By Smitha Sadanandan
For centuries now, fashion designers have sat in their studios in Paris, surrounded by fabric, thread, samples, drawings, pencils, big bags of textiles and patterns. Still today, this is the scene in the 26-year-old designer Louise de Testa’s studio on any given day, and more so, when she’s at her creative best: designing for her namesake sportswear brand for women.
Although based in Paris, the designer honed her skills abroad, by working under the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander Wang and the fabled US Vogue. Louise describes her internship at Vivienne Westwood as “one of the most impressive discoveries.” It was here that she learned a lot more about the designing process. “I have understood that it is fine (and great) to create your own rules and your own creative processes.”
While Vogue, for Louise was “a School of Life” that taught her the valuable lesson that “one has to be able to deal with any problem or issue, any time, and anyhow;” work life at Alexander Wang helped confirm her “taste for sportswear.” Since then, de Testa has been designing elegant, comfortable and practical clothes, inspired by sportswear for day-to-day needs, she says. Innovation, technology and eco-design are the main lines that inspire Louise and also imply the aesthetics of the clothes: pure, geometric and functional.
Though the words ‘sustainable fashion’ were new to Louise initially, she has embarked on a journey to becoming a sustainable fashion designer. This process came naturally to Louise as she had a lot of ideas and limited resources – the perfect combination for organically creating sustainable and creative clothing.
Today, Louise sources second-hand and leftover textiles from flea markets in France. It was her boyfriend, Gauthier, a flea market addict, who gave her a few metres of some precious 1950 moleskine he bought one day in Paris that set her off in this direction.
As a rule, Louise uses end-of-rolls or end-of-stocks sourced from French manufacturers. “I prefer to use existent fabrics rather than producing new ones.” Her design focuses on zero waste patterns, but the designer states “I also design classic patterns in which case I save the textile wastes and up-cycle them in the textile marquetry. I have been developing this technique during the past two years, using it in a decorative and functional way, by adding hidden pockets and interesting elements.”
Since very small pieces are used to create the marquetry, it often takes – for the most complex patterns – two or three days to cut, assemble and inlay the motif. Such attention to detail needless to say won Louise the Eco-Chic Design award last year for her ‘Icare’ collection. “I think the jury was very sensitive to the fact that the process used for my clothes to make them sustainable is easily reproducible and that the clothes are very wearable. I believe sustainability works and has a real impact if you can produce big quantities and not make unique pieces.”
We got a sneak peek of the architectural shapes and geometric inspirations of Louise’s collection at the ‘Designer Showrooms: BFC Estethica’ during the recently concluded London Fashion Week AW14. Sustainability for Louise is “a strength; something more, but design is the most important aspect to me.”
Yet the strength of her designs and the ethics of her sustainability have attracted fans both at home and abroad: “My designs will be soon in Tokyo,” she says proudly. From Paris, to the world.
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