Fashion
Jun 18, 2024
by Karl Smith
Transnomadica Is Where Inspiration Meets Circulation
by Karl Smith
Jun 18, 2024

Transnomadica is not a brand in the traditional sense,” explains Maurizio Donadi, founder of Transnomadica – which, for the avoidance of doubt, is not a brand in the traditional sense. If you’re wondering what that means – fair enough; Donadi’s LA-based operation sells clothes and has a distinct, recognizable identity. In short: it sounds like a brand.

But these are surface-level observations. Dig just a little deeper and you’ll see why, exactly, Donadi is so keen to make such a clear distinction.

So, if Transnomadics isn’t a brand – despite everything which, at face value, it seems to have in common with that concept – what is it?

Transnomadica is an adhocracy,” Donadi offers, coining a neat term that pretty clearly encapsulates not only the How but also the Why of what he does. Clarifying, Donadi continues: “It is simply a flexible and adaptable form of organization defined by some assets and the opportunity to utilize them for certain business purposes and/or internal experimentation.”

And, if that doesn’t clarify things for you, what this means in practice is that Transnomadica – unlike brands in the traditional sense – is not dedicated to the constant creation of new product with no reason but self-perpetuation; Donadi works with purpose and does so in such a way that, rather than adding to the ever-growing mountain of textile waste on this Earth, he’s actively taking from the pile.

“My obsession is the elimination of waste, in creative ways,” Donadi agrees, revealing someone not just eager to discuss what it is they do from a theoretical standpoint but also someone who is always ready to get their hands dirty – literally and figuratively. “The world is full of products, new and old, that too quickly become obsolete, discarded, abandoned,” he continues, “My focus is reintegrating those products in the market before we produce more of (almost) the same thing.”

Always willing to dive into the granular detail behind his more philosophical pronouncements, Donadi reels off a list of those assets he mentioned previously: “a 16,000-piece archive of unique vintage and fashion clothes, accessories and random objects”; “a small in-house atelier capable of restoring, experimenting and manipulating  clothes”; “an accumulated experience in having worked with brands, companies, etc. in a variety of projects and in different roles”; “our drive and focus on servicing and inspiring others by staying pure to ourselves and our values.”

It’s refreshing to see someone who is not using good ideas as a shield to cover lack of tangible action, but who – instead – is combining the two toward something materially and ethically progressive.

“Human collaboration is fundamental to progress. Brand collaborations often lead to no place at all. The goal is work on meaningful projects with people and brands interested in different point of views.” – Maurizio Donadi, Transnomadica Founder

More than this, though, it’s also a great thing to see someone working at the Earth-friendlier end of the fashion spectrum who is so clearly captivated by the universe of things – who sees all kinds of objects as worthwhile and imbued with a certain kind of meaning, not just something to feel guilty about and find a way to dispose of unceremoniously.

“I am attracted to objects touched by age,” Donadi concurs. “In them, I see layers of meaning: the intention behind their original design, the patina of their use and reuse and the way they have been touched by natural elements over time (wind, sun, water, abrasions). With them, I curate living presentations alongside another object’s birth – new and old to inspire unconventional perspectives on the depth and richness of vintage.”

In a sense, you could call Transnomadica an upscale upcycler – but that would be ungenerous; it would be unfair to reduce the process to something so formulaic when there is, certainly from Donadi’s perspective, clearly an element of what one might reasonably, if somewhat romantically, call “magic” to his work – something which goes far beyond the basic upcycling mission statement of “make old things new.”

In the most basic sense, though, Transnomadica is very much a hybrid operation – a combination of circular philosophies, mixed with real, hands-on design talent, an eye for quality vintage pieces, a pre-disposition for crate digging, and the backing of hefty retail know how. And, in the most basic sense, Donadi is “making old things new.” But it’s his approach – to bring out the history of garments in his care and to emphasize their inherent qualities, rather than to mindlessly “update” and whitewash them – which sets Transnomadica apart.

Of course, while Donadi has a singular vision, it’s important, he says, to note that this is not a solo venture. He says this not just in terms of his Transnomadica colleagues, but also in terms of their illustrious list of collaborators – a diverse roster that includes Dockers, Parks California, and a turn at the helm of Nike’s revolving, circularity-focused Re-Creation project.

That being said, Donadi does not play fast and loose with his collaborative efforts – they are always undertaken with a purpose, never simply out of vanity or as a way to keep the wheels turning.

“Human collaboration is fundamental to progress,” Donadi specifies, keen as usual to elaborate on a point in which he so clearly and so strongly believes. “Brand collaborations often lead to no place at all. The goal is work on meaningful projects with people and brands interested in different point of views.”

Where does a corporate juggernaut like Nike fit into this way of thinking? Can a brand on that scale still make the kind of human connection which Donadi prizes above the boon of something so frivolous as a shared marquee with one of the world’s best-known names?

“Our experience with Nike has been an excellent one,” Donadi says, suggesting that the answer is that it very much can. “A $40 billion USD global conglomerate working with a microscopic entity like ours shows their commitment to listen, experiment and support new ideas. That is very generous to me,” he adds, questioned on how that experience played out and whether the Beaverton brand lived up to its end of the deal.

“I hope people appreciate what I do, the way I do it, and how I communicate my thoughts and vision. The ultimate goal is to be somehow a small source of inspiration for people.” – Maurizio Donadi, Transnomadica Founder

There’s also the question of whether Nike, at its undeniably immense scale, can really do good without a complete overhaul of the way it does business. “Nike is not the perfect company, that just doesn’t exist,” says Donadi, never immune from the reality of the consumption-fuelled crises in which we find ourselves and to which Transnomadica is a radical counterpoint, but always keen to look on the positive side. “However,” he adds, “their desire to engage in dialogue with world is remarkable.”

While hinging on shared values and shared vision, collaboration and connection are also integral to Transnomadica in a more literal sense. Having opened a pop-up physical retail space on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, Donadi points to this not just as a way to reach more people in terms of the footfall in one of the city’s most desirable locations, but also a way to reach them with the concept.

Is this an essential part of the plan? Is bricks and mortar, direct contact, a vital step in communicating not just what it is that Transnomadica does but why it is that the mission is so important?

“Absolutely,” Donadi agrees emphatically. “I believe we offer a tactile experience that is only fully appreciated when beings touch by people.”

Founded in 2012, Transnomadica is a culmination of Donadi’s decades of experience in the fashion industry. Prior to establishing his current outfit in Los Angeles, California, the Italian-born designer spent time at a swathe of some serious household names, in some equally serious roles, dotted at various locations across the world: Chief Brand Officer at Armani Exchange in New York, Global Senior Vice President at Levi Strauss & Co. in Amsterdam, Executive Vice President at Giorgio Armani in Milan, Director of Retail, USA, back in the Greater New York City Area – and that’s just to name a few of the greatest hits.

It’s a list that, should you need to see them, proves Donadi’s credentials in understanding the machinations of the fashion industry and, in light of that understanding, how best to counteract some of its worst habits and impulses.

“I was thinking about the knowledge and inspiration I receive in my life and travels: the people I met, the things I found, and consequently how to circulate them,” Donadi says, asked about how things got started and how all that experience, very different to his work today, acted as a springboard for where he finds himself now with Transnomadica. “I started with a thought and it became a point of departing from everything I have done in my professional life; an obsession to share in the most compelling way. 

It’s also a list which certifies Donadi as the eponymous nomad – a wanderer of sorts, soaking up knowledge and unselfishly spreading everything he’s learned to those who are willing to listen.

“I hope people appreciate what I do, the way I do it, and how I communicate my thoughts and vision. The ultimate goal is to be somehow a small source of inspiration for people. I see this happening every day, the same way I am inspired by others.”

This feels like a natural place to end, but – before we wrap things up – it seems worth taking one more stab at the whole “brand” thing again. If not as a brand, then how, if pressed, would Donadi describe Transnomadica?

“We are in Creative Waste Management,” he answers, tongue perhaps pressed a little in cheek, before finishing up that thought in a way which feels characteristic to Donadi – still matter of fact, but somewhat more philosophy and tinged with a sense of genuine warmth, “We are aiming to be an open source for inspiration for anyone interested.”

And as for what comes next?

“Nothing at all or an enormous amount of interesting projects. I am ready for both. Transnomadica is an adhocracy and so am I.”