Who: Founded in 2017, the brand Rafael Kouto has a unique, sustainable approach to fashion design. Its core approach is the customisation and upcycling of mass-produced discarded garments into unique pieces, fully remade in Switzerland.
When: Kouto obtained his MA in Fashion Matters from the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam in 2017. In 2018, after receiving a Swiss Design Award, he showed his work at the State of Fashion Biennale 2018, Arnhem (NL), the Pop Up State of Fashion, Bread&Butter, Berlin (DE), Dach Showroom, 2018, Paris, in the show Redeemed from Ruins, La Rada, October 2018, Locarno (CH), and at Peaks and Dunes, Dubai Design Week, November 2018, Dubai (UAE). Magazines featuring the brand include Vogue Italia, Stil, NZZ am Sonntag, Textilrevue, Stateoffashion and Elle Italia.
Where: The cultural background and business model is based on Kouto’s own cultural origins mixed with the practice of upcycling, which is very common in Africa. Rafael Kouto proposes a de-westernisation of mass-produced garments and textiles, upcycling them into a hybrid aesthetic between Africa and the West.
What: The production process begins with collecting the discarded garments and accessories at the sorting facility of Texaid, with whom Rafael Kouto has set up a novel partnership. Focusing on sustainable and environmental design systems, the creative process mixes upcycling with couture techniques. The crafts combine three different layers: prints, embroidery and weaving. After cleaning and documentation for the archive, each garment is disassembled before being screen-printed by hand and subjected to further transformation. Finally the newly conceived and unique garment or accessory is hand-sewn and quality checked before being delivered to high-end outlets.
Why: “I see couture as an escape from capitalism, investigating the lifecycle, disrupting it through upcycling of clothing and other materials, in relation to globalisation and consumerism.” (Rafael Kouto)