Cheap Lobster: a sustainable atelier fighting fashion waste in the roman neighbourhood of Pigneto

We are in the Pigneto neighborhood to meet Flavia Romei, eco-friendly Roman designer. Flavia graduated with an architecture degree, but she has always had a passion for haute couture, learning the art of the profession through amateur courses, until she won a one-year scholarship to the Biella Master of Noble Fibers. After her first work experiences at Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana, she decided to quit to devote herself to sustainable fashion. This is how Cheap Lobster was born.

Cheap Lobster is an atelier that makes bespoke skirts from pieces of waste fabrics that would otherwise be disposed of or in the worst case burned, causing unimaginable environmental damage. The activity of Flavia essentially consists of a practice of sustainable development in the Roman outskirts. Here are some insights from our conversation with her.

The Cheap Lobster Atelier in Pigneto, Rome (Photo by Cheap Lobster)

What was the impact of what you have learned during the Master of Noble Fibers in Biella?

It was essential to be able to know the entire textile clothing supply chain through a training that combines theory and practice. I had the opportunity to learn about a multiplicity of realities, traveling to New Zealand, China and Australia to delve into the specific processes to understand how they are fundamental to each other. I was able to study in depth every single step of the textile production chain, from the collection of raw materials, to garment manufacturing. It was during the master’s degree that I realized the amount of waste generated within the textile industries.

Where do the fabrics you use to make your skirts come from?

As I said before, during the master’s degree I realized how much waste is produced in the industry, and especially I discovered that each step has a specific waste. For example, once a fabric has been spun, before being sold, it is subjected to qualitative tests in the laboratory. Regardless of the outcome of the test, the piece of cloth is not reused and ends up in a warehouse that fills up and is then emptied. This is where I come in, going to each of my partners to pick up the fabrics. For the company, it represents a cost, for me a raw material as well as revenues once they become skirts.

One of Cheap Lobster’s mini skirts (Photo by Cheap Lobster)

Why skirts?

I decided to start with skirts since I was receiving leftovers of cloth with sizes ranging from 50 centimeters to 1 meter, and a skirt of 40-50 cm is the simplest and most functional thing to create. Nothing prevents me from experimenting with other garments and I hope that through Edu LabGov we will design something that can convey the values of sustainability and ethics without neglecting the innovative factor, but above all taking care of the aesthetics of the garment itself.

How complicated is it for you to have to go in person to companies all over Italy to pick up your fabrics?

It does not tire me too much because the atelier is run entirely by me. I can organize myself without problems. Surely there are other methods that could facilitate the whole thing, for example shipping. But since these fabrics are donated, it is not a great economic burden for me to go collect them in person.

Do you think a platform that creates links between companies and small regeneration enterprises like yours can succeed?

Definitely yes. I think that a digital platform would be dually beneficial. Of course it won’t be easy, but surely it would be a useful medium to reduce the environmental impact that the textile industry causes. Above all, it would also be a way to reduce the costs that companies face in disposing of the garments, costs that many times they can’t or don’t want to deal with, thus ending up burning them illegally.   

One of Cheap Lobster’s mini skirts (Photo by Cheap Lobster)