Ethical or organic fashion becomes more and more popular nowadays. Let's say it's more like a new trend in the Slow Fashion movement right now. So I decided to talk with the designer and founder of Yenna Label, Dimienne Wilson-Chew, who use eco-friendly water-based inks to create perfect pieces of organic clothing, about this interesting movement in fashion and to share it with you!
How did you decide to become a designer?
I always enjoyed using clothes to express myself as an individual, as a child I always enjoyed art. Being described by one teacher "she paints like a woman possessed!"
My first name is Dimienne (a very unusual name in the West) so I gained the family nickname Yenna during childhood. After studying philosophy for many years I was unsure what made me happy. I realized, I enjoyed the technical challenges that design brings after trying many different art forms. I studied fashion construction at night classes whilst working two jobs and started designing for private clients, it was then I realised how consumerist and wasteful the fashion industry is! I started to use second-hand clothing and fashion 'waste' to produce my sewn collections. During my personal life took up surfing as a hobby and quickly took an interest in the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry. There are many surfers and nature lovers who are trapped! The only two choices are to buy ethical clothing that compromises their style, or cool surf brands that look good but destroy the planet. I then put all my skills together and set up Yenna Label in 2008.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
My most favourite part is that you can make someone feel happier in their own skin. The modern day world is so critical I think it's important to keep the magic alive in fashion. Being a designer is all about challenging the status quo and I have always done that!
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration from many places in both the country and the city. I take my DSLR camera on my travels to cities, beaches, skate parks, bridges, museums, alleyways and some dodgy places! I read all the fashion magazines and what they 'say' is the latest trend and then ignore it and do my own thing hahaha. I am inspired by the colours of nature but the sleek modernity of the city. I always thought they should be combined to create clean looking clothes with hippy values.
How did you select the materials you used?
We use a variety of materials to sew by deconstructing second-hand clothing and using fashion waste. We'll save anything that can be reused because it will end up in a landfill or car seats! Our Tees are certified organic cotton and manufactured in the EU and our sweatshirts are made using recycled polyester (a process melting used plastic bottles). Our water-based solvent free inks are more expensive to buy...but we think it's worth it for the quality and positive environmental impact.
Could you, please, describe a process of the creation from the very beginning?
Our Re-made collection is unusual because each product is completely different and hand tailored. We use a variety of machinery to sew including flat-stitching and overlock machines. We use traditional pattern cutting techniques including hand sewing. When printing our t-shirts we use silk screening to transfer our designs. We take a picture, edit to a halftone, create a positive, paint the screen, expose it, wash out, tape up and ready to print! We keep several designs ready to go in various sizes and mesh counts. We are currently testing the market to see which you like best.
What are you working on right now and what are your future aspirations?
Right now I am developing a new website and looking for new stockists. We are appearing at a local Vegan Festival on Saturday the 19th March so I am building new units to display at the event. I try to make most of my equipment – if I can.
What do you think about today's fashion? Which advice would you give to the future fashion designers?
Today's fashion is tomorrows wash rag... future designers need to focus on cyclical fashion production and making people aware of how much waste and suffering there is in the world. 1900's mill time life was not abolished... it is in your Primark/Topshop/Next clothing and it just moved to India, China or wherever is cheap labour and it has to stop!
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I enjoy the challenges that being a small fish in a big pond brings. Sometimes I feel like I want to rip my hair out... but most of the time I want to beat the capitalist system. I am a total hippy at heart and I think being a designer only makes that bit of me worse! It’s not all fun and games though... it can be tough to get noticed and stay confident!
What do you find the most challenging part about working in the fashion industry?
The most challenging is being told constantly that the 'system' will never change. It will eventually we believe it's inevitable! You're up against pretty powerful conglomerates in various industries that all support each other. They have very deep pockets and advertising budgets, just being noticed is hard enough!
I think, this sort of fashion we all need right now. Do you remember your childhood and some pieces of your favourite clothing? We loved those dresses and shirts and could wear them to death. But what changed? Nothing, except our vision of it and all the advertisement that surrounds us every day 24/7. So we buy things non-stop and throw it away after the first wash, don't we? All these fast-fashion shops have given people a false sense of how much work goes into garment making.
Ethical fashion movement returns us to the forgotten feeling that modern clothes – it’s not just a trend; it can be filled with meaning, idea, sense of responsibility and the interconnectedness of all in the world, back to that feeling that has been forgotten. And Yenna Label is that sort of brand, that really cares about what are you wearing and what are you thinking about.