It’s been a few years since I’ve written one of my sustainable Christmas gift guides (the last was in 2019) but this year it’s time for an update: I have a few artisans in Florence I’d love to support by suggesting their goods as gifts!

Lately I’ve really been trying to practise what I preach in terms of the importance of sustainable fashion. I’m not so good at buying nothing, but I do try to buy vintage or used, artisan-made (possibly in-store or on a platform like Etsy), or from brands that clearly declare sustainable and ethical practises. The topic of sustainable clothing has become more and more at the forefront of consumers’ priorities and thus of brands’ communication strategies in the past few years, which is a good thing. Personally, I’ve always been attuned to the environment – I was remembering the other day how in the 9th grade I was part of an “environment club” and I worked to raise awareness about recycling in our school, which now I do in the office (I literally pick plastic bottles out of my colleagues garbage pails – don’t you?). Through my work on some European-funded projects to address issues in the textile and clothing industry (such as shemakes, a project to empower women to be the next sustainable innovators), sustainability is now something I think and talk about on a daily basis and it just may be becoming an obsession. There are a lot of good things being made in sustainable ways right now. There are big brands with reasonable policies, but one way to really be sure you’re getting something in line with your values is to learn about and support local designers who have an eye to sourcing and practises that have a low environmental impact. In this article I sum up a few of my Florentine favourites at this time.

Christmas shopping in Florence, Italy

Christmas shopping in Florence – purely illustrative image since to be honest, none of the shops I’m suggesting are on the Ponte Vecchio (pictured), although Flo is really nearby!

Flo Concept

Along the Arno, tucked between some snazzy hotels and touristy shops, is Flo Concept, a social atelier selling women’s clothing and accessories. They may be the only one of their type in Florence: founded to support men and women in need through vocational training, everything they make contributes to the community. And it’s not only ethical, it’s environmentally sustainable – Flo’s fabrics and even material for the new leather line are donated to the cooperative by local companies who need a safe outlet for their overstock. I can’t name names, but there are some very fancy brands handing over excellent quality fabric, which is then sewn by hand by people trained at Flo. Their clean lines, classic colourways and occasional colour block pieces make for long-lasting additions to your collection. They also have some of the most adorable kids’ clothing, great for newborn gifts and beyond.

Shop in Florence: Lungarno Corsini 30

Explore online:

We are Sieme

I met the lone female founder of We are Sieme, American designer Cassandra Kane, earlier this year when she and a partner opened up a coworking for sustainable leather design on the outskirts of Florence and I interviewed her for The Florentine. I am so excited about what she is doing to address the sticky issue of leather waste: I had no idea that, in the process of making leather goods, so much leather is discarded and since it’s considered dangerous garbage it has to be incinerated. Leather’s a by-product of the meat industry and it’s here, to stay or maybe not but in any case it exists and there is plenty of it, especially here in the heart of the Tuscan leather industry. Cassandra “saves” leather from companies who would otherwise be throwing it out and she makes new accessories with this material, either small items or larger purses made with the woven leather technique. She also helps other designers to work with leather offcuts. This Christmas I’ve got a brand new passport holder from her brand, which is exciting because I hope to travel more again and my previous one actually disintegrated in my safe while waiting for post-Covid travel!

Shop online:

Marzia Fossi Jewelry

Marzia Fossi isn’t a “sustainable” brand per se but I figure any small artisan is worth supporting. Her affordable, light and minimalist jewels are really my favourite “costume” items – I have numerous necklaces and earrings that I bought from her over the years. They’re extremely wearable because they’re so light you can’t feel them, and I find you can invest in some different colours to match different outfits. Her pieces are all hand made with beads, crochet technique or metal and she’s the only maker involved in her brand. She used to work out of her home and sell at markets, but now she’s opened up a showroom in the San Frediano area, as well as an online shop! I’m really proud of her for taking this leap, and now it’s even easier for you (and me!) to nab her latest creations.

Showroom in Florence: via Pisana 66r open by appointment only – DM her on Instagram / Hours in December – weekday afternoons 3-7pm + find her at the Christmas market at TSH December 4-10-11.

Shop online: @marziafossi_jewelry

Essere Atelier

Your next classic comes from here. Ilaria is a fun-loving dressmaker, knitter and everything else required to design and hand-make clothes. Currently she’s as obsessed with stripes as I am, so, having learned that she made 11 different striped long-sleeved tops this season I ran right over. I’ve long ogled her cute summer dresses and comfortable classics, made by hand to last a lifetime, and recently nabbed a pair of elegant wide jeans.

Ilaria works with deadstock materials from local designers and has been concerned about sustainability right from the start when she founded her brand in 1997. Every little scrap gets used up, with the smallest bits going into accessories or adorable stuffed cats.

Shop in Florence: via dei Pandolfini 7r

Follow / DM on Instagram @essere_atelier

Tiche Clothing

Tijana Stanković, who launched Tiche in 2015, is awesome. Her contemporary handmade clothing brand is made in limited editions because she works with deadstock materials, perfectly in line with a sustainable ethos. This past summer she did a line dedicated to female artists, I fell in love! But she also goes beyond clothes with her Synergia project: she uses her spacious atelier to host all sorts of workshops. I’m particularly excited about her collaboration with wedding florist Funky Bird to save flowers after weddings (a very wasteful system); they create workshops to use the leftovers during the season, as well as dry the flowers for workshops in the winter.

Shop in Florence: via San Zanobi 122r

Explore online:

Officine Nora & Martina Loncar Jewellery

For years, Officine Nora, a jewellery co-working space in the Oltrarno, has been my husband’s go-to spot for my Christmas gift. He knows I love earrings and necklaces (how do people wear bracelets and sit at a computer all day anyway?), and he’s chosen some really neat stuff from the artisans who share this space over the years. The artisans here make just a small number of pieces, all by hand. While they work with traditional materials – metal and stones – Martina Loncar, one of the artisans, tells me that her metal is 70% recycled, and anything can be broken down and re-made into new pieces. She also uses mostly man-made stones in consideration for the fact that natural stones, while beautiful, are less sustainable. She also tells me that their packaging, which I have to say is super funky, is all recycled. Martina and the other artisans have some ready-made items available at the shop (hours may vary, but around Christmastime they’ll be open) but they are also totally open to custom commissions and to customize any piece. Perhaps the most sustainable way you can get new jewelry is to remodel an old piece you don’t like!

Shop in Florence: via dei Preti 2-4r

Martina’s Instagram:@martinaloncarjewellery

Also check out…

  • Female Arts in Florence / an Oltrarno space featuring female artists and artisans, who will be holding a Christmas popup
  • Creative People in Florence / A group of artisans who help each other with promotion, their website has a few gift guides from years past featuring a roster of Florentine artisans.
  • Uashmama / A Tuscan family-run business that now has multiple stores and ships worldwide, who make durable accessories out of paper (I’m dreaming of their comfortable phone holder)

Do you have any other suggestions for artisans or stores in Florence working in sustainable textiles, clothing or accessories that should be on the list! Let me know in the comments!

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