Atelier Mimii Is the Spanish Label Making Quilted Bags From Recycled Dress Fabric
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It’s 9 a.m. on a Parisian side street in the 8th arrondissement, and Marta Rios is wearing a navy polka-dot dress over an orange-and-red tie-dye top, cobalt blue tights, and chunky red Buffalo-style sneakers. She’s also wearing violently blue and purple eyeshadow, blended out with a thin black cat eye that extends far past the corners of her lids, which are punctuated by two chunky pink dots. “I have thousands of little color palettes and I just use my hands,” she says, holding a thick Bobbi Brown pencil in the palm of her hand. “I don’t even have brushes. I did this on the bus.”
Rios’s love of kaleidoscopic color defines both her personal style and the quirky line of clothing and accessories she creates under the name Atelier Mimii, which launched last fall and held its first Paris Fashion Week presentation on Monday. At age 14, the Spanish designer started apprenticing with a tailor in Luxembourg on weekends, before graduating from L’Institut Marangoni in Paris. Now, she is building a reputation for colorful quilted dresses and matching bags, which are made from leftover dress fabric. Rios’s voluminous A-line numbers create a lot of scrap as the patterns are cut. “I keep everything,” she says.
According to Rios, the message behind her brand is less linked to traditional notions of sustainability and more to the magpie personality that compels her to save every bit of fabric for reuse. As such, most of the bags are one of a kind and produced in limited quantities. Everything is made by hand in Valladolid, the little city outside Madrid where Rios spends four months of the year.
This connection to Spain is key to Atelier Mimii, though Rios’s relationship to her homeland is an unconventional one. Her parents are Spanish, but she was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and lived across Asia (Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and more) for 12 years, before spending time in Luxembourg and, eventually, Paris. “I’ve never gone to school in Spain, I’ve never been taught to read or write in Spanish,” she says. “But my home is very Spanish. Every Christmas we would go to Spain, no matter what. It was like the only safe place. Or the only common place that we would always go back to. And my whole family is there.”
In Rios’s latest collection, the profusion of ruffles, polka dots, and dramatically frilled fabrics takes notes from classic Spanish aesthetics, like those seen in the paintings displayed at the Prado museum in Madrid. Rios visits the Prado often, finding inspiration in her compatriot artists’ use of color. Those polka dots, for example, were drawn directly from the traditional flamenco costumes she grew up seeing, while the neck ruffles are inspired by paintings of Spanish nobility from the early Victorian era. “I just love them,” she sighs. It’s not uncommon for Rios to directly translate the work of lesser-known Spanish painters, but art of a more global scope also plays out in her creations. Last season, she looked to her favorite painters—David Hockney, Henri Matisse, and Otto Dix. “I’m obsessed with 20th-century painters,” she says. “Jackson Pollock, Ernst Ludwig!”
Naturally, she decided to create “an art gallery under construction” for her first presentation. Rios drew her own illustrations all over the floor, and models painted directly onto each other’s bare skin as a live pianist played. Her signature bags, in brilliant shades of pink, turquoise, and blue, were scattered about; excess fabric had been tacked onto them to create a fun texture. As for the garments, there were quilted A-line dresses in distressed, hand-dyed velvet with Victorian sleeves and collars; quilted, pearl-covered corsets reminiscent of 16th-century Spanish court costume; and plenty of marabou, chunky pearls, and tulle. If a bit of fresh pigment got on the items, all the better.
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