"Stop trying to be Fashion!"
Don't get me wrong, of course I love clothes and their magical transformation powers.
But all my jobs were as the technical ninja (well, Product developer) figuring out cost-effective ways to make overpriced pieces for The Real Housewives of Rio de Janeiro.
Or drawing the most generic stuff on a computer screen - you know, stuff that ends up on InStyle magazine, in that god awful Shop the Look (so you can look like every other "Fashionista") section.
So it's about time I followed the best/ weirdest advice I got in 4 years of fancy Fashion education and used my hands-on skills to tell another side of the story.
Plan my Outfit of the Day so I can go from girlfriends brunch to classy date? Meh.
Look like I stepped out of an anime that's Miuccia Prada's latest guilty pleasure?
The brainchild of a vintage hoarder and a manga artist, conceived to the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII?
Appropriately dressed to meet friends for a day of videogames, trampoline, karaoke and Chinese hot pot?
Or if that's all too much for you, my designs also make really stylish pyjamas - to make you look like you wear them everywhere totally on purpose.
(Quote at the top by David Kappo, course leader at Central St. Martins and lecturer at the Royal College of Fashion. He yelled it at us many times during the Graduate Diploma course.)
I've always been a behind-the-scenes type, so there was no way not to see the messy reality of apparel manufacturing behind the glitz and glam of Fashion:
the insane amounts 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 to that my own interest in protecting the environment, PLUS the awareness that, as an upper-middle class city kid, I actually know so very little, and there you have it.
More than a commitment, a policy or a manifesto, I've got a few principles - heuristics, to be fancy - to guide my life and business.
Made in Portugal, with locally sourced materials
All my pieces are developed by me, in my tiny studio in Lisbon, using textiles from Portuguese mills, then produced in tiny batches in Barcelos (Northern Portugal).
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 becomes 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 down and profits up.
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 is a longtime dream.
But it's also a business - one I'm running by myself -, and if I'm not responsible about paying my suppliers, my own bills and taking care of my own 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 both my blogs - the label's and Fashion Tech support - 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 clothing line.
Is that enough? Well, it's a starting point.
But I'm always happy to learn, so if you have any great ideas or sustainable projects we can collaborate on, get in touch :)