Povera Slowdesign, a start-up spinning its web in slow fashion

Inspired by the Italian Arte Povera movement, this start-up transforms used polyamide tights into ethical, sustainable fashion accessories made in France.

104 million pairs of polyamide tights are thrown away each year in France

Used tights are the ultimate “poor product” of the textile industry, but they are a choice raw material for Hélène Verhelle, founder of Povera, who defines herself as a “slow designer”.

While 104 million polyamide tights are thrown away each year in France, representing 7,315 tonnes of waste, Povera has set up collection points in Paris and Lille, her home town, to give new life to these unloved garments.

The young company, which was set up on the launch of “Made in France Street” in Paris, has recycled 12 pairs of tights per day since 2019, transforming them into rings, bracelets, hairbands, plant hangers and headbands. The manufacturing principle is simple: the tights collected are sorted by colour, texture and density and then cut by hand and transformed into spools of cord or ribbon of different widths, which are then knitted, crocheted or woven by hand to create the accessories.

After obtaining a Baccalauréat in Applied Arts, a BTS degree in Fashion Design and a Master’s in Textile Design in Roubaix and Lyon, it was an exchange with the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and her interest in the Italian “slow” movement that inspired Hélène Verhelle to work with fabric as a visual artist.

Regretting that tights are not designed to last, Hélène’s website proudly promises to make fashion – the second most polluting industry – a little cleaner.

Upcycling, the process of transforming used objects to give them a new purpose, brings her objective of creating ethical and sustainable fashion to life: “Buying Povera accessories helps promote ‘slow fashion’ and establish a recycling network for used polyamide tights,” she wrote.

And since changing attitudes also involves informing new “ethical consumers”, Povera also shares its expertise by organising upcycling workshops once a month. The aim? To learn a textile crafting technique and make something yourself.