When it comes to sustainable fashion, it can be hard to know where to start. With an endless barrage of information, countless new and established brands to research, and a mass of confusing terminology out there, it's understandable that anyone might feel a little overwhelmed.
In light of this, every month we will focus on a brand that knows exactly what it means to be a sustainable force for good in fashion today. From debunking inaccuracies to advice for aspiring designers and tips for consumers on how to be kinder to the planet, we cut through the noise so that you don’t have to.
This month we’re getting to know Stefania Vaidani, a label that takes a contemporary approach to femininity, with its affordable, memorable designs.
Celebrating the traditions and culture of fine Italian fashion, Stefania Vaidani creates clothes that manage to be simultaneously effortless and statement-making, and which are made to last with sustainable fabrics.
Designer Vaidani was born in Greece to a family of creators and raised in the suburbs of Athens. In 2018, she graduated from Marangoni Fashion School in Milan and became immediately known for her romantic and feminine womenswear.
Her hand-designed label uses vegan leather, organic cotton and other recycled fabrics that make up 99 per cent of collections. All the materials used are certified by Oeko-Tex®, meaning the textiles are grown according to strict guidelines, ensuring they are free of harmful chemicals and are safe for human use. Every season, Vaidani also collaborates with a non-profit worldwide organisation and offers in-kind support to people in need. If there is any old stock that can't be reused or resold, it goes to women charities to avoid burning deadstock.
We sat down with the designer to get to know more about the brand, what she wants to achieve with her label, and what more the industry needs to do in terms of sustainability.
What makes a truly sustainable brand?
"Sustainability has to be a 360-degree approach. Production and choosing fabrics which don’t use harmful chemicals are what most people think of first. For me, it’s important to also have respect for our suppliers and to create a good working environment for all of our staff. Sustainability is a social issue as well as environmental.
"We take great care to treat our community with love – from staff to suppliers to our customers. During lockdown we sent 100 gifts out to our customers as a thank you for being faithful to us and as a way of showing that we care and we appreciate their support. So, sustainability for me means that every year our earth and the people on it should be in better or the same condition as the previous year."
How do you successfully run a sustainable business?
"I always ask myself, how do I want to see the world? What can I change to manifest that and help our planet? These questions drive my team and me to constantly find new techniques and ways to become a more responsible fashion brand. I spend a lot of time researching new materials for my collections and I’m currently sourcing banana skins and bamboo for my future designs. I’m also researching how I can use waste grape skins from vineyards in Greece to create eco-friendly bio leather – this is something that really excites me.
"Being sustainable isn’t easy though, a lot of thought has to go into every decision and this sometimes makes finding profit margins harder. For me there is no other option; sustainability isn’t a fashion or trend, it’s a way of life. You need to have a vision, set your goals accordingly, then stay true to yourself and your consumers."
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
"Although we have made great steps, ultimately we need to change the way we consume. We need to think of a better future where we invest in buying fewer items and choosing things we really love that will last. I also worry about the harmful substances that are used, which not only affect our planet but also our health.
"Sustainability shouldn’t be a trend – it needs to be an integral part of how all companies from all industries work to protect our precious planet."
What is the industry doing right?
"The industry is starting to use a range of great eco fabrications lately. We as a brand love to use fabrics that come from recycled plastic bottles, as this helps to clear waste from our oceans. The rise of companies such as Oeko-Tex®, who certify our fabrics, is really important for consumer visibility and trust. Oeko-Tex textiles and fabrics are certified free of harmful chemicals and are safe for human use. Organic certification means that textile and fabric products are grown according to strict guidelines and only use petroleum-based fertilisers, pesticides, and synthetic products.
"Also, the rise of rental clothing companies and vintage re-sale has been fantastic to see. With vintage, I feel it’s no longer about buying one-off high-end bags, but sourcing vintage for your whole wardrobe. Ultimately, we need to produce less as an industry and extend the shelf life of clothes, which is really important."
What do you want to achieve personally with your brand, in terms of sustainability?
"We will continue to adapt to changing consumer lifestyles – to focus on better, not more, to embrace new technologies and platforms to meet growing consumer demand for an environmentally sustainable future. 'Buy well, choose less and make it last' is my motto when shopping, I want all aspects of the brand to fit into this.
"For us, there is always room for improvement, even though we use recycled fabrics. There are always methods of recycling or manipulating these fabrics with smaller footprints, so that will always be a challenge."
What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?
"Research, research, and research. Discover what sustainability means for you and how you would like to present your work to the world. The industry works hard to find new production methods, fabrics, and materials, so try to keep in touch with what’s being discovered and, before you choose, weigh up the pros and cons of your choice."
What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?
"The advice I could give is to try to research a brand before you purchase from them. Try to understand their story and if it matches your eco-consciousness then you can purchase guilt-free. Don’t underestimate buyer power. I always think of my favourite quote by Desmond Tutu: 'Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world'."
What are the most common inaccurate “facts” about sustainability you see promoted?
"Greenwashing is certainly a problem – unfortunately you have to make sure you research properly and not take everything at face value. Sustainability is a way of living; you could use recycled fabric, but if you ignore ethical standards as a business, then that isn’t socially sustainable – you have to make sure it’s a 360 approach."
Where do you turn to when you feel confused about sustainability and need more detail?
"There are a huge wealth of resources available on the internet regarding sustainability. I try to read as many articles as I can, highlighting all the important information. To be well informed you have to keep researching and keep reading.
"There is always more you can do or more you can give. The companies that provide our fabric certificates share really insightful information with us as well. We’re proud to have these."
You Might Also Like