In Paris, the Berlier factory dreams of being a temple of circular fashion

Recovery of unsold stocks, making from natural yarns… The Berlier factory, inaugurated on Thursday, welcomes companies and associations with the aim of being the new Parisian temple of circular fashion, with the creation of jobs as a result.

Bypassing “a predatory economy that is not interested in the planet or in people (…) it is possible, it is not a utopia”, launched Anne Hidalgo during the inauguration, welcoming “a peaceful revolution, gentle”.

It is in the south of Paris, in the 13th arrondissement, rue Jean-Baptiste Berlier, that the factory has taken up residence.

Six occupants share its 1,150 m², on the second floor of a glazed building designed by Dominique Perrault: the association of business leaders Fashion Green Hub, the professional integration associations Hawa, Espero and Trevo, the dyeing workshop Whole and the Coco&Rico creation and confection workshop.

These structures work towards a more responsible fashion by recovering unsold items, production offcuts, end of stocks. They produce +Made in France+, train in the social and solidarity economy and hire people far from employment.

According to the City, by 2030, the Parisian circular economy sector will create 3,000 jobs and avoid or recover 20,000 tonnes of textile waste per year.

“Luxury brands are very interested, they tell us + We have hangars full of dormant stocks, we don’t know what to do with it +”, rejoices Lucas Thivolet Conde Salazar, from Fashion Green Hub Grand Paris.

A man at work at the Berlier factory, which dreams of being a temple of circular fashion, on May 24, 2023 in Paris (AFP – ALAIN JOCARD)

The mayor of Paris has paid 2.5 million euros in subsidies to the RIVP (real estate agency of the city of Paris), allowing to moderate the rents of the factory.

This is “central, accessible and bathed in light”, enthuses Thomas Ebélé, president of Fashion Green Hub Grand Paris, who rents “a place at the heart of the heritage of the textile industry”, where the Bièvre, supplying dyers and tanneries.

– “Pushing the boundaries” –

Coworking spaces, photo studio, creation and tailoring workshops… Within the factory reigns a cozy atmosphere, barely disturbed by the noise of fabrics rustling and the discreet cadence of the sewing machines which are activated occasionally.

“We see lots of machines and few workers on them,” says Gabriel Defrocourt, co-founder of Coco&Rico, a design and clothing workshop for many brands, from Marine Serre to Paul & Joe, using organic materials, recovered and produced in France.

Because unlike globalized productions, everything is manufactured on site and therefore requires a lot of equipment, operated by “mechanics who have experience”, explains its partner Cléa Polar.

A woman at work at the Berlier factory, which dreams of being a temple of circular fashion, on May 24, 2023 in Paris (AFP - ALAIN JOCARD)
A woman at work at the Berlier factory, which dreams of being a temple of circular fashion, on May 24, 2023 in Paris (AFP – ALAIN JOCARD)

Further on, three seamstresses are working on a Sienna-coloured fabric. An “all linen” collection sewn with “100% cotton” thread, without haberdashery: “You can forget your skirt on the beach”, it is compostable, assures Lucie Mestre, founder of the design office L’Unique Façon, which accompanies the Imajine brand in its development.

“When I started (a master’s degree in fashion design, editor’s note), we did not address these notions”, explains Stacy Venient, a 23-year-old work-study student who “did not think at all” before about the environmental issues of fashion.

“But now it’s become obvious: for my collection, I’m going to be super careful,” she promises.

At the factory, it is also the “social aspect” that seduced Maya Takeuchi, workshop manager in Hawa, who employs women in difficulty: “We are a small workshop but we are pushing the boundaries of inequalities between men and women”.

Under his leadership, Annette Ntsama makes a large denim shopping bag.

“The things of life” took the 43-year-old mother from Italy to France, from hotels to sewing, but Annette is now certain: “That’s exactly what I was looking for!”, she says with a beaming smile.

Its workshop manager Béatrice Megale finds it “very rewarding” to work for Hawa, thanks to “the feedback” given to her by these women whom the association supports and, glancing around, is suddenly moved: “They are happy”.

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