion business – fashion seems to be in the blood of every Italian male! They felt there was a gap in the market for colourful designer socks that were top quality but moderately priced and started work with a freelance designer to create the first collection.
The tongue-in-cheek name of WAMS or “Where are my socks?” came about because the pair were always losing their socks in the wash so they wanted something bright and easy to spot. Now the range is constantly changing and there are often special editions such as the collection they made to match a Re-bello t-shirt line or the special snowflake sock they made for Snowdays, Europe’s biggest winter sport event for students.
The socks are made of top quality combed cotton in a factory near Verona and the company is proud to be selling a 100% ‘Made in Italy’ product. The local production means they can respond to fashion trends and work with other South Tyrol designers on special projects. Daniel told me “If someone asks me for a special design, I can call up the factory and in an hour I can be in Verona to discuss it with them”. The socks are stocked in over 50 stores around Italy and are also available to buy online through the WAMS website.
All the designs are unisex and in two lengths since Italian businessmen prefer to wear longer socks that don’t show any ankle, while those looking for fun and fashion will go for the ankle length. The socks retail from around €12 and there are gift box containing 4 socks that is very popular at Christmas.
Re-Bello – Sustainable Street style from South Tyrol, Italy
My next stop on the South Tyrol Designer trail was at the Re-Bello warehouse on the outskirts of Bolzano, where I met founder and CEO Daniel Tocca. After completing a degree in economics Daniel went on to complete a Master’s in Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam and realised that this was the path he wanted to take in business. After a false start working for a year in a multinational corporation he gave up his job and in 2010 returned to his home town of Bolzano, where he joined with two friends to work on the concept for their new start-up venture.
They wanted to work in the fashion sector which is well developed in northern Italy, as Daniel put it ” Already when Italians are 13 or 4 they have an eye for beauty and fashion, it is in our blood like football.” Their vision was to develop a fashion brand that was based on sustainability, since this was a growing movement in Italy and Europe in areas like organic food, but was not well represented in the fashion sector.
They started to source and develop sustainable yarns and fabrics, using bamboo and eucalyptus as well as organic cotton and upcycled wool, and to develop a plan to build the business. Daniel told me “Sustainability is not only in the clothes, in the materials, in the hang tags and everything we use, but also in the philosophy of how we should develop our company for long-term growth”.
At the start Daniel worked with a freelance designer to develop the fashion concept of Re-Bello – a beautiful rebel who wants to change things but in a beautiful way. Each range follows the season’s trends but draws inspiration from street-style, punk and rock and is inspired by the 23-35 year old fashions, although all ages may be attracted to the stylish designs and sustainability concept. The t-shirts designs are where the company started and Daniel showed me a banner made up of all their best-selling t-shirt prints, many of which become signature prints that transfer from one season to the next.
The fabrics used are top quality, with a silky finish and the unusual yarns are a key part of the sustainability approach. Bamboo grows in the wild and when cut it will quickly grow back at 15-20 cm a day, while Eucalyptus (sold under the Tencel brand) is also a semi-wild plant and so does not require intensive cultivation methods or large amounts of water.
Organic cotton is also used as well upcycled wool, taken from the offcuts from woollen garment manufacture which is recycled to make a new yarn for the Re-Bello knitwear. The company uses natural dyes, avoids garment finishes that use any harmful chemicals and their production methods are certified under recognised standards such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
Despite all the work that goes into the sustainability of the Re-Bello fashion ranges, Daniel told me “I want to attract the customer who doesn’t necessarily know about our sustainability philosophy, who buys because of the style, they love the materials and how they feel. Then they go home and wear it and they understand the sustainability message and feel good about that.”
The natural beauty of South Tyrol is a big inspiration for the sustainability approach of Re-Bello and a reason why they are based in Bolzano rather than the fashion hub of Milan. Daniel told me “When you come here the first thing you see is that nature is everywhere, even if you are in the centre of Bolzano you look up to see the mountains around you. The nature and sustainability of South Tyrol is what will keep Rebello here.”
Follow Re-Bello on their website where you can see their latest ranges and discover how their sustainable approach makes a difference. In the Re-bello online shop you can order some of the best-selling t-shirts, knitwear and jeans for both men and women. Follow them on their social media channels Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |
More things to see in South Tyrol
Information, articles and resources for South Tyrol
For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website and watch videos about the region on their YouTube channel. For updates on things to do in South Tyrol follow the South Tyrol Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages
My thanks to South Tyrol Marketing for supporting my visit to South Tyrol in collaboration with Travelator Media
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