Cartiera – A social enterprise in the green hills of Tuscany

In this Tuscan workshop, old materials are given new life in a training centre that seeks to equip migrants and asylum seekers with artisan skills, empowering them and raising employment prospects. 

Cartiera is a brand of Lai-momo, EFI’s social enterprise partners in Italy. Located in Lama di Reno, a hamlet within the area of Marzabotto in the Province of Bologna, Cartiera was founded in July 2017. The company makes and sells accessories made from leather and fabric, developing paths of training and assistance for professional integration for people in need, mainly asylum seekers, migrants and the unemployed.

The social cooperative is located within the former industrial estate of the Lama di Reno paper mill. In the 1980s, this small Appennine town on the banks of the river Reno produced 400 tons of paper per day. This time marked the peak of the inhabited centre’s development, but at the beginning of the millennium the decline induced by the technological revolution led to the closure of the plant, to the loss of hundreds of jobs and to the consequent depopulation of the hamlet which had grown around the productive plant. By bringing back the name “paper mill” (“Cartiera”) and by opening up the premises of the old industry administrator’s house, our social enterprise looks to the future by glancing back at that virtuous past, and trying to bring new energy to a place where, for decades, work has been at the service of the community’s well-being.

Yaya and Bamba in the workshop. Photo: Francesco Guidicini

Cartiera workshops are available for the students on the courses run at the Vocational and Training Centre. Run in close collaboration with the EFI, and with the financing of the European Commission’s Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the Lama di Reno Centre organises courses in tailoring and leather goods for applicants of international protection and those who have already been granted it. The best students are selected by Cartiera to embark on a career path: the craftsman Bassirou Zigani serves as an example, hired at the end of his training and now a member of the Cartiera cooperative.

Students are trained in tailoring and leatherwork at Lai Momo.  Photo: EFI

Cartiera is a company that seeks concrete answers to some of the most difficult challenges of our time: the fall in employment opportunities, the economic integration of migrants and asylum seekers, the progressive loss of skilled craft workers and related positions of work, the depopulation of abandoned industrial areas, the waste of raw materials that often afflicts the fashion world.

Cartiera’s cycle of production begins with dedicating attention to its staff. In an attempt to elaborate an innovative response to the issue of unemployment, Cartiera seeks to incorporate asylum seekers, migrants, resident citizens and people from disadvantaged groups into its workforce. In this way Cartiera offers employment opportunities in a professional context that allow one to express their potential and in which one can embark on a path of development and growth.

In relation to the demands of the market, Cartiera orientates towards the production of accessories and gadgets whose common features are the quality of the Made in Italy craftsmanship and a low environmental impact, thanks to the use of high quality raw materials otherwise destined for disposal which are supplied by high-end fashion labels that recognize the social value of this company.

Seydoul tailoring a strap made from surplus leather from the fashion industry.  Photo: Francesco Guidicini

The value of Made in Italy proposed by Cartiera is not only in the garments and accessories created by the start-up, but is also found in the story that gives rise to the final product. Designed by expert Italian artisans, Cartiera’s products are the result of an ethical and conscious supply chain that weaves fabrics from Burkina Faso and Mali (yarns handmade in cooperatives of artisans and craftsmen supported by the Ethical Fashion Initiative program) and fine leather processing provided by major labels within the Italian fashion industry.

Holding strongly to its national and international ties, Cartiera acts at a local level, seeking to contribute to the revival of the hamlet of Lama di Reno. Buying a Cartiera product or tasking the craftsmen with a job thus means believing in social inclusion and in the value generated by the project itself; it means supporting paths of integration into the labour market within a community and appreciating skilled craftsmanship and high quality materials, while always showing respect for the environment.

Find out more and shop the collection here.