We love talking to designers about what inspires their amazing collections and the latest in our Creative Hub interview series sees our Editor Tasha chat with sustainable knitwear designer Valentina Karellas.
Valentina started her brand after years of working in design and seeing the impact of fashion waste first hand. With the love of knitwear and ethically made fashion, Valentina’s philosophy is that waste yarn from big production factories can be used to create beautiful, unique, urban knitwear, which offers a sustainable approach to urban chic and London’s antidote to fast fashion.
Through dedication to sourcing and handcrafting everything locally, the business continues London’s rich heritage of quality manufacturing. All pieces are hand made in North West London, made to order, leaving zero waste in the production. This means no overstocking, no discounting, and no buying unnecessarily.
Valentina recently contributed her thoughts to our recent article ‘What Does Sustainability Mean To You?‘, and below shares her passions, insights and aspirations for the future of sustainable fashion and her brand.
Valentina tell us what traits define you and what drives your passion?
What drives me is sticking to my life ethos of sustainability, making beautiful items that are unique but cause no harm to the planet.
How did you get into sustainable fashion design?
I studied fashion knitwear design in LCF and a Masters in womenswear in Italy, after which I worked in both high and fast fashion brands and suppliers. After several years of learning how fashion is made, used and consumed, and how this is affecting the planet. I thought the only way I can make a difference is to have my own brand. Which took a long time to research, build and eventually launch.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Mainly the knitting machine, as I make all my products on a vintage semi-industrial knitting machine. There are so many options and variations in what it can do, I play with small swatches and colours and sometimes the little mistakes I make become design features that go into the product.
Do you have a muse you wish you could see wearing your designs?
I don’t necessarily have a muse, I particularly love Susie Bubble’s style though. I have an idea of the particular person that appreciates slow fashion, wants to look unique, be comfortable and still be stylish at the same time.
Describe the biggest challenges in your career?
Mainly funding, as it’s hard to compete with major brands and high street retailers that sell super cheap clothing. Being seen and heard in such an overpopulated/saturated world of fashion without having massive marketing budgets to get brand awareness to your customers is also a big challenge. So you have to be creative and inventive, constantly pivoting and learning.
What was your greatest success in the past few years?
I would say being able to make use of all my waste, keeping the fresh ideas and how surprised I get by some customers who are generally rather brave with wearing some of my designs. It keeps me on my toes. Generally being able to sell sustainable slow fashion to customers that never heard of my brand, that would buy for the love of my pieces and the fact that its ethically made for them is an added bonus.
What are the key trends that’ll we’ll see in the next few years?
Splicing old and new together, its something I have done with old collections that haven’t sold well, I cut them up and create new pieces. I am seeing other designers do the same with vintage clothing, it’s a great way to reinvent and upcycle fashion. As the awareness of fast fashion grows, people will still have a hunger to consume, so this is a great balance of old and new.
What advice can you give to aspiring designers looking to enter the creative sector?
I would say do your research first, learn what your market is and try to stick to it. Also, sign up to as many free business support seminars and workshops as you can. Newable have funding to train small businesses to grow and scale. There are even free Facebook seminars and talks that help businesses use their platforms. As social commerce is ever growing, creatives/designers need to be aware of the best avenues and how to utilise what is available for your market. Also, most universities have alumni networks where they give free business support and seminars, which are very helpful to set you on the right path.
What can we expect from you and your brand for 2019?
Hopefully, new machines, so varying designs, using more cashmere, as well as introducing cotton bags, all using surplus yarns of course.