Stacey Cotter Manière: “The more we collaborate and share the more impact we can create.”
We’ve asked some of our favorite people to answer 10 questions about style and sustainability. This time we picked the brain of Stacey Cotter Manière, co-founder of sustainable design company (re)vision society.
How would you describe your style?
A bit minimalist, a bit vintage and ever changing depending on my creative interests at the time but definitely built around pieces I really love and can wear for a long time and style in different ways.
What’s your shopping philosophy?
I generally only shop for things when I really need to replace something. I’ve got a lot of pieces in my closet that I’ve had for many years and I try to repair them if needed rather than disposing of them when they are worn or damaged. Especially shoes, I have a lot of shoes I have resoled time and time again.
I have gone for stretches of a year without buying anything at all clothing-wise. I am often intensively road testing a lot of our prototype designs for (re)vision society so I don’t need to buy a lot of new things. When I do shop, I am very conscious to consider the quality of the fibers and how long the item will last. I buy vintage and I try to support brands whose philosophies on longevity, ethics and limiting environmental impact are in line with my own.
How do you define sustainable fashion?
Ah, ‘sustainable’ is a very tricky word and one I have contemplated very often. I’m always trying to come up with a more appropriate word to describe what we do at (re)vision society and what I believe most other people are trying to define as sustainable when used in connection with the word fashion, but it’s not easy.
For me, a design whether it be a piece of clothing, furniture or anything else needs to take into account social, economic and ecological sustainability, which is very tricky, and in the current standing I think it’s difficult to say that a fashion product is therefore sustainable. Currently it seems a lot of us categorise fashion into two camps: sustainable and the rest.
Do you have any favorite eco-friendly, ethical or sustainable fashion brands?
Study 34 makes fine quality Alpaca knitwear which is ethically sourced and the founder Eleanor O’Neill goes to great lengths to research sustainable practices and works with the local artisans in Peru who create her mindfully made pieces.
I also love the work of Cecilia Portela who is behind the brand Matka. They make beautifully crafted natural garments with a lot of love. We have been following and supporting each other on Instagram since our beginnings. Each piece is individually cut by artisans in Kathmandu in Nepal and made with 100% natural fibers.
Organisations such as Fashion Revolution are doing a lot to build awareness around the problems within the fashion industry as well as helping to contribute to the shift in mindset that is needed for the future of our world. They have a wonderful fanzine, which is very informative and inspiring which I enjoy reading.
I think it is important to support other entrepreneurs and creators who are contributing to change. The more we collaborate and share the more impact we can create.
In what ways are you trying to make greener choices in your everyday life?
I appreciate that it takes a lot of time for people to research and understand about making greener choices. I have a lot of working mums who ask me how they can possibly find the time to find out about all these things. Even for me, someone immersed in this area I still find it hard to make changes in every single area of my life beyond just fashion. It’s like opening a Pandora’s Box once you start! You realize there are so many things to consider.
I have found that the key is not to try and aim for perfection and overhaul everything at once because you just end up feeling like you are not doing enough and that’s an easy recipe for defeat and giving up. I think it’s important to start with one thing at a time, step by step. Each time I need to replace something, I do a little research into what the background is of the brand and the product itself. I listen to podcasts on my commute for instance, or read a blog post on a tea break.
What was your latest “aha-moment” when it comes to matters of sustainability?
Recently I worked on a collaboration project with Nigel Cabourn with my brand (re)vision society. I extensively researched the project and how we could build something that would last, be adaptable and multi-functional and could be easily repaired and passed down to future generations. The vintage piece we were inspired by to create our new design was a French workwear postal bag and is over 80 years old. It has natural tanned leather handles and trims and is still in great condition considered its age.
We decided to use deadstock canvas from the 1940s and leather trims as well as waste leather to create the stable base of our collaboration bag. Choosing leather over vegan non-animal based products is something I am always researching and considering as to what is best for the environment. We decided to use leather because so far in my investigations I am yet to find a vegan material that can last and be repaired in the same way as natural dyed leather (we use leather that’s a byproduct of the meat industry). Designing consciously is not a black and white decision making process.
What’s your relationship to secondhand and vintage fashion?
A lot of my wardrobe is built around vintage clothing and I am constantly inspired by vintage pieces particularly workwear to create new designs. We can learn so much from the past and what worked well and what didn’t. I like to imagine the stories that those pieces of clothing hold, and what the lives were like of those people who wore the garment before me. Where did they wear it? What memories did they create whilst wearing it?
I think the energy the clothing holds is important and as I spend a lot of time sourcing vintage for my freelance creative direction work as well as myself I am very aware of how certain pieces of clothing give me more positive feelings than others. Sometimes I will avoid a certain piece even if it looks great and has amazing details simply because I don’t get a good feeling from the garment. Some people think that’s strange but for me it’s my intuition speaking to me. I think the same can go for a new garment, if it’s made with love and good intention then it’s going to carry with it different energy and stories.
Do you have a favorite natural or organic beauty product?
Something I always have in my beauty cupboard is Kaizi’s Coconut Oil. It’s made by a beautiful Torres Strait Island indigenous family who are dear friends of mine. They incorporate time-honoured traditional methods to extract moisture naturally found within coconuts. They collect the coconuts from wild growing trees bordering the beach areas of the Daintree rainforest near where I come from in Far North Queensland Australia. They use the shells and husks and flesh left over from the coconuts to fertilize their gardens.
I love this oil because it is so pure and I can use it in my cooking as well as on my skin for cleansing and moisturizing. Right now it’s coming in handy to moisturizing my pregnant tummy to prevent stretch marks.
How do you make your garments last?
I am mindful of how much I wash my clothing, living in Europe there is not a lot of need particularly during the winter months to wash after every single use if you don’t sweat or soil the clothing. I will wear things a few times before washing and minimize the washing of denim a lot more, for instance heavy denim can be left for months without washing.
Also I repair things when needed, for example I mend holes or patch things where needed. Investing in quality materials is key to ensuring that clothing lasts. My husband has some beautiful quality knitwear pieces in his wardrobe he has been wearing since he was 16 years old – that’s over 18 years ago! They were expensive luxury items but when you consider the amount of wear he has got out of them it just goes to show that buying cheap fast fashion is really not economical in the long run.
How do you hope the fashion industry will change for the future?
Fashion or clothing in a broader sense is universal and as such it touches every person on the planet regardless of where they come from, how wealthy they are, how they obtain their clothes and what they believe in. Clothing is a mode of expression human beings deeply value. It’s been around for over 100,000 years.
It gives us the opportunity to stay warm and progressively to move on from the mere functionality of clothing to making a statement, providing a sense of belonging and telling something about who we are. What statement do we want the clothes we are creating and wearing to say about us to future generations? For me, the answer I hope would be that we are conscious and we are contributing to making changes that will ensure a better future for those to come.
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