Atelier & Repairs, the brainchild of former Levi’s designer Maurizio Donadi, has built a business out of taking old and worn-out clothes and giving them a new life. Donadi has always been infatuated with workwear, which led him to seek out the classic men’s chino brand Dockers for a new collaboration.

Using old pairs of Dockers, A&R has created three new styles using existing pairs of Dockers khakis to create new styles that can be sold and worn again. Donadi discussed how the collaboration came to be, how brands are misrepresenting sustainability and how workwear has influenced fashion. 

So how did a partnership with Dockers come about?
Atelier & Repairs is about excess reduction of all kinds, from textiles to finished garments. We are constantly looking at companies that have excess, and in today’s business, every brand produces more than what they actually sell. Dockers is really high-quality construction with a great price. Durability is synonymous with luxury, and for the price they have, their durability is incredible; it’s democratic, since it is accessible to everyone. But it is a big company, and their styles become obsolete over time. So we went to them, and they were very open-minded about working together. It’s not a major commercial initiative yet, it’s really just a test. We took one style, a classic signature chino, and we created three styles out of it. We submitted the prototypes, they loved it, and we moved forward from there. 

I know you’ve been interested in workwear for a while. What do you think of the crossover between these sorts of utilitarian brands and high fashion? Will that continue?
I think this is a classic question. You have a luxury brand that wants to be in the casual business and the casual brand that wants to be in luxury. What’s interesting is that there’s a lot of attention to detail in couture. In that way, there is a lot of crossover with workwear, which is all about functionality. Military clothing is very well-constructed, very functional and durable, and the details are impeccable. For me, fashion has an attraction to workwear, in general, today more than ever because the mixing of elements is appealing. You can have your 1960s Carhartt jacket with expensive high heels. I think workwear is a style more than anything, and it has been for a while. You see the influence everywhere. Back to Dockers, the chino was a workwear piece first, and now it’s ubiquitous.

Sustainability has become a hot topic in fashion. Do you think there’s a danger that brands will use sustainability as purely a PR move without really backing it up?
It’s already happening. Sometimes it’s unbearable, to be brutally frank. Brands need to talk less about sustainability and more about responsibility. Sustainability can be so vague and difficult to define. It’s become a marketing strategy and a financial strategy for a lot of brands. It should start with product, not with the marketing. It’s a very abused term right now. Any communication about sustainability is muddled about what it means and how to achieve it, and some people take advantage of that vagueness.