Port Zienna: The New Artisan

Peruvian designer Francesca Canepa rallies against trend-led fast fashion with Port Zienna. Based in New York, where she has lived and worked since completing a postgraduate degree at the city’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 2014, the artist combines clean lines and a deliberately limited colour palette with her expertise in the couture technique of draping. The result is a distinctive blend of fluidity and structure, making use of environmentally friendly fabrics, and the results are designed for a lifetime of everyday wear. Canepa discusses her new collection.

A: The FW’18 collection combines an established monochromatic colour palette with flashes of bright red. What inspired these colours and how important are they to you?  
FC: Collection No. II was inspired by Onna-bugeisha, female samurai warriors fighting throughout the Japanese Imperial army. This inspiration is very important to us not only because of the expression of power and strength but as an appreciation of their garments and culture. In Japan, the red shade of vermilion is extremely present through their landscape, architecture and fashion.

Port Zienna will always be inspired by minimalist artists and architects such as Richard Serra and Troels Sandegard, therefore next to our loyal black and white palette, we included the vermilion red to blend two sources of inspiration together.

A: Top Modernism is created from a single piece of fabric, draped to create an elongated contour which mimics the curvature of the body. What first drew you to this technique and why is it so instrumental to your design ethos?
FC: Whilst studying in Paris, I was introduced to the technique of draping and I completely fell in love. Madame Grès was the pioneer of this technique and she is one of the artists that I admire extremely and is, in fact, the reason why I became a designer. I was taught that draping was a step to follow whilst designing haute-couture and since it is a complicated expertise I wanted to change this concept and introduce it to a ready-to-wear brand. When you wear haute couture, you feel empowered and strong, and I believe a woman should feel like this every day. This is the main reason why I created Port Zienna.

A: The FW’18 look book positions the model in high-energy stances, highlighting modern tailoring and strong lines whilst drapery and ties synched-in and mimic the movements of the body. How does the look book reflect Port Zienna’s sculptural and architectural concerns?
FC: FW’18 Collection No. II look book reflects our main inspiration this season, which is female samurai warriors. Our goal was to showcase strong empowered women at battlefield, fighting for their rights and believes. We merged this with an off-white architectural pleated set on the background which was inspired by the actual draping technique process of how we create all of our pieces. Across our collection, we have some vermillion stitches and vermilion ribbons hanging from our pants and tops, we incorporated this idea graphically in our look book as well.

A: This collection emphasises singular, geometric forms and sustainable materials. How does this vary to the wider fashion industry and why is conscious design so important to your work?
FC: To me, being a sustainable brand is extremely important. I believe the fashion industry should start shifting away from fast-fashion trends and focus on creating long-lasting beautiful quality pieces for every customer. My goal is not only to create all Port Zienna pieces with environmentally friendly fabrics but to create a sustainable manufacturer process. I have seen so many factories that let people work in the worst conditions, and I was not going to contribute to this way of business.

Port Zienna is made in a place close to my heart, my home country Peru, where we provide secure jobs to communities of artisans in need of help and ensure a safe place to work for our team.

A: How does this collection compare to your previous series?
FC: The reality is that Collection No. II is an evolution from its predecessor. The essence of minimal architecture and design will always remain the same, we have just implemented an extra piece of inspiration in order to evolved from one season to the next. It is just a natural progression.

A: What do you have planned for this year?
FC: This year has been really good for us so far. We showcased our FW’18 Collection No. II at NYFW on February and since then we have been growing tremendously in boutique orders. We plan to get into more stores that share the same values as we do and continue to each even more customers. Our product demand has increased so much that our artisan team keeps growing in Peru, and hopefully will continue to do so!

To read more about Port Zienna, click here.

1. From Collection No. II. Courtesy of Francesca Canepa and Port Zienna. Photo Sandra Arenas. Talent Ekaterina Zalitko. MUA Tadayoshi Honda. Set Designer Loreta Haaker. Art Direction ISM studio. Accessories Tuza Jewelry.