PHOTOGRAPHER ELIZABETH WIRIJA @elizabethwirija @abovomanagement
INTERVIEW JESPER GUDBERGSEN @yessirjesper
I wasn’t exactly shocked to learn that you came from a background in dance. Tell us how the world of bodies in motion, choreography, and music inspire you as a designer?
Movement, music, and fashion are so intrinsically interconnected, all art is communication. I’m always looking at the direction of fabric and silhouette when I’m designing. Fashion is all about posture and gesture, and I’m very interested in creating unique movements and images.
How and when did you decide to take the plunge and break away from working for other people and start your brand?
I’m still very much working for other people, but the people in question have changed. I work for the people who support me, past, present, and future. Ultimately I began the brand because I don’t see myself reflected in the fashion landscape, and I feel it’s my duty to figure out exactly what that means and how to change it.
What are some of your brand’s core values, and how do you approach sustainability in your practice?
Sustainability is a complex topic in fashion, and for so many reasons. Ultimately there is no such thing as sustainable fashion. There’s an expression: something can be done well, done quickly, or done cheaply, but you can only pick two. Something always has to give, so ultimately, it becomes a balancing act. My approach is quality over quantity, and I work with mills and factories that share those same values. It’s not always possible to use deadstock, so alternatively, we work with mills on custom developments manufactured in small quantities to prevent overproduction. We only use natural fibers and limit the use of stretch fabrics as much as possible. Spandex and mixed fibers are particularly difficult to recycle. We also offer unlimited alterations and repairs as part of our bespoke service. All of the mills we work with are oriented for small batch production. Mostly Italy-based, they adhere to EU emission guidelines. They certify the use of non-toxic dyes, water purification systems in accordance with EU regulations and offer their line of stock fabrics, which allows us to order small quantities as needed instead of buying overstock. Our tulle manufacturer is Oeko-Tex certified, which indicates non-toxic dyes and fabric treatments. We are only working with mills this season that warrant non-toxic dyes and are in accordance with the Paris Treaty. Our Jacquard mill is on target to meet a 12.5% reduction in emissions in accordance with guidelines set out by the Carbon Trust. All of our sample manufacturing is done locally, which helps reduce emissions associated with shipping and international travel for sourcing.
You’ve been very vocal about how much the creative community around you influences your collection and is a huge part of your world/brand. Can you tell us more about the process behind your collections so far and how you collaborate with your peers?
I usually start a collection with a question or paradox, which is different every season, and build a collection around it. I compare the design process to how oysters make pearls. This season I began designing in February when I was completely bored after mainly being quarantined for a year, and I started fantasizing about pedestrian life in a space station. This collection is a very hedonistic take on space travel. I like to think of design as an ecosystem; peer feedback is critical to my process. It’s very important that I’m creating work that speaks to my immediate community as much as it does to a larger public audience.
When I recently visited your studio, we spoke briefly about size inclusivity and how you need to be a brand available to anyone, no matter their size. Can you tell me a bit more about your thoughts here – I know it’s not easy as a young brand to maneuver this territory
Size inclusivity and ability inclusivity is so important to me! I’m a (sample) size 16, and I can’t tell you how upsetting it is that I can’t wear my clothes. I can say from experience that wearing clothes designed for a sample-size body that has been scaled up to fit doesn’t always work. I always design with many body types in mind and am working towards sampling in all sizes.
It’s refreshing to see a new face on the NY fashion circuit who doesn’t seem to take themselves too seriously. There’s genuine care and knowledge of the craft of dressmaking and sewing at play here, but it’s presented with a light-hearted spirit. Where does this sense of play and humor stem from?
Fashion should be fun! I take my job very seriously, but at the end of the day, if fashion isn’t frivolous, then what is it?
What is your advice to someone who is looking to break into the fashion world?
Tough question!! I think the same advice I offer to myself: why? If you must create, you will do so against all odds, but you must first know why. Learn as much as you can on your own! Do as much as you can on your own! This industry is cutthroat, demanding, and rarely glamorous. The hours are long, and the to-do list even longer. Idle time is wasted time. Don’t ask a question until you’ve exhausted all your options. If you think you know better, you’re probably wrong. Measure twice, cut once. Don’t cut corners. Don’t beat around the bush. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Take responsibility for other peoples’ mistakes. Don’t steal ideas. Be honest, kind, loyal, flexible, and patient. Figure out what needs to be done, and make it happen. The last one is the most important.
What are some hopes and dreams for the future – any dream collaborators, projects, etc.?
I want to bring this operation to Paris. Eventually, that’s pretty much it! I have so many dream collaborators and projects, but I’m taking everything as it comes. I’ve been so grateful and lucky to work with my idols, and I hope that we can continue to make magic fashion moments together.
The first Saint Sintra runway show is at New York Fashion Week, September 7th, 2021, featuring Submission Beauty Glitter Looks. Stay tuned for our coverage on 9/8