Interview with the 3 winners of the fashion contest #cucireinsieme

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For the initiative promoted by AIW Association for the Integration of Women and supported by The Fashion Propellant, our platform TFP TALENTS and Déshabillé Magazine arrived so many interesting projects that we decided to reward 3 young designers, Ibrahim Ousman, John Herrera and Valentina Poltronieri.

#cucireinsieme, fashion competition for emerging designers (illustration by Giada Maestra)

These three emerging fashion designers come from different countries and, also if they have very different personal stories, were all united by the common passion for their job and the spirit of altruism.

That’s why they decided to partecipate to #cucireinsieme, a fashion competition launched by AIW Association for the Integration of Women for the creation of facial masks handmade by the migrant women who are supported by the no-profit association in Modena.

#cucireinsieme became an interesting opportunity of collaboration. That’s why TFP TALENTS decided to support it together with Déshabillé Magazine, offering to the winners of the fashion contest an interview on our magazines.

An important project, especially in moments like this we are living, in which the emergency is causing so many problems both to the world of volunteering and independent fashion designers. On one side, who is supporting migrants is receiveing less donations, diverted to the red cross or other emergency associations. On the other side, the young fashion designers are those who are more suffering the pandemic, because they don’t have the parachute of a big budget.

Here how these three young fashion talents tell us something more about their stories. Let’s meet Valentina Poltronieri, Ibrahim Ousman and John Herrera.

Valentina Poltronieri, Ibrahim Ousman and John Herrera winners of the fashion contest #cucireinsieme


Valentina: I was born in 1993 and grew up in the small province of Bergamo. Since I was a child I had a predisposition for drawing, that I cultivated in the field of fashion. My studies started during the last year of high school, with a private course about fashion sketches. A gift of my parents, that made me understand my interest for fashion. Then I entered in this world through Istituto Marangoni, where I attended the 3-years course in Fashion Design. Between anxiety, joy, sleepless nights, some quarrels and many smiles, Istituto Marangoni gave me the basis and knowledges requested by fashion world. After this experience I decided to complete my training at Istituto Secoli, with a Master in Women’s Patternmaking and Tailoring. I had the occasion of making internships in many companies, growing personally and professionally. So I decided to realize my dream, launching my namesake brand in 2017 and starting a great adventure, that I’m bringing forward with all my forces, great sacrifices and passion.

Valentina Poltronieri

Ibrahim: I’m 29 years old, born and raised in Cameroon. I came to Italy in 2017 on my own seeking Asylum, which thankfully was granted.  I arrived by boat, then spent some time in Bologna before coming to Modena.  I started sewing with my father when I was a boy.  He ran a clothing shop out of our home.  Sewing with him was like a game for me, one we could play together and I have always loved it since then.  I opened up my own Atelier there, and had a team of 3 people working for me.  I miss that very much.

Ibrahim Ousman

John: I’m a fashion designer from Manila, I moved recently to London. I’ve been designing for over a decade. And  recently I have realised that I want to change the way I create things. I want to recycle. I think there’s still a huge gap between recycling fibres. And whilst that technology is being developed I like my frivolous fashion moments to come from fashion waste.

John Herrera


Valentina: This quarantine interruped many works that I could not finish for the closure of shops, manufactures and textile companies. So I had more time for myself and for thinking to new projects, so I decided to apply this fashion competition. I had the time for developing concretely the project, thing impossible to make previously. Then, I love challenges, new projects and experimentations. Everything is creative involves me. Creativity is part of my DNA and being able to express it through different ways, brings me great satisfactions and makes me happy.

Ibrahim: Since arriving in Italy I haven’t been able to find a job in a clothing Atelier.  I saw this competition as an opportunity to have my design seen and my voice heard.  I love being in Italy, there is so much opportunity but first you have to integrate into the culture before having access to those opportunities and I saw this competition as a way to do that.

John: Because I do care about humans and their safety. I like wearing masks because I feel safer and at the same time thoughtful that I don’t infect anyone around me. Even the common cold can be passed simply by sneezing near another person.


Valentina: In the first days I was anxious for my job, with the fear of failure after all the sacrifices of the last 3 years. Then I began to adapt myself to this situation, understanding that I have to react, thinking to new methods for being creative and active. The anxiety stopped. Now I have to say that the quarantine period was positive. I had the occasion to develop in a more detailed and relaxed way a project I really care about. I created something for mainteining active my job, before with organic-cotton t-shirts “My Doll” and then with a second business that is bringing great satisfactions. One day when I was at the supermarket I’ve seen only sad people around me, as we were surrounded by a gray cloud, a sensation that I’ll never forget. Returning at home I worked for giving again color and energy to people, inventing these facial masks, colorful and cool but protective at the same time, customizable for children and adults. With drawings that express who we are and want to communicate. From this project is born also the facial mask for the fashion contest #cucireinsieme. The happiness of being a winner makes me understand how much are important unity among people and non-verbal communication.

Project by Valentina Poletronieri for the fashion competition #cucireinsieme

Ibrahim: It was hard at the beginning, staying at home and feeling isolated.  I has also been hard to find materials.  With the small amounts of fabric I have been able to find, I have been creating masks from home and giving them out to people in my community for free.

Facial masks designed by Ibrahim Ousman for the fashion contest #cucireinsieme

John: In spite of being sad of all the lives lost and heart-broken families. This lockdown has been really good for me. It strengthened my thoughts on how the industry impacts the environment. It has put all the wasteful aspects of my business on hold, given me time to reflect. And mostly given me the inspiration to go back to why I fell in love with this industry in the first place- creativity. I have been busy sewing recycled clothes for myself.

Project by john Herrera for the fashion competition #cucireinsieme


Valentina: I think that the new directions of fashion will have the keywords “virtual – ethic – positive”. Virtual because many brands are experimenting high-level ways of virtual communication for presenting the collections. “Fashion doesn’t stop” and the designer must to move forward. If for now we can’t create events or presentations for a lot of people, we should find a different way to involve public and technology can help us. Ethic because I think that the respect for environment and people has not been so strong as now. Thinking about quality instead of quantity, of organic fabrics and upcycling of textile waste or recylcle will be the priority for every brand. And then fashion should express energy, positivity and joy. The collections will have bright colors. It won’t be easy for young designers and independent brands like mine, I hope there will be more union, cohesion and comprehension from the fashion system for not missing the dreams of many young designers.

A creation by Valentina Poltronieri

Ibrahim: It’s hard to know now.  I am a strong believer in team work.  When we work with other people, we are more inspired and motivated.  We evolve more quickly learning from others and being able to share.  I fear that we will not be able to work in Ateliers together for a while because of social distancing, so we will have to find alternative ways to share our ideas.

Creations by Ibrahim Ousman

John: Fashion will be more conscious, for the environment, for people, for consumers. More democratised and inclusive. More rational.

Facial mask designed by John Herrera

Thank you Valentina, Ibrahim and John for answering to our questions and especially for having partecipated to this important initiative!

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