Rafael Kouto is an upcycling and community couture brand established in 2017. The brand is characterized by a distinctive, visionary and hybrid aesthetic merging the West African and Swiss culture. The brand cultivates an uncompromised approach to sustainability as it exclusively uses the technique of pre- and post- consumer upcycling, sustainable fabrics to create new clothes and accessories. It also guarantees high quality and unique items exclusively remade in Switzerland by using local manufacturing, refined with traditional, artisanal couture techniques and crafts. The promotion of upcycling takes place through workshops in collaboration with various institutions.
The brand collaborated with different labels and associations such as Lotto Sport, Mode Suisse and Zürich Silk Association and the most recent with Bernina Switzerland for the creative direction and design of an open source and sustainable collection.
The vision of the brand featured in Vogue Uk, Vogue Italia, Harper Bazaar Italia and Dazed among other prominent publications. The collections were exhibited during the Milan Design Week in collaboration with the House of Switzerland and Istituto Svizzero (IT), Dutch Design Week (NL), State of Fashion Biennale (NL), Drapers Sustainable (UK), Textilmuseum St. Gallen (CH) and Museum für Gestaltung (CH) and presented since 2018 at Mode Suisse (CH) and Fashion Open Studio x Berlin Fashion Week (D). The items have been worn by Alok, Ashley Walters and Ovie Soko.
The brand has received numerous awards and recognitions:
winner of the Lotto Sport & Diesel International Talents Support Awards 2019; winner of the Swiss Design Awards in the Fashion & Textile category 2018, 2019 and 2023 and Gebert Ambiente Design Preis 2020—2021.
Rafael Kouto, who lives and works between Lausanne, Zürich and Venice, is Swiss with Togolese origins. He is a creative director, fashion & textile designer, as well as researcher in upcycling methods, sustainable and engaging strategies with a particular focus on open source and craftsmanship. He studied Fashion Design at FHNW-HGK in Basel, earning an MA in Fashion Matters from the Sandberg Institut in Amsterdam. He has had various work experiences at Alexander McQueen, Maison Martin Margiela, Carven and Ethical Fashion Initiative. In 2017 he founded the avant-garde upcycling couture brand of the same name, of which he leads the creative direction, the development of strategies, collaborations and engaging projects for the promotion of upcycling and sustainability through the use of textile waste, dead stock and others materials in the creative and production process. The promotion of upcycling takes place through workshops in collaboration with various institutions and through teaching as associate professor in Fashion Design at the IUAV in Venice. He collaborated as a consultant at the Education and Learning Office at Fondazione ITS - International Talent Support in Trieste (IT) for the creation and planning of the activities, courses, workshops and special projects with past finalists and local artisans.During his residencies at TaDA in Arbon, Istituto Svizzero in Milan, Lottozero in Prato and VU.CH in Lausanne he developed participatory projects, installations and research related to sustainability, upcycling, fashion and textile history engaging with local communities.