Rebelling against fast fashion, environmentally conscious designer Alexandra Wall merges her unconventional approach to design with her passion for sustainability.
by Aisiri Amin
Alexandra Wall entered the fashion industry with a mission: to transform the throw-away culture by creating a niche for sustainable and waste-free clothing. Based in the Welsh capital, the young designer is reconnecting consumers with their clothing through her fashion line, Xandra Jane, which boasts of eco-friendly and trendy designs.
As a designer, she is also paving the way for an important sociocultural discussion by creating gender fluid clothing. She has worked with world-renowned British designers and brands such as Suzie Turner, KTZ and AllSaints. Alexandra was also a finalist at the Sustainability Championship and Calvin Klein PVH Design Programme in 2016.
The emerging designer talks to INKLINE about zero waste fabric, environment-friendly fashion and the concept of gender-fluid clothes.
INKLINE: Your clothing line, Xandra Jane, creates sustainable and waste-free clothing. Tell us more about it.
Alexandra Wall: I consider myself a designer rebelling against fast fashion and all that is wrong with it. Becoming eco-friendly seemed to be the most natural next step in moving forward with my slow fashion rebellion as everything I design really explores the development process.
My work maintains its eco-footprint by exercising a zero waste approach as and where I can. Sometimes, in the design of my garments, this may not always be possible, and if that becomes the case, I certainly ensure my textiles are GOTS certified, organic, and are in line with keeping my eco-friendly morals.
I: How did the idea of designing sustainable clothes come about?
A: Through the experience, I have gathered working in the industry, from high street to haute couture and combined with my lifestyle choices already, sustainable clothes seemed in line with keeping the morals I exercise in my lifestyle. There is a huge disconnect between people and their clothing, much like consumers and their food. When the superstores brought out the wonky veg scheme, many people were taken aback at a carrot not looking ‘perfect’ – reconnecting the wearer with his or her clothing is essentially what I am trying to achieve.
As one of the next generation of designers, it is almost my duty to start educating the customer on sustainable clothing whilst also educating myself on this journey I am taking, which is a massively interesting and rewarding process.
I: How do you create zero waste fabric? How popular are they?
A: I think people are becoming more aware of what they are consuming or wearing and are seeking to better themselves through purchases such as makeup not tested on animals or organic food and this is now beginning to cross over into fashion and textiles.
Regarding zero waste, I am achieving this by creating my own extreme chunky jersey yarn and cutting the entire width of fabric into strips without anything going to scrap and the entire roll of the jersey being used. Moving forward, I use the fabric as almost a problem-solving brain teaser, where you lay or create your pattern pieces almost like a jigsaw to ensure there are no off-cuts of the fabric. This is also achieved through draping on the stand, which is also exciting for me, as I considered my strengths initially to be in tailoring but now I am pushing my comfort zone, which is what celebrating being a designer is all about.
I: You are one of few designers who create gender-fluid clothes. What is the inspiration behind this?
A: I am primarily a womenswear designer. However, through my own personal style and really wanting to offer what I create to the widest audience, gender-fluid and androgynous clothing naturally integrates itself into my design work. I think a romantic celebration of clothing in my mind is something that is androgynous and gender-fluid, as anyone can then appreciate the craftsmanship in a garment rather than seeing a label for who it’s meant to be worn by.
I: Eco-friendly clothes are known to be more expensive, does that affect their popularity?
A: I think anything with a more unattainable price tag will affect its popularity amongst a certain target market, but the whole foundation of sustainable fashion is just that – it’s sustainable. The money spent on one of my garments ensures you’re reconnected with the item’s journey from where the fabric was sourced to who made it and how many pairs of hands it has passed to reach you; you are paying for the highest quality. It’s a balance of morals and ethics and ultimately it’s the customer who needs to decide. I just offer a push in the right direction, which happens to be a stylish one!
I: There is a fashion revolution starting which aims in creating eco-friendly clothes and reducing waste. Do you think the fashion industry has a big role in saving the environment?
A: The fashion industry is the second most damaging industry in polluting our planet. Further to this, one among six people works in the global industry with 80 billion pieces of clothing being consumed each year. The industry is currently failing to educate the consumer on where their clothes have come from and what journey they take to be worn on someone’s back.
I think more often than not the thought of ‘sustainable’ fashion to some can be off-putting, not wanting to wear recycled, up-cycled or ‘eco’ for fear of lack of quality, but it couldn’t be a more incorrect perception. Sustainable fashion is an exciting, problem-solving step forward in the industry and incredible things are being created. Designers should collaborate, not compete, and really work together as the fashion community in tackling this problem.
I: What is your advice for aspiring designers who want to merge their passion with sustainability?
A: I think the biggest thing when merging passion with sustainability is to educate yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions. For those who are privileged in first world countries the problems associated with fashion and sustainability aren’t always on our doorstep, so it is important to develop that compassion and understanding of what needs to change. For me, the essence of design is problem-solving so tackling sustainability should be occurring throughout all disciplines without a second thought.
Sustainability is not a trend, it’s a solution. And I believe without it fed into your passion, there will be no longevity to the craft. Ask questions, develop your skill and solve the issues through innovation.
Aisiri Amin is a journalist specialising in social justice, gender issues and culture. She has written for The Hindu and works as a freelance writer. Social wallflower and an idealist at the core, she lives on books, tea and hope (in that particular order).