One look at Caroline Sciamma Massenet’s long list of fashion credentials, and you’d immediately understand where SKIIM gets its sleek and exceptionally curated aesthetic. After a 20 year career in modelling, followed by a successful career as a stylist and then becoming the Editor-at-Large at CR fashion book - Caroline decided to create her own brand, tackling one of fashion’s favourite materials — leather.
Inspired by the understated glamour of vintage French films, SKIIM was launched as an answer to a gap in the fashion industry and helmed by one of its most influential power women. While this is already a winning fashion formula, SKIIM’s sustainable philosophy makes it a cut above the rest. And while leather may not have the best reputation in the conversation around green fashion — Caroline is out to change both minds and perceptions with one impeccably tailored pair of leather trousers at a time.
Sustainability is at the forefront of SKIIM’s brand philosophy. Caroline only sources leather that comes from meat industry byproducts, uses recycled fabrics, and only chrome free vegetable tanning throughout her collections. In addition to this, she also reduces the inherent carbon footprint of fashion’s globalisation, by producing as close to home as possible. Lessening emissions and keeping jobs at the hands of skilled fair-trade artisans. And while leather wouldn’t necessarily be the first material that comes to mind when speaking of sustainability, it can’t be denied that it has a ways had a timeless allure. We all remember buying our first investment handbags thinking that we’ll be passing these on to our own fashion-loving daughters sometime in the distant future. After all, a great leather coat will last for generations to come — even more so if its produced sustainably.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? What inspired you to start SKIIM?
I used to be a model for 20 years then went on to styling. I started assisting at French Vogue, then freelanced for a number of publications before becoming Editor-at-Large at CR fashion book. Whilst working in the industry, I noticed there was a void in smooth leather pieces. I wanted to start my own brand, so I brought my French style with a twist of British fashion into my planning and styling. My inspiration came from French retro movies and women from the 60’s and 70’s.
How has your modelling and styling experiences with French Vogue and CR Fashion Book inspired SKIIM’s aesthetic?
From a young age I've been behind and in front of the camera, which made me realise what exactly was missing when I was on set. From my modelling perspective, flattering shapes, quality, and look was my first instinct. As a stylist, I know what looks and works well together
How important is sustainability and supply chain transparency to the ethos of SKIIM?
Sustainability is super important to me and my brand as I really don’t like wasting anything. I chose to work within the leather industry as its materials are extremely durable and timeless. SKIIM only sources sustainable materials, using bi-products of the meat industry, and uses vegetable tanning. We also manufacture in Europe to keep the carbon footprint to a minimum.
Leather isn’t the first material that comes to mind, when people talk about sustainability In what ways is SKIIM’s leather sustainable?
We only use by-product of the meat industry and only use vegetable tanning, which is chrome and chemical free.
How do you think SKIIM can change people’s perception about leather’s environmental footprint?
It’s all about educating people and letting them know about SKIIM’s vision and how we can be environmentally friendly, only using bi-products and manufacturing within Europe. We also recycle fabrics — denim will be the new fabric for next season.
Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the luxury industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species?
First of all, sourcing materials near our production site is always key! SKIIM purchases leather in Europe and we manufacture in Portugal. More and more brands are using alternative or recycled materials to produce their goods, which means you know where and who you’re buying materials from. SKIIM also has a collection called Lea Classiques which is designed as a core collection. It’s available all year round, working as timeless pieces that will last for a lifetime. Every garment is always aimed to make women look and feel beautiful
As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
I would say educating customers to consume smarter and better is extremely important and something SKIIM feels passionate about. More than ever, customers care about what they're buying and who from so it is important to reinforce the importance of sustainable fashion. As consumers, we should also be investing in timeless pieces that last a lifetime and less in fast fashion.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies