It all started when I saw my friend Lorena pulling her sunglasses out of a gorgeous, silky case. A conspicuous label on it read not Etro or Versace, but Lister Sartoria Sociale, and Lorena had the gen. Lister is a cooperative atelier up in Trieste, a sewing and knitting workshop. What goes in is old clothing, fabric remnants, discarded woollens and even abandoned umbrellas (as well as some very clever people), and what comes out is new clothing, bags and accessories, curtains and cushion covers, woolly jumpers and hats, and on to kites and exclusive dog rainwear (from the umbrella fabrics…). Creative recycling – as well as repairs and alterations and making stuff to order. So far so good.
But Lister also has – always has had – a social mission, and collaborates closely with local authorities and welfare services on integration projects. So some of those clever people on the team are finding their way back from the margins of society with a handicap of mental illness or forms of addiction. It’s a busy place, our Sartoria Sociale, located in Pavilion M of what used to be one of Europe’s biggest psychiatric hospitals until Italy’s revolutionary reform of mental health care in the late 1970s. The structures and grounds of the old institution are now a splendid city culture park, the Parco di San Giovanni, 22 hectares of beautifully tended gardens and 40 buildings housing public services, cultural associatons and events and social business ventures. That’s Trieste for you.
Lorena’s lovely glasses case, by the way, probably did have a designer label once upon a time. It’s made from a castoff silk tie, more of which they use to fashion elegant bookmarks and fine patchwork make-up bags at Lister. You can buy them and other Lister creations direct from the Sartoria or in a few stores in and near Trieste.