Podcast Ep. 69, ORSOLA DE CASTRO - QUEEN OF UPCYCLING
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EPISODE 69 FEATURES ORSOLA DE CASTRO
She is one of the warmest, most generous and knowledgable people working in sustainable fashion today. You probably know Orsola as the cofounder, with Carry Somers, of Fashion Revolution. But did you also know that she is the Queen Upcycling?
In the that 1990s, after crocheting around the holes in a much-loved old jumper that she couldn’t bear to part with although it was literally falling apart, Orsola founded the fashion label From Somewhere. Her designs used only discarded, unloved, unwanted materials and turned them into the opposite: treasured, loved, wanted, and highly covetable.
From Somewhere was stocked in stores like Browns in London, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Orsola and partner Fillipo Ricci did collaborations with the likes of Topshop, Jigsaw and Tesco. Later, they ran Esthetica, London Fashion Week’s hub for sustainable for fashion.
These days, Orsola teaches at Central St. Martins inspiring the next generation. She’s an in-demand international speaker on ethical fashion, and is the Creative Director of Fashion Revolution. She is passionate about making, mending and loving clothes, and of course about upcycling, but also about treating workers with dignity, and about fashion justice.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
FASHION REVOLUTION is a global movement of active citizen fashion changemakers. They say: “Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? How much they’re paid, and what their lives are like? Our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others. Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes. 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35. However, the majority of the people who makes clothes for the global market live in poverty, unable to afford life’s basic necessities. Many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions, with very little pay.” Fashion Revolution Week 2019 is coming up 22-28th April. Find out how you can get involved here.
HONG KONG. “I love the view in Hong Kong,” says Orsola, “it’s so pattern-y.”
SYNESTHESIA is a condition in which one sense is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses. Some synesthetes see objects like letters, shapes or numbers with a sensory perception such as smell, colour or flavour. “Sight, smell, taste, touch, sound . . . and synesthesia? Though we’re no closer to discovering (or developing) a true sixth sense, research suggests that synesthesia may confer some sensory enhancements. Some scientists posit, for example, that synesthetes are better at distinguishing between smells as well as between colours,” via Psychology Today.
Redress fights fashion waste and supports emerging talent to design for circularity. For more info, and to hear from the organisation’s founder listen to Episode 62 with Christina Dean. The REDRESS DESIGN AWARD 2019 is now accepting applications.
“I INHABIT THIS SPACE IN A CREATIVE WAY, BUT IT IS A VERY SERIOUS SPACE.” - ORSOLA DE CASTRO.
Kevin GERMANIER is a Paris-based Swiss designer. A Central St Martins grad, he won the Redress Award (then known as the Eco Chic Award) in 2015, and last year took home the Swarovski & Vogue Talents New Generation Award . His work melds glam rock with sustainable materials. Think edgy cocktail frocks, sparkly denim and bodysuits. They all use his signature upcycled embellishments. This was inspired by his finding a giant stash of deadstock beads in Hong Kong - he bought the lot for $10 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Says Orsola of Kevin, “He is the man for right now when it comes to upcycling because he is incredibly committed (and a lovely person) but also someone who understands how really we need to break barriers when it comes to upcycling, because his aesthetic is very precise, very exciting and very luxury.”
“And very glamorous,” adds Clare. Which is important because… FOR AGES SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT THE WHOLE NOTION OF UPCYCLING JUST WASN’T VERY CHIC. They were, of course, wrong. But the fact remains: using old rubbish as material did/does still carry a stigma in some circles. “I think there’s been a huge connotation that overall sustainability Is not sexy, which I would dispute,” says Orsola. Of course she would.
What even is UPCYCLING anyway? The term was first coined in the 1990s by Reiner Pilz. It means creative reuse, or the process of transforming by-products, waste, stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, into new items, thereby adding value. Long before the word was used, our grandmothers, and their grandmothers were upcycling. It’s just fashion commonsense, no?
THE BEAUTY OF RESTRAINT. Orsola says that we have too much choice. When we can design and produce anything (even a loo cleaner shaped like a cactus) it’s easy to lose our way. When we are limited - by materials, investment, time, geography, access, whatever - we often come up with more creative solutions.
MENDING is something to be proud of, says Orsola. “Mending is a scar…We seldom fall in love with perfection; we fall in love with imperfection - those are the things that we remember.” Also, MISTAKES can lead to something beautiful.
OVERPRODUCTION. We are producing 150 billion garments a year, says Orsola. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we were producing about 100 billion garments a year by 2015. Orsola says now it’s more like 150 billion. That’s a heck of a lot of clothing to landfill, given we currently recycle less than 1 % of used clothing into new clothing, and something insane like 87% of clothes end up in landfill or incinerated.
“How amazing if designers were taught to design for dis-assemble, to unpick and res-assemble! What if all factories had a creative waste engineer who was looking at surplus before it becomes waste?” - Orsola de Castro
A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.
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