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Written by Orsola de Castro

The first time I became a ‘Fashion Mum’ I was at Estethica – the British Fashion Council Sustainable Fashion area at London Fashion Week - which I co-founded in 2006, and curated until 2014.

It was 2007 and one of our new recruits was a young brand called Goodone, designed by Nin Castle and Clare Farrell, who were, at the time, the only other brand crazy enough to up-cycle as insistently and stubbornly as I was doing through my brand, From Somewhere (which I had started back in 1997). This meant thinking of creative ways to upscale up-cycling, making it affordable, relevant and cool.

At the end of the fashion week we were firm friends, she hugged me and told me I was her Fashion Mum; that moment sits pretty high on the list of favourite things that have happened to me.

 Orsola (centre) with mentees Angus Tsui (second from left) and Kévin Germanier (far right)

Orsola (centre) with mentees Angus Tsui (second from left) and Kévin Germanier (far right)

Especially because it continued, and over the years, I have become a Fashion Mum to several other young, brilliant designers, and I now have a decent sized family of Fashion Kids that I have the privilege to advise, support and stay close to as they start, consolidate, solidify, or, in the case of some, just begin to dream of their journey.

The Redress Design Award has proved rich pickings, amongst them Angus Tsui and Kévin Germanier - both of whom make me jump for joy with their successes, their attitude, commitment and sheer talent.

I owe to all the students and the young designers I mentor and meet my defiance to go on, because I can see in their eyes and in their collections that they want to be part of a change, and they want to use their creativity as a force to tackle environmental and social challenges.

 Cora Belloto was awarded a mentorship with Orsola in the 2015/16 competition cycle

Cora Belloto was awarded a mentorship with Orsola in the 2015/16 competition cycle

The reason why the change that is happening is so exciting is because it is a shift towards celebrating diversity, individuality and originality. It’s a change that explores the wildest frontiers of fashion, places so far out from the convention that they might as well be on another planet. Because the designers of tomorrow are on a journey to redesign fashion not just aesthetically, but by shaking its values to the core, challenging it completely and daring to demand a different way to design, produce and consume.

In order to balance the fashion system, we need to develop its biodiversity. We need a generation of smaller designers that can coexist with the fashion giants, high street or high end. We need to open our wardrobes to lesser-known labels and emerging talents whose promises we trust, whose claims we can verify, and who make us look good because they also make us feel good.

This is why my advice is never to “reach for the moon” but more like “make a solid start and think small”. It’s not because I don’t believe that the opportunities are there, or that one shouldn’t dream big - it’s because I believe that big is not necessarily the only way to be, in this world at this point in time, when considering implications such as exploitation and environmental footprint.

 Lia Kassif was awarded a mentorship with Orsola in the Redress Design Award 2017

Lia Kassif was awarded a mentorship with Orsola in the Redress Design Award 2017

I believe that staying small can help redefine production and aesthetic values (a shorter, visible, sustainable supply chain, an object well designed and well made for longevity), and cradles a culture that cares for its people as well as its things. A culture where designers and design thinkers are plentyful, their multiple services are unique, individual and original, and consumers care for the things they buy.

A culture where choice is not defined by mass production quantity but by individual taste, because having a lot to choose from comes with a huge cost to people and natural resources.

Small solutions can lead to big changes. We just need to make sure that we encourage, nurture and support these potentially system-shifting emerging talents.

Orsola de Castro is a fashion designer, Co-founder of Estethica & Fashion Revolution and is International Judge for the Redress Design Award 2018


This article originally appeared in the Redress Design Award 2018 Magazine.