There are so many ways we communicate, from our facial expressions, tone of voice, and so many more verbal and non-verbal cues. But, if you aren’t a human, how do you communicate to your fellow beings? It’s something designer Alisa Neu explores in her latest collection, Nature Network. Inspired by trees ability to communicate with nature through an underground fungus and root network, Neu blends together nature’s natural patterns, colours, and organic designs that we see outside. The collection is an embodiment to Neu’s commitment to designing and crafting sustainable modern fashion that both encourages the protection of nature while also honouring the love of expression through clothing.
Schön! chats with Alisa Neu about her latest collection, Nature Network, working with anthropologist Jane Goodall, her design process, and more.
What is the ethos behind Alisa Neu designs?
As individuals intricately woven into the fabric of nature, I embrace the philosophy that preserving our environment is tantamount to self-care. Taking ownership of nature translates to taking ownership of ourselves in tandem.
You went to school in Munich and worked in London during your studies. How did these two places inspire you and your craft?
London and Munich, two magnificent cities steeped in history, offer unparalleled allure for individuals seeking creative outlets, but their urban landscapes often leave city dwellers distanced from nature. The hustle and bustle, impersonality, and chaos associated with city living frequently overshadow the presence of nature, restricted to few parks. As a result, my vision for sustainable fashion, imbued with nature-inspired design, aims to bridge the gap between humanity and the natural world.
This collection is called Nature Network, a description for the ways trees communicate with one another. How did you implement this into your design process and the final garments?
A fungal network functions as a communication system for trees, intricately weaving its way through the earth’s soil. Inspired by this system, I incorporated a cotton mesh netting between two layers of silk crepe fabric to create a textured, mesh fabric. The resulting three-dimensional effect was achieved by meticulously sewing miniature beads onto the mesh. The sweater’s coarse knit pattern was reminiscent of the expansive, branching mushroom network, while the leaf played a vital role in photosynthesis, the life-giving process for all creatures. My collection pays homage to the leaf’s essentiality in nature, and the accompanying leaf dress and pants replicate the fluttering, carefree movements of leaves rustling in the breeze. A print design featuring enlarged leaf patterns adorns the jacket and coat, while the “green” hue, symbolizing chlorophyll’s importance in plant growth, provides my inspiration.
This collection celebrates nature and the beauty of coexistence. Why does that resonate with you as a designer?
Recognizing the natural world’s intrinsic beauty and nurturing a deep appreciation for it serves as the fundamental groundwork for my artistic process. We cannot exist apart from nature; rather, we are an integral part of it. Therefore, safeguarding nature simultaneously safeguards our existence.
How did your work with Jane Goodall influence your designs?
Jane Goodall’s unwavering commitment to the environment, as evidenced by the formation of her international environmental organization and her belief that “every day and every time, we can make a difference,” serves as a powerful inspiration.
Are there specific artists or craftsmen that have influenced your work?
My artistic inspiration stems from authors such as Peter Wohlleben, whose illuminating work on tree communication heightens awareness and fosters an appreciation for the forest’s complex ecosystem.
What are some of the ways your brand is helping to create sustainable fashion and ease the emission impact of the supply chain?
Throughout the design process, I sought out local companies specializing in sustainable fabrics, yarns, and buttons. Creating a sustainable collection with a minimal supply chain is not only feasible but essential. My selection of fibers, manufacturing methods, and finishing techniques all contribute to the garment’s ecological footprint. In elevating the value of my brand’s fashion through special finishes and unique fabrics, I aim to diverge from the current culture of disposability and create garments that the wearer values and cherishes for years to come.
Is there a certain piece from the collection that is your favourite and why?
My favorite creation is undoubtedly the leaf dress, whose fabric was dyed using natural materials such as rose petals and ferns. The leaf patterns etched onto the delicate silk crepe fabric, paired with the fabric’s earthy hues, evoke a feeling of oneness with nature when worn.
As a young designer, what are some of the fashion industry’s most difficult and rewarding aspects?
The textile industry is notorious for its resource-intensive, environmentally detrimental practices, stemming from the extensive supply chains it relies on. Choosing to support local, sustainable workshops enables us to reduce our environmental impact while curbing our insatiable hunger for cheap, disposable fashion. Investing in unique, sustainable clothing not only provides personal satisfaction but also distinguishes the wearer as an individual who values quality over quantity.
How do you see the Alisa Neu label growing and evolving in the future?
I envision my label growing in tandem with the slow fashion movement, imbued with a deep commitment to nature conservation and self-preservation. As a designer, I relish the opportunity to effect change and shape the industry’s future positively.
Lastly, what do you hope those that wear Alisa Neu designs feel or think when wearing the clothing?
My aspiration is to evoke a sensation of wearing a unique attire that not only provides exceptional comfort through the use of sustainable fabrics and close-to-nature manufacturing, but also instills a sense of environmental responsibility. This conviction imbues the wearer with a sense of assurance and augments the enjoyment they derive from the garment.
The Nature Network collection is by Alisa Neu.
design. Alisa Neu
photography. Markus Wachter
styling. Sabine Holderer
models. Clara Kolev + Kolja Morizet
hair + make up. Julia Ohlmeyer
videography. Moritz Heinrich
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