Oh, days of youth and joy, long clouded, why thus for ever haunt my view?” said the Irish poet Thomas Moore. This verse brings me back to my tender times of imagination, enthusiasm, idealism, passion, risk-taking, along with the pressure to find my place, to be accepted, to conform to social norms, blended with the eternal struggle to encounter my self-esteem. Yes, dear Youth, it has been a while. And at that age, when you see the world differently, children can turn from celestial, seraphic angels to aggressive, overbearing, and cruel bullies. Is it possible to channel heartbreaking memories from your youth to create something positive? How do you deal with constant criticism during childhood and defend yourself and other vulnerable people when you’re under attack? Wait, I will get there.
It’s 6 pm. I hope I can get there soon, I’m taking an 8-hour redeye flight from Miami, but at least it’s non-stop. Traffic from Miami downtown to the airport was surprisingly not bad, nor was the security line: an excellent sign because you know, it is Miami. But of course, it was too good to be true: there were two flights at the same time to my destination, and obviously, I was waiting at the wrong gate. I hear someone calling my name, and I guess it is time to run. I get nervous and sweaty, but in the end, I made it through. My destination is the vibrant, dynamic, and ravishing capital of the Country of Poets: Santiago de Chile, to meet with Fashion Designer Chantalle Litvak and see her recent 100% recycled, conscientious, and unique collection.
Chantalle distinguishes herself by giving unused garments a new life through a never-ending process of disassembling used clothing and creating unique fabrics, and repurposing them into new designs, offering a new life not only to materials but people. Chantalle wants to create more awareness by renewing what we call garbage. “It is up to us to visualize these old clothes as disposable or an opportunity to breathe new life into what was considered trash,” reinforces Chantalle. Where does her inspiration come from? It comes from Chantalle’s personal story; she opened up her heart to tell us a little more about the story behind the creation of her brand.
And I tricked you. This is where I actually wanted to reach: Chantalle was that person I talked about initially. The one that since her early days saw the world through a different lens and was a constant target of bullies. “People began to invent ideas about me and create a story of a girl who never existed,” Chantalle explained. “This type of projection is still very present in my culture and society.” And Santiago de Chile surprised me with modern high rises, international companies, pleasant parks within the city, and its lively nightlife – it does remind me of a modern and bustling European capital. “But people are still nosily intrigued about their neighbors. I call it social resentment,” explained Chantalle. So many people refused to approach her because of what they heard and talked about her, and this is also where inspiration was born.
She was inspired by the suffering her social circle created for her. The pain was the foundation for developing and bringing out Chantalle’s artistic talent so that she could express herself. She decided to transform the negative into a positive. And so she began to be motivated when someone approached her to tell a story about someone else she did not know. Chantalle refused to listen to the gossip and preferred seeing that person through her own eyes and opinions. And that is where her inspiration to give new opportunities to everything in life was born. It started with her pain, and then she looked into the real stories of her isolated peers, thinking about the people who had been highly criticized for their way of being. This review process and giving people a second chance helped Chantalle transform her ideas into art and fashion. Once she stopped listening to the criticisms of the isolated by her larger circle of acquaintances and she started to see the world through her genuine emotions, senses, and values, Chantalle put new inspiration into practice.
And this is where the story of how her brand begins. By expressing what Chantalle felt, one can realize why her store is 100% recycled, unique garments, and exclusive. Her success in overcoming prejudice and senselessly criticizing or judging others was the foundation for her desire to be aware of the wider world and the value of recycling. For her, recycling gives her prospects and new ideas to revitalize what is essentially garbage to other people. Chantalle realizes that everything in this world has a role and meaning, and with this idea in place, she manages to give sense to everything in this life and see art in every corner of this world. This is where her world vision comes from, along with her love of challenges.
Chantalle told us, “My clothes fully express every emotion throughout my experience so that people can better understand why my designs are based on used, discarded clothes. I take each piece apart, recreate each fabric remanent into a new textile, and produce my final garment. My emotions inspire this by mixing fabrics and colors; I managed to create textures and tones that manage to express every feeling in my day-to-day life, such as happiness, anger, rage, etc… I try to transfer all this through colors to be able to give a little more life to this world and thus appreciate that even if we have bad days or bad emotions, there is always learning from each event, everything happens for a reason and every event is one more opportunity to smile at life”.
Chantalle believes that many of us live superficial lives, and we make too many judgments and criticisms. This is why she decided to set out independently and create something unique by giving new opportunities to people and clothes. Her core belief is that nothing is rubbish, and everything can be a lesson. It just depends on the perspective from which one sees it. Her life’s mission would be that everyone knows they deserve a chance in life, which is why focusing on sustainability leads us to recycle. Recycling material objects then leads us to the ability to transform and modify art and love. Thus, Chantalle can create organic, innovative pieces and not be part of brash worldwide consumerism that leads us to discard everything when it stops being useful, has fulfilled its function, or goes out of style.
This idea of collecting clothes that were not hers was born from the fact that Chantalle kept every bit of fabric she ever had left over in case she did not have enough money to buy fabrics or materials one day. Chantalle would create new garments for her projects from this “garbage” since, as we all know, in artistic careers, one invests much money in materials. While telling us her story, she remarked that her constant thinking about creating comes from a very young age. Her parents always taught her that what you set your mind to do can always be achieved, so from then on, Chantalle became a dreamer and constantly had the phrase “You are never too little to dream big” in her head. She says this phrase identifies quite closely because she manages to tell and express everything she has lived through her clothes. In other words, Chantalle describes her life through her clothes.
As a designer, she wants to push herself to start a more responsible movement. That is why her collections reflect a woman who wants to be noticed, represents freedom from prejudices and can describe who a woman is and their potential. Her muse has a big personality; she’s empowered and conscious and wants to differentiate themselves from the rest and emphasize their uniqueness, extravagance, and color through design. Her muse is a woman who does not like going with the flow, not because of a rebellious nature but because she sees things from other perspectives. Not everything is black or white; there are shades of grey in between. We can see through our conversation that Chantalle is a designer who doesn’t follow common trends in clothes or life. This is why Chantalle doesn’t create for seasons or follow trends. She likes to create through her limitless imagination and thus be able to constantly explore her ideas regardless of whether it is summer or winter or if it is fashionable or not. Chantalle creates through her emotions and the desire to be responsible for achieving the most negligible impact possible on our environment.
This new collection shows happiness and fragility as she imagines they go hand in hand. The mystical power of life that brings both positive and negative experiences: each garment is unique to differentiate between the emotions, distinct inspirations, and concepts while still being comfortable and sustainable. That is why the pants and tops in this collection repeatedly use black and white while mixing emotions through colors, textures, and designs. The kimonos have the same approach intertwining the two different fabrics. Through her innovative inspirations, Chantalle intends to create new garments from upcycling that would not just modify the original design or pattern but change the original style and give new opportunities to the garments the clients no longer wear. For example, the elegant dresses one wears at a marriage, birthday celebration, special event, or moments that should be forgotten can be used to create a new outfit. And with this idea in mind, Chantalle can achieve a more intimate and exclusive connection with her clients.
Chile’s beautiful landscape is also represented in the clothes, as the peaks and valleys of the mountains represent the rollercoaster of emotions we experience daily. The snow represents fullness, peace of mind, and calm. And in between, we can also see the rocks and the pebbles that can distract us from inner peace. The sun and the cloudy days represent the good and bad things that happen to us daily. Still, despite all these extremes, we have the nuances between each prominent color in each garment, accessories, facial expressions, and artistic poses.
Pain, frustration, grief, sadness, joy, happiness, and emotions can be the catalyst to transform the negative into the positive. For this unforgettable editorial, I followed her production team through the scenic mountains of Valle Nevado on a pleasant winter day (yes, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere). Chantalle Litvak has inspired me by learning through her experiences, and after every single curve from Valle Nevado back to Santiago, I became more and more at peace with myself. Her youth, energy, and naive eyes brought me hope. A hope that, in the middle of the chaos we live, there is someone who is pushing for a healthier, more conscious, and happy world together. As I leave the City of Poets back to the scalding Miami, I couldn’t stop thinking of Pablo Neruda: “and in your life, my infinite dreams live.”