Therapy Recycle & Exorcise is a sustainable and alternative, gender-free, season-free and size-free fashion project based in Berlin, Germany and Córdoba, Argentina, ran since 2012 by two sisters separated by the Atlantic Ocean and re-united by this passion, Paula and Mariángeles Aguirre. They are two sisters based between Berlin, Germany and Cordoba, Argentina, where they are originally from. Mariángeles studied Communication Sciences, finishing her studies in 2004, in Cordoba, Argentina. She moved to Germany that same year. She has worked as a freelance writer for various fashion magazines. But she describes herself mainly as an entrepreneur. In 2007 she founded a tourism entrepreneurship in Berlin together with her partner, called HolaBerlin, which she runs until today. She was one of the co-founders of Green Fashion Tours Berlin. Last but not least, she is part of a couple of fashion associations in Germany and works as Head of social media at Fashion Revolution Germany. Mariángeles founded Therapy Recycle and Exorcise in Berlin, in June of 2012.
‘’We have a playful and inclusive approach to fashion through DIY (Do It Yourself) upcycling techniques. We say conscious fashion can also be experimental, daring and playful. Alternative fashion can be conscious and care for the planet. We introduced the sustainability issue there where few others were talking about it. We are already a recognizable player in the alternative and club fashion scene. We bring sustainability together with styles that don’t follow the trends but are bold and very visual. Our ethics are guided by our intersectional vision. It mixes sustainability and circularity with issues such as inclusivity, body positivity and gender redefinition, criticizing what mainstream media and advertising impose to us as desirable or even “normal”. We support a more human, diverse and open-source fashion. We are against dehumanization, exploitation, objectivization and commodification of the humans who make and wear fashion and against the careless exploitation of the planet and its resources.
We at Therapy do not only question the way we (mass) produce and (mass) consume, but also heteronormativity, patriarchy, binarism and the exploitation, commodification and objectivization of the human body. We also question the currently dominating economical order where we are educated to compete with one another and aim for eternal linear growth no matter how devastating this is for the earth, its resources and all forms of life.
We propose a less egoic, less toxic, more ethic and more human (fashion) system with collaboration, cooperation and circularity as its base, in balance with the planet and the people.’’
Exclusive interview with Paula and Mariángeles Aguirre, co-founders of Therapy Recycle & Exorcise:
How does your label position itself on the sustainable fashion market?
From the very beginning of our work, we positioned ourselves at the crossroads of circular fashion and alternative fashion.
It was and still remains an almost unexplored niche in fashion. We really believe we are creating this path while we walk it. And we have learned a lot along the way, we are still learning. We are happy to say we are a recognizable actor in this niche, as we have been creating it since 2012 when we started.
How the label was born and where can find it exactly?
Long story short, the official date is June 2012 in Berlin, when we came up with the name, logo and a business plan. But upcycling second hand clothing and accessories is something we did all our lives. It was the usual thing to do in our family, to pass clothes from older to younger and to remake them. It was something our grandma always did and we learned from her.
It was born from the necessity to create things with our hands and express ourselves through our clothes, wearing something that was affordable but special. Something that was not on every shop window of every mall of the city.
We produce in Berlin, Germany and in Cordoba, Argentina. We sell online, in our ateliers and various shops worldwide.
What do you think was or still is the biggest challenge for you during the pandemic situation?
Everything was a challenge in relation to our project. Because suddenly there was no social life, nowhere to go out and our clothes are mostly for clubbing or for stage performances, or whatever occasion when you want to make a statement with what you wear. We were not going to start making comfy clothes for staying at home….
So, it was really unmotivating, especially in the second wave and lockdown. But slowly people adapted and performers and artists started to produce content online and needed our clothes again. This brought a ray of light.
Luckily enough, we were locked together in the first lockdown. We were both in Argentina and there were no flights at all. So, during this time we studied a lot, we did many courses and assisted in many online-talks. This was amazing but also kind of overwhelming because we realized we have to be better, learn more, do more.
So, we came up with some ideas we are developing right now.
How do you want to achieve the long-lasting concept for your label?
We believe we already have a long-lasting concept.
Reusing and upcycling is the present and will continue being there in the future, because it is something timeless. As we said, it was something our grandma was doing. Also, our aesthetic is kind of recognizable so we must say we are proud of having come so far by ourselves, following almost no fashion rules, but rather making our own.
But we want to improve our processes to become fully circular, especially in the end-of-life issue and grow our impact. We also want to have collaborations, maybe one with a big brand. This is one dream that still needs to happen.
How do you determine what is durable design?
Definitely by choosing durable materials and not following trends. Also, by making multifunctional, adaptable pieces. Pieces that you can use in different ways and pass on to family and friends because they never lose value, but actually they become more valuable with time.
How far do you go in terms of sustainability?
We are sustainable because we work with zero waste, locally and recycling materials. But we are also aware that being sustainable is no longer enough. Fashion needs urgently to become circular, regenerative and systemically thought. So, there is still a lot to do also for ourselves. The only way is to work interdisciplinary and based on collaboration, meaning helping each other, and not on competition.
How can the fashion industry nowadays help more creatives?
By abandoning its sick competition mentality and opening up to young creatives, giving them space and possibilities to start developing their careers. Many big corporations are too busy doing greenwashing when there are so many young people with great ideas. I think big fashion houses should have youth academies. They should involve themselves more with education and surround themselves with younger people.
Today many big brands look “rejuvenated” at first glance, but that’s just a facade. As soon as you take a closer look at their production systems, their sustainability reports and their mentality, they smell like mothballs. There are very few big players who are really innovating and it’s not all just make-up. Innovation comes from the small and the new, but it is they who have the financial means to develop ideas on a large scale and achieve impact. Probably this was always this way. But this should have started changing the latest, thanks to the pandemic. For a moment it looked like it was going to happen, but instead, they are coming up with ideas like merging their names.
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Can you tell us a little bit about your references for the last collection?
We create collections and post-collections (made with the scraps and rests or reworking pieces from previous collections) once or twice a year, to be presented at exhibitions or shows. The rest of the year, we create pieces constantly according to our concepts of multifunctionality and multi sizing. The last collection we presented was a post-collection. We presented it in January 2020 at the club Sameheads in Berlin Neukölln and it was a double show with our colleague Andrea from Fade Out Label. Each brand presented their own collections and there was a little capsule mixing both brands. Our collection was a post-collection and it was called Awake. Everything was made from reused materials: discarded merchandising materials with their striking advertisements, second-hand work clothes, remnants of stock from the 90s, gloves and sports protectors, outdoor accessories, cameras, accessories for pets. Also, remains of fabrics, metals and chains found at flea markets, leather rests from the Argentine leather industry. Also, second hand denim and scraps of pieces from previous collections as well as technological devices. Awake was inspired by the 1988 film “They Live” by John Carpenter. In the film, the ruling class is embodied by aliens who hide their appearance and manipulate people to spend money, breed and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in the media.
The message of the film was a great representation of how fashion operates in society, feeding the need to always consume new products through the imposition of trends. The film points out how Marketing and the media operate by performing a “brainwashing” to turn human beings into obedient consumers and to make them functional to the system with its vision of a consumer society where everything can be mercantilism. Through these subliminal messages an ideology is imposed on the basis of which the typical heteronormative, patriarchal and binary roles lie. Where bodies are commodified and objectified, and people and earth are just seen as resources to be exploited.
We were also present at the last edition of Berlin Fashion Week. We were selected among other 13 sustainable fashion innovators to be part of Fashion Open Studio x Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin on September 7-8. There we presented some of our signature pieces. The event consisted of an exhibition, a studio visit and a video-showcase with a photoshoot.
Which was the best-selling garment from your collections?
There are garments that we call the ” Therapy Classics ”, these are signature pieces, let’s say. We keep repeating them because we love them and they work well. Of course, every one of our items is one-of, because the materials are always different, but the techniques are repeatable.
Pans with cut-out-legs that you can wear with or without legs. The two-pieces-sets made from long tops or sweaters, or the jackets that you can hang as a backpack. Jackets that can be worn as dresses, some accessories like harnesses and other kind pieces made from metal remnants, with a kinky – fetish touch. And denim pieces, from cropped jeans to reconstructed garments made out from discarded denim.
What does your label need right now as a fine art brand in order to achieve the next goals?
Well, we need to find affordable space to work in Berlin. This is really an issue in this city. In the middle of the pandemic our landlord kicked us all from our beautiful last atelier. We were three small fashion and accessories brands and three film and plastic artists working there.
Then, we would love to work together with some bigger brand to collaborate and create a collection.
A letter to your future-self. What would you write?
Make more pauses and drink more water. And learn that “unproductive” time is actually necessary and makes you even more productive in the working hours.