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Meet 8 New Gen Independent Designers Bringing Fashion and Sustainability Together

Across the globe, a new generation of independent designers is working to bring fashion and sustainability together. Learn all about them below.

Ka-Sha, India

Jacket, top, skirt, sari, Ka-Sha; vintage belts, The Arc London; boots, Manolo Blahnik; corsages, ribbon (in hair), VV Rouleaux; earrings, Al Arabia at Crowne Plaza Jordan. Photo: Eddie Wrey

“Change by design” is a kind of mantra for Karishma Shahani-Khan and her label, Ka-Sha, based in Maharashtra, India. The artisans she works with across the country are as central to Ka-Sha’s story as the natural, hand-dyed fabrics and zero-waste design methods. “We use clothing to celebrate handcraft and artisanal techniques, new and old,” Shahani-Khan explains. The label’s capsule project, Heart to Haat, is produced entirely from leftover textiles and garments destined for landfill, inspired by the indigenous ideology of reusing, repurposing, and reclaiming.”

Conner Ives, Britain

Top, Conner Ives; earrings, ring (on ring finger), Alighieri; ring (on index finger), Emefa Cole. Photo: Eddie Wrey

At least 75% of this Central Saint Martins graduate’s designs are made from vintage, deadstock, or sustainable materials. “It’s always about finding new materials to use and new processes to develop,” says Ives. “It’s a constant and hungry evolution.” The designer, who hails from Bedford, New York, says living in England has influenced the way he sources and implements secondhand materials. “When I first got to London, I spent most of my time with friends going to charity shops,” says Ives. “I so much enjoy the hunt.”

Maison Artc, Morocco

Gown, Maison Artc; sandals, Manolo Blahnik; earrings, Carolina de Barros; bead necklace, Al Arabia; collar, ring (on right ring finger), and ring (on left index finger), Emefa Cole; ring (on left ring finger), Alighieri. Photo: Eddie Wrey

Maison Artc is the five-year-old brainchild of Israeli-Moroccan designer Artsi Ifrach, who works as sustainably as he can from his Marrakech atelier, morphing together his vast collection of antique clothing with local textiles, such as handwoven blankets from the Atlas Mountains. The “as he can” is crucial here: “Sustainability and industry, production, fast fashion – none of these are sustainable, unless you do haute couture,” Ifrach says. His solution is collectable one-off pieces designed to keep the past alive in the present.

Chopova Lowena, Britain

Dress, polo neck, Chopova Lowena; boots, Gui Rosa; earrings, Carolina de Barros. Photo: Eddie Wrey

Working between Bulgaria and Britain gives Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena an advantage. During lockdowns, the pair found vintage tablecloths and tartan taffetas in both countries, using them as a base for their eclectic dresses and skirts. “This look is made from deadstock taffeta, which is then printed and flocked by us,” Chopova says. Working sustainably is a “huge drive” for the designers. “We collect certain textiles,” Chopova says, “and then make limited-edition pieces when they fit into the themes of the season – or when we figure out how to best show them off.”

Vitelli, Italy

Dress, Vitelli; mules, Manolo Blahnik; earrings, Al Arabia. Photo: Eddie Wrey

Vitelli’s production is entirely made of knitwear-industry waste, much of it otherwise headed to landfill, which is then used to create the label’s
proprietary felted material – dubbed Doomboh – which is turned into crafty, tactile pieces. “The atelier inside my studio is called Organic Knitting Theatre,” says Mauro Simionato, Vitelli’s founder and creative director. “Every day, we gather and create.” His main source of inspiration? The “music-driven, posthippie” Italian counterculture movement that grew up around the Cosmic club on the Adriatic Riviera in the late 70s and early 80s. Vitelli’s taken this scene “as a model of how to participate in – and possibly inspire – the current global cosmic scene.”

Rave Review, Sweden

Robe, bikini top, pants, Rave Review; earrings, ring, Alighieri. Photo: Eddie Wrey

For Rave Review’s Josephine Bergqvist and Livia Schück, the way to a responsible future is through the past. From the start, the pair have worked only with existing materials, which they puzzle together into unique pieces. “These fabrics are so nice to work with – and in a way it feels more ‘new’ to work this way rather than to redesign existing fashions,” Bergqvist asserts. The designers often say that, because their fabrics have previous existences, their work is nostalgic by default – but it’s how these Swedes filter their work through their own childhood memories and contemporary obsessions that is drawing rave reviews.

By Walid, Britain

Coat, gilet, By Walid; vintage Givenchy Haute Couture dress, vintage belt, The Arc London; mules, Manolo Blahnik; corsages, ribbons (in hair), VV Rouleaux; earrings, Al Arabia. Photo: Eddie Wrey

Walid al Damirji structured his brand By Walid around a single principle: no waste. “It would be disrespectful otherwise,” the designer says of the antique textiles, like curtains, vintage clothing, and tapestries, that he transforms into romantic blouses, jackets, and even homewares such as pillows and quilts. When it comes to finding these materials, al Damirji says, “I leave no stone unturned – auctions, vintage fairs, car boot sales – you name it!” His deep care made him one of the first in the luxury fashion industry to take upcycling and sustainability seriously.

Lagos Space Programme, Nigeria

Top, Lagos Space Programme; vintage Alexander McQueen waistcoat, The Arc London; headband (worn as collar), William Chambers Millinery; earrings, Carolina de Barros. Photo: Eddie Wrey

Adeju Thompson’s work for Lagos Space Programme rockets between past and present, and crucially, it is mission-based: fashion is the vehicle through which the designer, who studied in Wales and England, explores both their non-binary identity and Yoruba heritage. “We are aware of our responsibility as inhabitants of the planet,” notes Thompson, who often works with precolonial silhouettes and collaborates with skilled artisans employing indigenous craft techniques, such as natural indigo dying. “My ancestors left so much behind,” they say. “I believe they expected us to continue telling these stories and building up on what they left.”

Read Next: The Arab Designers Report: Your Guide to Supporting Local Talent

Originally published in the February 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

Style: Poppy Kain
Compilation: Emily Farra, Marley Marius, Christian Allaire, Laird Borrelli-Persson, Mark Holgate, Steff Yotka
Hair: Shiori Takahashi
Makeup: Lynsey Alexander
Production: Shades Of Grey Productions
Digital artwork: Art Post
Model: Imaan Hammam

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