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To achieve the colors he wants without the use of dyes, Vitali sorts his printed matter by color, a process that takes foresight and patience. (He spent two years saving enough yellow pages to make one canary-hued dress.) Beyond its aesthetic value, each taut strand also serves as an archive of Italy’s changing history, as chronicled through headlines and photographs.

Each taut strand of newsprint also serves as an archive of Italy’s changing history, as chronicled through headlines and photos.

Vitali draws his influences from a radical tradition known as “Arte Povera,” an art movement that coalesced during a period of upheaval in Italy in the 1960s. Its exponents believed that the conventions of the marketplace must be overturned to create art that is truly revolutionary. Unconventional materials, particularly found objects, were favored as a way to subvert the “corporate mentality.”

Vitali’s most-recent collection pays homage to women’s handiwork, which isn’t often given the respect it’s due. Several pieces, inspired by memories of his father making baskets from river reeds, resemble wide nets. “My works are poor and precious at the same time,” he says.

Somewhere between sculptor, ecologist, paper artist, and fashion designer, Vitali defies categorization, yet his work has attracted much critical acclaim. Besides exhibits in galleries across Italy, Vitali has also feted his work at the Museum Rijswijk near The Hague, the Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium, and the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, TX. In October, the city of Argentina organized his first retrospective.

+ Ivano Vitali