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photo by Will Whipple

Dear Readers, please note this is an updated version of our previous interview with Orsola de Castro, which includes interesting quotes and statistics to further illustrate her insights.

Following our post about London Fashion Week, I had the great opportunity to interview Orsola de Castro, co-founder of upcycling label From Somewhere and Reclaim To Wear, as well as Estethica, London Fashion Week's showroom for sustainable fashion and Fashion Revolution Day. 

La versión española se puede leer aquí, en Modasostenible.org, el directorio de Slow Fashion Spain.

ANNA tank by From Somewhere

Estethica has been showcasing sustainable fashion since 2006 at London Fashion Week. Has its reception by the fashion industry and the public changed in any way since then?

Yes, very much so, especially over the last couple of years. When we started, the concept of having an 'ethical' showcase at London Fashion Week, in such a mainstream fashion environment, was very surprising - which in itself helped to change perceptions. 

I think it's clear that things are changing fast, or at a faster pace, in the way we all, consumers and industries alike, are viewing sustainability as an inevitable step if we want to embrace the future.

Estethica is a leading pioneer of eco-sustainable fashion since its debut in 2006. The initiative has played a vital role in raising awareness and standards for the industry on an international scale, supporting over 150 international designers from nearly 20 countries.

Designer Flavia la Rocca at
Estethica London S/S 2015

It was very exciting to see the work of some of the emerging talents at Estethica. What advice would you give to young designers who worry about the extra effort and cost involved in creating a sustainable fashion brand?

Always the same advice: design first, and ensure you work within a framework that honours people and the environment. There are many ways to do so and many individuals and organisations that can help young designers to think sustainably.

My advice is to search in your country, following your interests, and discover who else is making fashion in a way that will help you develop your collections.

It is often argued that nowadays’ fashion calendar accelerates overconsumption. Do you feel that’s the case, and can truly sustainable fashion ever be trend-led therefore?

I think that fashion has to be trendy and appealing and design led, obviously. I am not worried about trends: as a designer also, trends help you sell clothes and are present throughout history. This doesn't follow that we have to mass-produce them at the rate that we do now and in these numbers. 

It is estimated that 80 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually worldwide, (China alone exports an estimated 20 billion finished garments a year - more than three pieces of clothing for every person on Earth). 

That is what is wrong, the sheer numbers, in cheap fashion but also in mass-produced 'luxury'. There is little space in this industry for the smaller, independent designers. If that became a trend, to only buy things you love from designers you know and admire, that would improve things quite a bit.

But the notion that to be sustainable you need to design only 'classically' or 'functionally' or anything else than just great fashion design whatever you want it to be, is what makes people call it 'sustainable fashion' and not 'fashion'. 

After all, to quote designer Oleg Cassini "Fashion anticipates, and elegance is a state of mind...(fashion is) a mirror of the time in which we live, a translation of future, and should never be static".

via YouTube

You have recently collaborated with Topshop through your own upcycling brand Reclaim To Wear. What was it like to work with a high street brand like Topshop?

It was an enlightening experience. Difficult, exciting, informative and I am very proud of it. The people I worked with were lovely, and the collections were best-sellers. 

My partner Filippo and I are about to deliver our last Topshop legacy in the form of an Upcycling Manual/Booklet (which will be available for internal use only) so that they can continue to make upcycled capsule collections in the future - let's hope they will.

Thinking of what has been achieved so far in making the fashion industry more sustainable, what would you personally like to see happening next?

That we don't lose sight of what's happening now. The global apparel industry - encompassing clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods - reached approximately $2,560 trillion in 2010. The apparel, luxury goods and accessories portion of the market, which accounts for over 55% of the overall market, is expected to generate $3,180 billion in 2015, making it one of the largest industries in the world, encompassing many other industries, from agriculture to communication.

It is of enormous impact (both socially and environmentally) and we are witnessing a real shift towards consumers demanding better practices, as we amply demonstrated on Fashion Revolution Day on the 24th April last year: 62 countries took part and tens of thousands of people wore their clothes #insideout and asked brands the question "Who made my clothes?" to raise awareness to transparency and working conditions throughout the fashion and textile supply chain.

There is a genuine movement of consumers who are beginning to ask questions, and the fashion industry is in a position to lead change.

To quote Virginia Woolf in Orlando "Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us" 

Many thanks to Orsola Castro for sharing her
interesting insights with us.

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