Streatham-based designer reveals tragic inspiration behind upcycling ethos during London Fashion Week

“My story with clothes started when I was quite little.

“I would sit at school and when I was in class I would lengthen the sleeves on my school jumper with a crochet hook.

“It was my trick that when I left class it would look different.”

It’s clear that from a young age co-founder of Fashion Revolution Day Orsola de Castro has had a unique outlook on clothes.

The Italian-born designer was able to take something overlooked, unloved and abandoned and transform it into something extraordinary.

This is an ethos she carried through to her hugely successful label From Somewhere which she founded in 1997.

It all started with a jumper full of holes and stains. She crocheted around each flaw transforming it into a stylish wardrobe staple and never looked back.

“I love to bring something that is at death’s door and abandoned and through a creative process bring it back to life,” she explained.

“I used to get old jumpers and add elastic to them. The more holes in each piece the more holes I had to crochet – each one of those holes was precious and individual. “At this point it was nothing to do with being an environmentalist – it was all about creativity.” Producing an aesthetic that matches her principles was something that hit home in her teenage years back in Italy. She revealed that when she was 16 it was really fashionable to wear 40s’ tea dresses and that she and her friends would eagerly snap them up from second-hand stores. She said: “There were lots of them and on one trip I was asked by one of the biggest store owners, ‘do you know why there are so many?’ “‘They were taken from the Jewish women who went to the concentration camps – they barely had a chance to wear them before their belongings were taken from them’. “I burst into tears. I had tons of these dresses.

“I burst into tears. I had tons of these dresses.”

“Part of me felt I should never wear them again. But another part of me thought I should wear them every single day because I carry the story of these women in the clothes I am wearing – I am somehow part of their immortality.” Fast-forward to the late nineties and the noughties and mass clothing production had really sped up. “There was very little diversity in the fashion industry at this time,” she lamented. “It was either Primark or Prada – the young designers and creatives weren’t getting a look in. “We are making clothes that are made by people in sad exploitative we are wearing their misery I found that very disturbing. “I try and champion creatives in everything I do so in 2006 I started Estethica.” This creative hub was founded to promote sustainable fashion at the heart of London Fashion Week. The Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, which claimed the lives of 1,129 people, thrust the plight of garment workers into the spotlight. In response to this Orsola, along with ethical fashion pioneer Cary Somers, founded Fashion Revolution Day. She said: “It’s about creating transparency in the supply chain and shining a light on the people who make our clothes.”

When asked about how people can get involved in the campaign as a consumer Orsola explained that we all have a choice.

“It’s something we can do every single day – we get dressed every single day.

“We have got the power – your choice may be small but is a valuable one. If you choose to be we are all a part of the solution.

“Most of us will love clothes will find ways to buy with love, buy less and enjoy what we have – let us tell the stories of the clothes we are wearing.

“It might look like a small step but it is absolutely giant.”

Picture courtesy of Tamzin Haughton, with thanks

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