Thursday, April 21, 2011

Titania Inglis

So frequently we hear about the influences or muse behind designers. But not too often do we hear ‘zero waste’ on their list of inspirations.New York based designer Titania Inglis seems to be saying just that. Of course she is still inspired by the usual suspects of visual and musical culture but she is deeply motivated to create the perfect minimum waste garment.

Why fashion?
I started at design school planning to do graphic design but it was the tangible aspects that drew me to fashion; the feel of different fabrics, the satisfaction in creating a row of precise stitches, the magic of going from a vague idea in your head to a physical creation that you can wear every day. I also love fashion as communication, how people choose to portray themselves to the world through clothes. I keep my own wardrobe tightly edited but within that there’s a lot of room for play. I can be ladylike and vintage-inspired one day, deconstructed and super-modern the next.

Can you tell us more about your minimal waste design process?
For my Spring/Summer 2011 collection, the Almost Zero collection, I took two approaches to zero waste. One was to use bias cuts. Because woven fabric stretches on the diagonal, known as the bias, I turned the fabric diagonally and was able to make garments out of triangles and rectangles without leaving much in the way of scrap. The other approach was to use 3-D origami folding, taking an entire rectangle of fabric and pinning and draping it onto the form to create geometric shapes

Why sustainability?
I grew up in a hippie town and have been a lifelong environmentalist. There’s a lot of room for improvement within the fashion industry. If I can do my tiny part to advance sustainable practices by showing the world that a line can be both thoughtfully produced and beautifully designed, it’ll have been more than worth my time.

Why is this all important to you?
One reason I love making clothes is that they’re universal; virtually everyone wears clothes every day. That being said, the worldwide garment industry is huge and has a correspondingly huge impact on the world’s environment. For example, the blue-dyed rivers in China are a result of terrible industry practices and it doesn’t have to be that way. The world is so overflowing with stuff right now, with cast-off products of our society, that I was a bit reluctant to start a business creating products at all. But in the end I realized that it was possible to run my business in such a way that does good rather than harm. So I choose to support fabric mills that make organic fabrics and I choose to support craftsmanship by hiring skilled craftspeople, sewers and cutters and pattern graders, to create my clothes.

Does this sustainable concept flow into your daily life?
If anything, it’s that my daily life flows into my design. I try to waste as little as possible in life as well as in design. I recycle religiously, including my fabric scraps; I compost, I ride my bike almost everywhere, I turn off lights and computers, and I try to eat locally grown food whenever possible.

What else inspired your most recent collection?
For Fall/Winter 2011, the mood was inspired by the Lykke Li and xx albums I listened to while designing it. The color palette came from the gloriously mossy colors I saw on a trip to Iceland this winter.

To create the silhouettes, I delved deeper into minimalism, playing with cutting away and paring back: I literally cut out the back of last fall’s Wrap Jacket to make the new Cutaway Jacket, and then echoed that silhouette in the Arc Skirt. The Swing Top was my first attempt to drape a top in one piece and then I riffed on that to create the Slash Back Top and the Shift Dress.

You have a very keen eye for unusual construction. What inspires you to create these shapes?
Because I use mostly organic fabrics I’m forced to start my designs with new fabrics each season as there’s so little out there to choose from. I spend a great deal of my time searching for new, beautiful, and sustainably produced fabrics to put into the collection. The few fabrics I fall in love with become the basis for the new collection.

Growing up as an architect’s daughter, I learned a lot from my dad about experimenting with materials to create new forms. I believe in using the properties of the material to push the boundaries of what it can do, rather than forcing things to be what they’re not. So for example, my circle skirt and circle dress from FW10 came from playing with shapes I could create with a single piece of fabric. Using heavier fabrics, I also made the origami bustle skirts from SS11 and the funnel skirt from FW11 from a single pattern piece; while the bias tees from SS11 were an attempt to take a very 1930s technique and turn it to a more contemporary purpose, the archetypal T-shirt.

Whats next?
Even though it bears my name, I started this line partly as a platform to collaborate with some of the talented people around me. As the line grows and develops, I’m planning to branch out next season into working with more of Brooklyn’s incredible creative types, including natural dyers, accessory designers, and set designers.

Check out Titanias blog it has some great info about what’s going on in the world, in Brooklyn and all of her inspiration.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The North Circular

The north circular values are as warm and fuzzy as their knits! The self-proclaimed idea of “creating a knitting empire fueled by grannies hand knitting” has become a beautiful reality. The label has been built with a wonderful sense of community and patriotism. Supporting local UK farmers in a dying industry, the label also embrace traditional art of knitting, which they outsource through their ‘knitwork’.

Their latest collection 'Metamorphous’ contains a luscious range that makes us beach dwellers head for the crisp mountain air craving an opportunity to snuggle into a North Circular creation. Director Katherine Poulton tells us a more…

What inspired you to start The North circular?
The very talented knitting grandmothers of myself and Lily. We were lucky enough as children to always have a handmade sweater. We thought it would be brilliant to support hand knitters and create a business model that was about supporting the British wool industry, as well as creating knitwear we really wanted to wear.

The idea grew when we met Izzy, who was running the sheep sanctuary and her clothing label Izzy lane. She showed us the state of the UK wool industry and how it has suffered from foreign imports. We got really excited about how we could create an ecologically sound, low carbon footprint garment, which supported hand traditions and employment in the UK. When Alice (a St Martins knitwear graduate working at rag and bone) joined OR When Alice - a St Martins knitwear graduate working at rag and bone- joined we created the strong design aesthetics and wearability of the brand…and so the north circular was born.

Where are you based?
The sheep are in Yorkshire, the design team in London and the grannies are dispersed all over the UK.

Why is staying local important to the label?
There is no need for a huge carbon footprint on wool being shipped around the world when we have amazing wool in the UK. Connecting the local wool with the local knitter, supporting the UK spinners, dye houses and creating a truly British product is key for us.

Can you tell us a bit about who knits your garments? How did you get in contact with them?
We are on the knitwork!! They contact us!
They are aged between 96 and 21. We started with knitters we knew and then once we were on the BBC news we have floods of people wanting to knit for us.

What's next?
To open other 'circles' in other countries using closed country production, like the north circular. We want to support local garment makers using the local hand traditions, animals or plantations, to create fabric and bespoke garments but with the same strong north circular design aesthetic.

Check out some of the great interviews with there star knitters at



New Zealand label Kowtow has just released new winter collection ‘Equilibrium’. Inspired by the grand architect Antoni Gaudi, smooth silhouettes, subtle seam lines and shadowy drapes reflect the relaxed practicality that embodies Kow Tow. Inspiring founder Gosia Piatek talks frankly about her commonsense approach to creating a label with noble values.

How did your label come about?
I was brainstorming ethical business ideas with a friend in a vegetarian restaurant in Wellington, NZ, and she said to me "why don't you start up a fair trade organic clothing label?" I left the restaurant inspired, started researching into this idea and 6 months later Kowtow was born! That was back in 2007.

Where does the name Kowtow originate?
In imperial China, Kowtow is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have one's head touching the ground.

What influenced you to create an ethical label?
There was no other option but to be ethical. I needed to make sure that everyone from the cottonseed farmers to the environment are protected. What other options are there? Turn a blind eye to the obvious 1st worlds exploitation of the 3rd world? The human exploitation and environmental degradation.... ummmm ... no thanks!

You recently traveled to India to see where your clothing is dyed, knitted and made, why was this important to you?
My first and foremost passions are human welfare, the fairtrade system and sustainability. Without all of these aspects I would not want to be involved in any business. So going to India to see our production process from seed to cotton was incredibly important.

What did you see? Did you learn anything?
I needed to prove to myself that the certification systems (FLO and SKAL) that we work with are legitimate. I came back with even more passion and spark. I saw and documented an incredible amount of positivity and hope.

How do you start each collection? What inspires you?
We start with a subject, person or theme. This provides us with boundaries and helps us explore the finer details that are associated with the theme. For Winter 2011 we were inspired by Antoni Gaudi and his architectural works. He worked alongside nature to create his awe-inspiring buildings. We used his quotes, architectural drawings and details to incorporate into our clothing. These were then transcribed into prints and garment names such as the Casa Cape, Sagrada Familia Top and Arches Scarf.

How does your location affect your work?
Wellington is an incredibly creative city, not to mention very individualistic with fashion. So creative inspiration is easy to achieve. Being at the end of the world does mean that business growth is slower but we have, however, the advantage of tapping into huge export markets, as New Zealand seems to be a very trusted country to do business with.

Tell us about your usual day?
In an incredibly short summary it goes something like this.... Yoga, check & reply to emails, sort out orders, deal with production, chase accounts, set work for staff, home, dinner, sleep. Pretty glamorous ay?

What’s next?
A certified Fairtrade Organic merchandise company about to be launched next month!

Check out the amazing photos from Gosias trip on her awesome blog here . The Equilibrium collection is now available at