Slow & Sustainable

My desire to start Oya developed whilst I was designing womenswear and childrenswear for high street brands. I’ve been lucky enough to work within the fashion industry in New York and London and I loved my role as a designer, but I couldn't help but feel like I was a small part of a BIG problem.

The fast fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil!... And the businesses that I had been been working for were contributing towards it, in a big way.

The term fast fashion is something most of us will be familiar with; catwalk trends at low prices... but at what cost? You know the saying "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" was something that began to play on my mind a lot whilst I was designing. 

I remember hearing the awful news about the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, where over 1000 garment factory workers died due to negligence. This could've easily of been one of the factories that I worked with, on a day to day basis. It made me stop and think about the industry as a whole and how disconnected it was.

I started to question the work I was doing and wondered what it was like to be on the other side of the supply chain. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the factory workers...What are the working conditions like? Was it similar to Rana Plaza? Would my boss tell me to carry on working even if it wasn't safe? Most of these questions are a no brainer to workers in the west, we take breaks and have time to pause and grab a cuppa, but for many factory workers in the east this is not the case. The working conditions that we take for granted aren't even an option for most.  This made me angry and sad that my designs could well be made by someone who was working under such conditions. 

Along with these concerns, I started to think about the effects of the fast fashion cycle. Following trends was part of my job. I loved catching a glimpse of what was going to be the next big trend and designing into it, but the contestant chase to deliver the next big thing started to weigh me down. Fashion cycles have now bypassed the traditional two season launches per year, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, to a crazy 52 micro-seasonal launches a year, with some brands releasing a new collection every week! With such vast amounts of textiles being produced at such a fast rate, I began to understand how much textile waste was being produced due to the ever growing demand of fast fashion trends.

A further concern was the impact on the environment and us as the wearer. So many chemicals are used throughout the production of a garment, directly and indirectly, these chemicals carry through to the final garment exposing the wearer to the harmful toxins.

This didn't sit well with me and I knew I could either go along with it, ignoring the facts, pretending like it wasn't happening- or I could do something about it.

I knew I wanted to build an honest brand based around some honest principles.

  • Open and transparent supply chain.

  • Use of ethically sourced sustainable materials.

  • Reduce, re-use and recycle where possible.

  • No harmful toxins or chemicals.

  • Quality goods, worthy of care and passing on.

  • Preserve artisan crafts and support other makers by collaborating on projects together.

  • Only work with other businesses that share the same values.

  • Quality working conditions.

So I quit my fast fashion design job, I stopped freelancing and took a year out, where I met someone who said "Babe you gotta do it, or you will regret it" So here I am, doing it, with no regrets! 

I believe a shift is happening, big brands are even realising that buyers are discerning and care about where and how the goods are being made.

I am and will continue to look at ways to reduce waste and work towards building a more sustainable brand. 

Thanks for reading :)

LK