The fashion world is undeniably a global industry, but few labels actually make it a point of calling the origins of their materials and processes. Herein lies Cienne’s point of difference. Started off the back of its founders’ love for travel, the six-month old fashion label scours the globe for socially conscious, artisanal materials and brings them back to their home base of New York, where the pieces are made. Coupled with minimal silhouettes that allow the fabrics to speak for themselves, the result is a vibrant yet sophisticated collection of clothing that packs a punch with its details.
Cienne’s founders Nicole Heim and Chelsea Healy both spent years working in corporate, mass-market fashion, which could explain their about-face to create products in small batches that directly benefit the communities who make them.
‘I learnt a ton from the industry, but after seven or eight years, I became very discouraged. I was frustrated with the disposability and the lack of space it left for the creative process,’ recalls Heim. ‘My frustration led me on a two-year journey to discover how I could use design and business in a more meaningful way.’
She continues, ‘In early 2014, I set off on an independent trip to East Africa for three months. I was in the rural mountains of Ethiopia visiting villages one day, and became enamored by a couple who was prepping their looms and weaving textiles in the same way they had for hundreds of years. I was amazed at how beautiful and intricate the fabrics were, and what an important role it played in the Ethiopian culture. That moment basically started it all.’
Cienne’s collection currently features iridescent silk tops woven in India, dresses in custom-designed Ethiopian cotton in colourful, eye catching stripes, a poncho and matching skirt made from a nubby, textured wool-blend poncho found in Japan, with Peruvian alpaca pieces, and other textiles from Mexico and West Africa soon to come. For Spring/Summer 2016 (pictured), the silhouettes continue to be easy, relaxed and designed to be layered over each other.
‘The idea was that we could source the world, both near and far, for its unique offering. Whether a traditional technique, natural fiber, or cultural aesthetic, the concept is about bringing the best of each idea together,’ Heim enthuses. ‘It’s also a more sustainable way to make, supports local manufacturing and global artisans, and preserves art forms that in many cases are dying due to the decline in local demand.’