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London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Preview: Ada Zanditon on Sustainability

In part two of my LFW preview interview with ethical designer Ada Zanditon I dig a little deeper to find out how her sustainable ethos is put into practice, and how she hopes to inspire the next generation of fashion designers.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 Preview by Rebecca Strickson
Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 Preview by Rebecca Strickson.

For Ada process is everything. “I don’t want to sit at a desk using Illustrator to design clothes that will be made many miles away. I love the hands on process of choosing the fabrics and creating the clothes.” But she does want to conquer the luxury goods market. “I want to make clothes that are desirable and exciting but also ecological.” The luxury goods market is one that is saturated with leathers and furs, but Ada will only use leather by products that have been vegetable tanned. “It’s very hard to find good enough quality fake leather and the biggest crime is waste, so it is better that skin is used. Things are getting better but we still have a long way to go.” She describes a trip to the Wastesavers deep in Huddersfield as part of an initiative with Jane Shepherdson and Oxfam. There was such a huge amount of waste that it boggled her mind. She dreads to think how much more goes into landfill every day.

Ada Zanditon comission by The Lovely Wars
Ada Zanditon (commission) by The Lovely Wars.

We ponder the ethics of sustainably produced fur where the animals are treated well, but she’s not really interested in fur from a aesthetic point of view, and worries too much about the air miles and poor conditions of most farmed animals.

Ada Zanditon SS 2011 by The Lovely Wars
Ada Zanditon S/S 2011 by The Lovely Wars.

Ada tries to fly as little as possible – preferring instead to find inspiration in the English countryside when she goes on holiday. “My favourite way to travel is by Eurostar!” She is not interested in the idea of being against things, and would rather look at the relevant alternatives and ways in which to do things with purpose.

Ada Zanditon by Avril Kelly
Ada Zanditon by Avril Kelly.

She is analytical in her approach to sustainable practise. “A lot of the environmental debate comes from an emotional place,” she says. “I used to be both veggie and vegan but now I just try to buy local, organic and free range… I find that meat answers my needs as an adult who needs a lot of energy.” But then her decision to stop eating meat was never based on the killing of animals in itself – she ponders the irony of vegetarians who wear non organic cotton – the pesticides from which have no doubt adversely affected local wildlife.

Ada Zanditon S/S 2011 by Dee Andrews
Ada Zanditon S/S 2011 by Dee Andrews.

She thinks that there is a lot of fluffy thinking in western culture and much prefers to take a scientific perspective. “It takes emotion out of the equation. Emotion is good when it comes to fashion, but sustainable design needs a common sense approach to see ideas with clarity.” With her analytical mind she looks for ways to reduce environmental impacts and ensure positive outcomes within resource management and production.

Ada Zanditon by Dee Andrews
Ada Zanditon by Dee Andrews.

Even though she is a designer of high fashion she concedes that how to make affordable sustainable clothing is one of the biggest problems that needs tackling. “I have my own part in the wheel, but it would be false for me to design differently than what comes naturally.” Despite the possibility of an adverse “trickle-down effect” whereby her high fashion designs could easily be copied at a cheaper price level without using sustainable materials Ada is hopeful that her values of using sustainable materials and local production will inspire others if she can communicate them strongly and excitingly enough. I am inclined to agree.

Ada Zanditon by Maria del Carmen Smith
Ada Zanditon by Maria del Carmen Smith.

Ada occasionally lectures students, and is about to embark on a project in fashion and sustainability at La Cambre in Brussels. “To teach fashion you have to put a lot in. I love giving one off lectures and working on specific projects but I don’t have time for more.” One of the things she finds most inspiring in ethical fashion is that there are more people who are now coming to ethical fashion from a fashion perspective. “In the past ethical fashion companies were set up by environmentalists, but nowadays designers who come from a fashion background are able to bring a distinct handwriting to their designs.” She classifies herself amongst this new wave of designers, alongside names such as Beautiful Soul, Christopher Raeburn, Goodone, The North Circular and Henrietta Ludgate (all of whom feature in my new book). “We feel supportive of each other and it’s really good to see a relevant aesthetic growing and gaining momentum.”

Ada Zanditon A/W 2010 Pre-Collection by Sarah Matthews
Ada Zanditon A/W 2010 Pre-Collection by Sarah Matthews.

Most recently Ada has been commissioned for a couple of exciting fair-trade projects: a collective collaboration with ASOS, for which she designed a scarf to coincide with the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight and a project in conjunction with Vogue Magazine to celebrate the release of fair-trade gold. “They rang on Thursday wanting a substantial geometric piece that spoke of luxury: the perfect project for me. And by Saturday it was sorted!” Ada rightly feels that it is really important to show that fine jewellery can be made sustainably and with awareness for the impact of manufacture on human lives.

Ada Zanditon A/W 2010 Pre-Collection by Sarah Matthews
Ada Zanditon A/W 2010 Pre-Collection by Sarah Matthews.

Her business partner is entrepreneur Philip Levine, who is good at networking and looking out for opportunities. “There is so much pressure on young brands to build a successful business at the same time as being creative,” she says, “but people spread themselves too thinly and can’t always see the best choices in business. Many fashion brands come and go but I want longevity.” She loves evolving illustrations into prints and hopes to expand her prints onto a wide range of products in the future.

At just 28 years old it looks as though Ada Zanditon is already building a brand to remember, and most importantly of all, it is a fashion brand that has ethics at the very heart of it. I look forward to her LFW presentation this Friday with much anticipation. Read our taster of what to expect right here.

Ada Zanditon features in my new book: Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.


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2 Responses to “London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Preview: Ada Zanditon on Sustainability”

  1. Akeela says:

    Love her designs and it’s great to get an insight into Ada as a sustainable designer. And I am completely in agreement with her on the environmental debate!

  2. [...] bye bye pleather jacket, you are gold and lovely and I shall cherish you always. Do sneak over there for a peek at the interview and more illustrations by some lovely others. [...]

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