Noorin Khamisani: “I love styles that are lost in time”
With an eye to the future
“I can’t escape fashion. On a practical level, the associated work never stops: there’s always a photo shoot to organise, a fabric supplier to talk to, a garment to be designed, a package to be sent or a trade show to attend.”
For Noorin Khamisani, founder and designer of London-based fashion label Outsider, work and spare time merge into each other. “When you run your own business — especially one that is based on a personal interest — it’s sometimes hard to turn off. I’m always looking for inspiration for the next fabric or piece, so I keep an open and questioning mind.”
Outsider, which Noorin founded in 2009, addresses the wasteful processes caused by ever faster trend cycles and poor quality production. Having always been interested in environmentalism, Noorin became aware of these problems while working for high-street brands and other designers. “I began to question the way fabrics are sourced and garments are produced, particularly in regards to sustainability and ethics,” Noorin says. “At that time, in the mid-to-late 00s, ethical, eco and sustainable fashion were still new concepts and the brands I worked with weren’t very open to new ways.”
Styles from Outsider Fashion . Photo of Noorin above by Alice Whitby
Informed by a realisation Noorin made as a newly eco-conscious fashion consumer — that items of the style that she wanted to buy were not responsibly produced — design and sustainability go hand in hand at Outsider. “Working for other designers and brands taught me that there is a need to balance design, commercial viability, sustainability and ethics,” Noorin says. “We can’t expect consumers to switch to responsibly sourced items on sustainable credentials alone. They must also be beautifully designed high-quality products.”
Outsider’s design ethos —‘ethical fashion should just look like fashion’ — is a direct response to that problem. “I believe women should be able to buy garments that are made with sustainable fabrics and ethically produced but without having to dress like a 1970s hippie,” Noorin says. “Outsider styles are designed with an eye to the future — they have versatility and longevity in mind. We are inspired by the items that have been in our wardrobes for years, because true style is timeless; it shouldn’t be transient and throwaway.” And, she adds, “I love the idea of styles that are ‘lost in time’; a gentle nod to trends, sometimes minimalist or sometimes with a vintage detail.”
The design process itself starts with sourcing the fabric, which is then matched to an idea for how to best show off its qualities. The challenge, Noorin says, is how to define and find the most sustainable option. “Boundaries are always shifting as new research comes through, and we need to make sure we make choices that balance all our needs,” she says. “It’s about looking at minimising impact on the environment from sourcing, ensuring the cloth will make a strong long-lasting garment that can also be sold at a commercial price point, which makes it available to as many customers as possible.” She adds: “I can’t imagine any other way of working now.”
Noorin’s top tips for Make it Last:
1. Visit Here Today Here Tomorrow: stockists of sustainable and ethical designers, and workshop organisers.
2. Be mindful of the resources you use at home: small changes can make a big difference to environment and resources, but they will also make you think about other aspects of your environmental impact.
3. Make small incremental changes: as you need to replace items in your wardrobe, try to find them in organic cotton, or buy them from a responsible, independent brand. Never throw away textiles — donate to charity shops or recycle them. Feel good about every small step you take, and focus on what you can do rather then how big the overall issue is.
Words by Emma Lundin
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