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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

28 February 2013

New Gen spotlight: Brandy Easter

Contributor Rebecca Damm

brandy easter1

SOURCE contributor Rebecca Damm meets with recent fashion grad and exciting new design talent, Brandy Easter, who upcycles old garments into fresh, fun and forward-thinking designs for the new generation.

We spoke to Brandy Easter, a recent graduate from the acclaimed ‘CSM’ BA womenswear course, on the use of reclaimed materials in her award-winning graduate collection and her ‘no-need’ attitude of over-consumption in the fashion industry.

Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona Brandy learnt about reducing waste from an early age, this has fed its way into her graduation collection, shown earlier this year and landing her a job as a designer for the up-cycling giants From Somewhere.

Why did you re-use fabrics for your final collection?

There were a few things that drew me to use reclaimed materials, the first and strongest factor being that I am very interested in sustainable issues like over-consumption, the throw-away attitude people have developed with clothes, and the wasteful nature of the production of fabric into clothes.

I felt that using organic and fair trade materials, although great, would go against my beliefs about over consumption. I did not want to buy something new because that meant I was also being a consumer that did not necessarily need to consume.

Therefore it was clear to me that there was only one solution: producing a collection out of reclaimed materials and in some cases some pre-consumer waste/end of line fabrics. It was an added bonus that my grandmother had loads of vintage fabrics she never used in pristine condition and all of my other family and friends that donated fabric to me!

What importance do you see in reducing waste and sustainable fashion?

Reducing waste to me is really important and yet was not something I discovered over night, but rather something I grew up with. My family, in particular my grandfather who has worn the same clothes for about 40-50 years, are waste-reducers!

I have learnt from them to use things until they completely wear out and to always re-use and recycle. If we can all reduce our waste think of all of things that would not be contaminating our land and taking up space in landfills. If fashion houses could reduce waste, reuse, and use sustainable materials we would be firstly doing something extremely good for the environment but encouraging other industries to do the same and changing the majority of consumers purchasing habits.

What are some tips you have for working with reclaimed materials?

My first advice is to design without thinking too much about what materials you have, this way you get a more natural result. Secondly is to consider what fabrics you actually have and where they could fit within your designs. It is very possible you may have to rework some of your ideas but I think this is a really good challenge.

As a designer you must think creatively and solve problems in a creative way. This challenge makes you consider your design even more than I think it does if you have all of the choice of fabrics. After you have made you initial choices it is good to calculate how much fabric you will need to make you garment reproducible. I think it is also very crucial to watch out for fabric that might have a mistake or stains on it and to cut around them.

Lastly, be extra careful when cutting out your patterns because if you make any error you may not have enough material to cut it again!

How do you go about finding and where do you find reclaimed materials?

I get most of my fabrics from family and friends who have old clothes, bed sheets, or fabrics they do not need anymore. When it comes to purchasing fabrics I sometimes go to charity shops that sell bed sheets or car boot sales as they usually have a couple of stalls of fabric.

There is also a great shop off Mare Street in East London called Wool Crest which has end of line fabric purchased at auction. A good online shop is the Offset Warehouse which sells a variety of fabrics including organic, end of line, and scrap fabrics.

What advice would you give to other students beginning their graduate collections, how would you encourage/convince them to take a sustainable approach to materials & design?

Starting with the facts I would explain the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry and how unethical the industry is. If that would not grab anyone’s attention I would tell them how much money it saved me!

I got a lot of my materials for free and the ones I did buy were all inexpensive. It was also really fun working with these materials. I know I do my best work when I have a challenge so I would hope that others would be drawn to that factor as well.

Do you feel that university fashion courses should include sustainability in their curriculum? If so why?

Absolutely, I think whilst I was at university we only had two lectures about sustainability. It was not nearly enough and I do not think it really ‘moved’ anyone. The point of teaching sustainability should be to inspire students to be sustainable yet my university did not do that. However they have been improving as the second year students have had an up-cycling project for the last two years.

If universities continue to engage with their students about sustainability it will eventually become a normal, everyday thing for designers to think about that and I believe this should be a goal of universities and the fashion industry in general.

What kind of support do you think you need to build a successful brand, what are your next steps?

To be honest I need financial support most of all, I have left university with a huge amount of debt as I was an international student so it is nearly impossible for me to move my brand forward as fast and as best as I would like to. I am currently working as the main designer at From Somewhere which is a dream of mine I thought I would never fulfil, which is fantastic.

I sell my accessories at Perry Nelvill as with full time work I only have time to focus on my smaller pieces. My next steps are to continue working at From Somewhere so I can learn as much from them as I can and save some money so I could eventually start my brand properly. I would also like to try to make a mini collection every year to post on my website in the hopes that I could keep people’s interest.

Are you looking for stockists now, what are your ideal ones?

I am not looking very much at stockists at the moment, but I would love to be stocked at 69b in East London, Browns in London, Dover Street Market, Koh Samui, Labour of Love, Kokon To Zai in London, Beams in Shibuya, The Kita-Kore Building in Koenji, Frances in Phoenix, Bird in New York. I would like to be stocked in many other countries as well but I am definitely dreaming big with these boutiques already!

Can you give examples of designers/brands both in the US and the UK whose sustainability ethos you admire and feel is working?

Sadly, I think the US is lagging behind Europe when it comes to sustainability in terms of design. I think the UK is pushing their design forward more than the US; however, I do admire Organic by John Patrick, Samantha Pleet, and I like the humbleness of Alabama Chanin.

In the UK I obviously admired From Somewhere, as I am working there now, not to mention Lu Flux – who I absolutely adore and have worked for previously. I also love Stella McCartney for providing an amazing range of vegan accessories, Honest by, Christopher Raeburn, and Jessica Ogden.

Most of the UK designers I feel are working well are designers who use reclaimed materials. They all have an eye for making rubbish look desirable and I feel it is so crucial to re-use in this way.

How do you see sustainability evolving in the US fashion industry?

I think there is a group of people around the whole of the US who feel like they want a change of ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry who are trying to make a name for themselves and encourage others to chose sustainability.

I believe eventually the idea will spread and companies will start to consider other production methods which will in turn change the habits of consumers. It is already starting in a way a while ago that people buy used or retro clothes. Places like Buffalo Exchange have been spot-on at serving this type of consumer.

Do you feel there is more vision with regards to ethical/sustainable fashion in the UK or the US?

Being from the US and currently working in London I feel that the UK definitely has more vision. Generally speaking fashion in New York and California are more about practicality and have a kind of blandness which I think London can have at times but overall the UK is much more creative and fun with clothes.

This question is important because most sustainable brands are focusing on basics and it is time that companies like this start having a bit more fun and appeal to a younger generation of consumers.

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