Can an independent Fashion designer even be sustainable?
*originally part of my old About page.
My work in Fashion has made me aware of the messy reality of apparel manufacturing: the insane amount of fabric scraps that goes straight to landfill, the not so pristine conditions of most sewing factories, the tug of war with suppliers (our side always wanting cheaper and faster; their side always demanding larger orders)...
Add in my own interest in protecting the environment, and the awareness that, as an upper-middle class kid from the big city, I actually know so very little, and there you have it.
More than a manifesto, I've got a few principles to guide my life and business.
Eco-friendly, one step at a time
Have you ever wondered what's the journey behind every piece of clothing you see in a store?
If you think about it, even a t-shirt can be considered an incredible feat of human ingenuity: the cotton needs to be grown, harvested and spun before it becomes fabric; fabric needs to be cut in specific patterns and sewn by 2 or more specialised machines, then printed, ironed, folded...it's a long chain with many people, plus a lot of pressure to keep costs low and profits high.
As a tiny little designer-maker label, I get to rescue vintage and second-hand pieces, upcycle fabric samples and launch very small collections in very small runs (meaning: no massive stock that'll be burned if I don't sell it within the season).
And I can focus on using natural fibres - preferably cotton, maybe peace silk one day - as the new data on microplastic pollution from washing polyester fabrics is really frightening.
But I still can't always use organic fabrics, whether for financial or logistic reasons. Or use sewing threads in cotton, and deliver true 100% cotton pieces (yeah, sewing threads are 100% polyester...).
Yes, building my label and getting my ideas out there has been a dream for a long time.
But it's also a business that I'm running by myself, and if I'm not responsible about paying my suppliers, my own bills and taking care of my well-being, all this fancy talk about Sustainability and creating fresh designs is just that: talk.
Keeping my collections small and being creative about how I use materials that'd be otherwise discarded or kept in stock (i.e. getting mouldy in a dark closet at my place) is a great way to tackle many of these issues.
"For every designer t-shirt in organic cotton I sell, I'll give another one to a child who'd be better off with access to clean water or basic health care."
Nope. Don't think that should be my goal.
Rather than going into some complex socio-economic issues, I'm currently giving back by creating free resources and original content for aspiring designers - on my Fashion Tech support blog and on my YouTube channel - based on my very real experience and struggles studying abroad at two of the top Fashion schools in the world, working in the industry and now starting my own label.But I'm always excited to learn about new ways to be eco-friendly, so if you have any ideas of sustainable projects we can collaborate on, please get in touch :)