Architectural-Inspired, Sustainably Produced - Isabel Varela
What’s your earliest fashion memory?
I learned how to sew from my grandmother at a very early age. I loved to watch her as she repaired clothing for her family and herself. I’ve made my 18-year mark in the industry by channeling her methods. Convinced early on that fashion design was my calling, I immersed myself into the fundamentals of fashion. I studied at Louisiana State University, where I received my Bachelor's degree in Apparel Design with a minor in Business. Fueled by my desire to make designing more meaningful, I took a master class at École Duperré Paris in France. I studied under the artisanal designer for Martin Margiela to hone my craft.
Lending my talent to a plethora of top designers and fashion houses, I was exposed to a lot of malpractice. This inspired me to become an environmental activist and educate humanity on the healthy side of fashion. Fashion was never a huge part of my community in Louisiana, but my artistic self always found a way to make a statement, even as a small child in a small southern town. I used my creative energy to style outfits on the weekends, while my two-toned Catholic school uniform was worn, however reluctantly, during the week.
My Latina mother and grandmother both defined fashion very differently. They dressed to the nines, donning each outfit with jewelry and a hefty amount of grooming. Growing up in their shadows was no easy task, but it allowed me to find my voice while always having respect for classic, debonaire fashion. I was the one in a taffeta dress with matching socks and bows to my birthday swimming party while my childhood friends flitted about in actual swimsuits.
What does being sustainable mean to you?
Sustainable means working more healthily across the entire fashion ecosystem and our own lives. I am committed to making healthier fashion choices for myself and creating a sustainable business I also give presentations on my experiences and support humanity, animals and the environment.
Fashion sustainability means many things to me: a zero-waste approach, transparent and slow fashion, the use of dead stock materials/upcycling old clothing to create new pieces, eco-conscious packaging, and avoiding toxic dyes.
Describe your creative process, has it changed with a focus on sustainability?
My creative process has changed tremendously. In the past, I was creating new lines every season and was not cautious with my carbon footprint.
Today, I reuse the fabrics and scraps and upcycle garments to create revived garments. I am more aware of every aspect of the supply chain and the business. My brand strives not only to continue to choose healthier options for the environment, making sure anyone working with the company is respected and empowered to be their own person and bring their own dreams to fruition.
Who is the typical Izavel Varela wearer?
The brand stands for empowerment, social and environmental activism, making the wearer a bold and confident woman who is always open to learning. She takes care of herself and continually strives to be a better person to those around her and her earth.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to be more sustainable?
My advice for anyone wanting to be more sustainable is to do their research and to start with one area they want to change. The three most important tips I give regarding your closet are:
1. If you need to purchase a new item, stop and think to see if you may have something in your closet you can make work.
2. If you do not, call a friend to see if they are open to swapping. That way, you both get to experience a “brand new” outfit.
3. If No. 1 and No. 2 do not work, then choose to shop at your local second-hand store.
Do you see fashion slowing down anytime soon?
That is my hope. I believe that with more awareness and education more people will come together to support the healthier side of fashion. My mission is to continue to show the positive side of fashion and to empower others to think about their purchases, adopting a "less is more" approach, and to be open to upcycling and reviving their garments. I know this is no easy task, but I’m willing to put in the time.
What can we expect from Izavel Varela over the next few years?
As of late, I’m exerting all of my energy pulling together my art/fashion event for October, entitled “Clothes-Minded". I will be building three separate installations to represent the physical and psychological effects that the fashion industry has on humanity and the environment.
The event will combine my love for art, fashion, and environmentalism. The goal is not only to promote zero-waste, and a “less is more” approach, but also to empower others to see the positive solutions. I hope to inspire women and men to be more conscious when making fashion decisions.
I will continue to host annual art and fashion events, build a community and educate individuals on the healthier side of fashion through presentations. I will also continue to work on the Revive Project, where I offer a one-on-one consultation to people about their wardrobe and options on upcycling and "reviving" the garment.