Let’s Introduce Pepita, Social NGO and the project “At your way – From Clothes to Self-Identity and Vice versa”

A Modo Tuo, Pepita’s workshop promotes activities of individual creation of one’s own outfit, starting with the available clothing. Young people are asked to accessorise, modify, sew up the chosen clothing items in order to express their own emotionality and/or personality.The Project embraces orators and social young institutes of Milan, Monza-Brianza and Como, including up to 60 young people from 14 to 25 years old.

The project started in Q1 2023 with the aim of building short term awareness around themes such as: self-expression and self-image, building awareness in adolescences and young people on their own self-image, deepen the relationship with their own body and reflect on beauty standards imposed by social media.

The project has long term objectives as well, that interest themes such as discovery of self-identity, self-affirmation and many others, interesting people’s intrinsic characteristics.

The Lab promotes practical activities for the creation of personal outfit. Starting from available clothes, young participants are going to accessorize, modify/redesign and resewing chosen clothes letting their empathy and their personality emerge from those.

C.Tessile S.p.A. is always open in collaborating with social partners and their projects, sharing textile materials to the development and running of social projects like this one. The company offers its textile’s scraps, leftovers and samples/lengths available in different dimensions, colors and prints, useful materials for the creative activities of the Lab.

Who are you and what you do? Describe Pepita and its philosophy. What does it mean for you to be a Social NGO?

I am Andrea Longoni, professional educator and Student of Pedagogical Science at Bicocca University in Milan.

PEPITA is a social NGO with the aim of assisting people and their wellness. Our philosophy is built on the ethic of the listening of contexts and people. Our Approach is to work with people, standing by their side, assisting them, without imposing behaviors or teaching them anything. Thus, our purpose is not to teach people something but let the good in people emerge spontaneously from them, showing their potential and helping them boosting it. We run reflective processes that mix experiences with reflective thinking.

 What is the baseline idea of the Youth Expression’s Lab and what are the main target?

The baseline idea of the Lab came from the awareness of a real social problem that is afflicting young people: the creation of a fragile and often not well-defined personal identity.

Data shows that the psychological wellness of young people is in danger. A research that investigates the youth wellness state during Covid-19 lockdown, shows that 53,37% of youth that replied to the survey, to the question “I begin most of my days thinking that it will turn in a great day” answered “Not true”. This is a clear warning, confirming a real issue in youth, that needs to be faced.

Most of the time adolescences don’t feel to be good enough or strong enough to face life’s challenges that emerges along their life path. Most of the time, they have a severe fear of fail.

As a Cooperative we have not the recipe of the good and perfect identity. We stand on the side of the youth and their life stories, entering together the dark cave that human interiority represents, that scares but hide the best treasures.  

We believe that a project for youth’s expression can help them to discover and to become aware of their identity through experiencing adoption and freedom. We believe that letting them experience the freedom of choosing what they want and give them the possibility to experience the freedom of expression can help them define their identity, developing awareness about what they love to do or not, giving them the permission to slow down and enter in contact with the inner me.

How do you think fashion influences new generations? What are the good tips that fashion is able to offer to todays’ youth?

Fashion is still a strong vehicle of self-identity, influencing young people’s personal identity, most of the time, giving them a real etiquette (e.g. Hippie, Punk, Metal, etc.) even though the approach to Fashion has now changed. Social media expose youth to continuous images, Ads and inputs from the external world, not letting them have the time necessary to become part of a group. Todays’ youth are more trained to the ethic of likes, looking for appreciation from the majority of people. As well as when we post something on Instagram or Facebook and we hope to obtain the higher number of likes possible, isn’t it? It is a trick that is able to catch adults, think about young guys…

How do you think the lab can contribute to the wellbeing of the young people that attend it?

Firstly, we are going to give to participants a space for personal reflection where they can reflect on topics such as the relationship with your own body, the message delivered with your style, being able to investigate events from each own life experiences, and many others. It is precious to take the time to let self-emotions grow and analyze life lessons, looking for proper the sense of self-being, desires and life expectations.

Secondly, we are going to give participants the possibility to adjust their self-image, as they perceive it, working on fabrics and clothes. Thanks to concrete activities that act directly on how they dress, they are able to work directly on the image that they perceive of themselves. The goal is to work on those aspects that characterize/define each one and only by reaching self-awareness, the personal image can be reviewed. At the end we want that participants love fashion, experimenting manufacturing techniques, interesting for their professional future.

Did guys love to embody the fashion designer role? It could be the reveal (born) of some new talents. 

Of Course, participants were enthusiastic of the initiative. After some embarrassment, everybody started working on fabrics. Some of them shows great creative skills, able to design, create and modify clothes. Obviously, they don’t have fashion design and sewing techniques, but they certainly have huge creativity, desire of expression and courage to get involved.

Pepita’s Project is a social and a sustainable project too, because of the use of leftovers and scraps from textile industry. How much do you think young people consider important to wear sustainable clothes?

The young generation is very interested in sustainability. We want to share the good practice of recycling and reusing clothes and fashion accessories, without throw them away. This can also teach them to not throw away life experiences and relationships that sometimes have something that doesn’t work. There is always a string, an idea and a material where to work on in order to re-sew clothes. At the same way, also relationships with others can be re-sewed and when it is done those are even more beautiful and rich of meaning.

Casual Moment: Do you think to be able to create an artistic and exclusive project dedicated to Canclini? We love art, especially arts from textiles.  

With pleasure, in future we can share a dedicated path in order to create projects dedicated to these topics and let the Canclini’s Philosophy be more present in educative contexts.