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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Sometimes, when you see a fashion collection, it’s like falling in love. Your breath is taken away, your heart beats a bit faster, and you think: I need this in my life, now!
That’s exactly how we felt when we laid our eyes on the feminine frills, dramatic draping and intricate detailing of the New York based sustainable fashion brand AMUR. It seems appropriate that the name of the label suggests the Spanish word for love (amor), but it’s actually an acronym for A Mindful Use of Resources, a concept that the founder of the brand, Sofia Shannon, holds dear.
Here in this exclusive interview, we caught up with Sofia Shannon to talk architecture, cupro and Paul Klee.
What does the ‘M’ in AMUR, Mindfulness, mean to you?
For AMUR it means being conscious of our choices regarding the resources we use to make the garments. Whether it’s a choice of materials, processes or suppliers, we try to make the best decisions based on the impact we have on the environment. Because of this way of facing the process, we end up working with the most beautiful and high quality fabrics. On a personal level, Mindfulness means being connected in the present and the context that surrounds me.
Tell us a bit about how you entered the world of sustainable fashion
I worked for different New York based brands, for the past 10 years including Ronny Kobo, as well as designing the Cynthia Rowley dress collection. I know the fashion industry can be very wasteful, and what I learned from my experience with these brands is to be conscious of the resources we use for each collection, from both a design and business point of view. You have to manage usage of fabrics and samples in a smart way.
I was also able to travel to amazing factories in Asia and Eastern Europe and met directly with the people who were actually making our collections. Working in New York sometimes feels like a separate world, so it was incredible to see the human side of the factories. But when I started researching on my own, and learned how contaminating the fashion industry is to the environment, I felt it was necessary to do things in a different, better way. For me, a product that has a negative impact on the environment is not a quality or luxury product.
So, the brand is ethical, as well as eco friendly. Can you tell us more about why AMUR is sustainable?
The focus on fabrics is the essence of AMUR’s creations. The brand uses primarily three types of fibres: Natural, Cellulosic and Regenerated. Natural fibers have always been around; they are the first textiles humans ever used. But we focus on using the ones that minimize the environmental impact, like hemp, organic cotton, silk and linen. Cellulosic fibers are widely use in the industry, but again, we focus on only using certain ones like tencel and cupro.
Maybe you could explain a bit about Tencel and cupro to our readers?
Ok, sure. Tencel is obtained from eucalyptus trees that are grown on farms — no old growth forests, genetic manipulation, irrigation, or pesticides are used. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has certified that the trees and pulp used to produce Tencel come from socially and environmentally responsible forests. Cupro, on the other hand, is made with leftover linter from cotton production that is repurposed to create this silky yarn. Lastly, the regenerated fibers are made with recycled material. Currently, we are working with recycled PET which is collected from industrial and post-consumer waste, and turned into a yarn that we use to create fabrics like satin and lace.
What are the main influences your designs?
I grew up going to my parent’s architecture studio, sketching and playing with architectural models, Pantone colour cards, wallpaper swatches and rug catalogs. Today, architecture influences me in the sense that I think of the clothes as three dimensional objects and how it feels to wear them. It’s like a space you inhabit, and how it makes you feel inside. I’m also very often inspired by spaces I visit, and I especially like vintage interior design textiles.
Buenos Aires has influenced me because of its lifestyle. Living there, there is always time to get together with friends and celebrate. Any reason is good to throw a party – there is this easy-going vibe. I keep that spirit in mind when I design. While women pay a lot of attention to how they dress and enjoy fashion, they always have an element that makes it seem effortless. Above all, it must look natural, like you are having fun and not look like you’re trying too hard.
What challenges have you faced since starting the label?
One of the biggest challenges starting this collection was developing lace. It’s a fabric I always liked working with and finding an eco-friendly option was one of the biggest challenges we took on. We couldn’t find anything in the market that was done in a conscious way so we had to develop our own.
We contacted different mills all over the world that had been doing lace for years and we connect them with different yarn suppliers that are developing this very innovative yarn made from recycled PET (which comes from plastic bottles). Everybody thought we were crazy. But after begging and insisting we convinced them to give it a try. It was a very exciting development because no one else is doing it, plus we were able to custom design our own patterns. Creativity helps you find new and alternative solutions to the way things have been done in the past.
Finally, what has inspired the current collection?
The Spring 2018 AMUR collection was inspired by the abstract paintings of Swiss painter Paul Klee, his diverse forms of expression, through colour and abstract shapes. The organic elements and shapes in his paintings served as the starting point for the collection’s many original prints, patterns and stripes. Klee’s Spiral Flower was one of many paintings that lead me to create the micro floral print and inspired the eyelet fabrication seen throughout the collection.
Silhouettes with billowing sleeves, playsuits with fun ties, and dresses with asymmetrical details found throughout the collection are paired with an intense colour palette of reds, blues, greens and pinks. These silhouettes were inspired by the last decade of Klee’s life – the 1930s, infusing them with an ode to the New Romanticism of the 1980s.
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