Whats important in sustainability right now?


Rejina Pyo London Fashion Week SS22
Rejina Pyo SS22 includes certified organic cotton shirting, denim, FSC viscose and recycled polyester.

Greenwashing, smart design, and why the fashion industry's wheels falling off due to the pandemic was the exact wake up call it needed.


In Part II of this interview, Celeste Tesoriero, founder of Sonzai Studios, examines sustainability deeper. Part I explored the her career history and steps to becoming a sustainability consultant, and in these following questions with Berlin-based publication and podcast, Advance Copy, Tesoriero gives honest insight into the most pressing and inspiring initiatives in sustainability right now.


"...getting sustainability to a point where brands don’t think of it as a separate part of their business and it’s interwoven into every one of their sectors so it works like an ecosystem in permaculture – that can happen."
 

The fashion elite are reviewing runway presentations not just on aesthetic in 2021, but their sustainability initiatives. LFW street style image featuring GANNI via Vogue.

AC: In a recent podcast with Kate Soper, author of Post-Growth Living For an Alternative Hedonism, spoke about making sustainable living more hedonistic. She argues that we need to sell the concept as an idea which is fun and attractive. What are your thoughts on this?

Celeste: A lot of the things that you have to do as a company – or should be doing to be an ethical and sustainable company – don’t sound very sexy. Getting people on board with every aspect of sustainability, I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing because we all have parts of our job that we don’t like or that don’t interest us. But we have other parts that drive us and keep us going to work every day. It’s about finding the specific things within sustainability that you are going to get into. For some companies it’s the ethical side like supporting Indigenous women in their community and they’re not interested in recycling, and that’s okay. I don’t think we will ever get to a point where sustainability as a whole is sexy. But getting sustainability to a point where brands don’t think of it as a separate part of their business and it’s interwoven into every one of their sectors so it works like an ecosystem in permaculture – that can happen.

There is so much to know and unless you are an expert in the field you can’t hope to know everything so it’s easy to put it into the ‘too hard’ basket – that’s a problem that we need to get rid of. Rather than making sustainability sexy, we need to make sustainability simple.

“Rather than making sustainability sexy, we need to make sustainability simple.”

Stine Goya SS22 proving sustainability doesn't mean boring. Images via Vogue.


AC: What sustainability initiatives are inspiring you right now?


Celeste: What I am loving at the moment is smart design. I have recently written a sustainable swimwear guide and I was so impressed by the brands that are doing smart design rather than a recycled fabrication or using natural dye. That’s good and as we said before – choose your focus. But what I am seeing more of is people being smart and resourceful with what they create with a wave of new brands that are getting clever with the design stage. For example, thinking of a swimsuit that can also be used as activewear and lingerie then making sure that the item can be used across those three different parts of our life. What we are trying to do is to buy less, produce less and be smarter with our buying habits. Swimwear brand, Baiia, makes a wrap one piece which can be worn in three different ways so it fits and looks flattering on different body shapes and you can use it if you are breastfeeding. By doing different things it becomes more than just a swimsuit. That’s the thing that’s exciting me at the moment, it’s not an afterthought of sustainability, it’s smarter design.

“Sustainability saves you money and smart design is good business.”
Rejina Pyo SS22 street style
Many brands have moved into more casual offerings as a reaction to our need for more multifunctional wardrobes. Image: Rejina Pyo.

AC: From a business perspective, by creating a product that is multifunctional or multi-purpose you are attracting different customers so arguably it’s also more profitable.


Celeste: Absolutely. Many people have a stigma around doing sustainability initiatives and assuming they need to have a big budget for it and that’s completely incorrect. Sustainability saves you money, smart design is good business and everyone should be doing it.




AC: Through the pandemic and the lockdowns, have you felt the conversation around sustainability change in any way?


Celeste: I think it made a lot of brands stop and think “Why are we going at this pace?” I’ve seen people make big decisions and what I view as sustainable decisions. For example, one brand has decided to completely stop wholesaling and to only be available online. The pandemic has made people rethink their business structures which is a positive thing because it leans towards going slower and producing less. All of these things are like a sustainable kick to the ribs of people who haven’t thought about it yet.

Maggie Marilyn closed wholesale operations in 2020.

AC: Who or what ideas are influencing you right now?


Celeste: In terms of people in the fashion industry inspiring me, it’s not one person but it’s people who are making brave changes. People who are putting their hand up and saying: “We are not going to do collections any-more because we don’t believe in this fashion system.” It was a broken system that broke a long time ago and we’ve just been rolling with it. [The pandemic] has given us the chance to say “I don’t think this is the best way things can be – I have a different idea.” Brands are having new, interesting, smart and innovative ideas. It’s a breath of fresh air into the fashion industry which is really needed. It’s just evolving and this evolution is really exciting.

“It was a broken system that broke a long time ago and we’ve just been rolling with it.”

Note: This copy has been reduced from the original article. You can find the full interview on Advance Copy .

 

Looking for sustainability help? Email Celeste directly at: celeste@sonzaistudios.com