In the first ever of our brand spotlight features on Ethical Fashion Bloggers, I interview Zahra Ash-Harper of slow fashion brand Antithesis to find out a little more about the brand.
What is the inspiration behind the name ‘Antithesis’?
ANTITHESIS breaks away from the fashion mainstream by developing clothing outside of trends or seasons, we offer women the opportunity to wear stylish yet timeless clothing. We believe there is enough space in the fashion industry for all types of fashion brands so we don’t see large companies and fast fashion as our competition.
However we do feel it’s important to offer consumers an attractive alternative. We hope to be considered the “antithesis” to fast fashion principles, Through slow fashion and local manufacturing we highlight that there are other routes to bringing fashionable garments to customers and other approaches to the design process. Our name ANTITHESIS inspires to be different and daring in an industry that has very established practices, it reminds us daily that the risks we take to achieve our vision is significant in a wider context – slow fashion is needed to balance what is happening in mainstream fast fashion.
What do you hope to achieve with Antithesis and what inspires you?
We’re very inspired by the influential ‘modern woman of the 21st Century’. We hope to provide these women with clothing that is both physically and emotionally durable, to bring them items that can be treasured over a lifetime. We feel it’s important that people feel a renewed sense of connection and dependance on garments in their closets, so they don’t become things that eventually they tire of. For this reason we are focused on functionality of each piece we feel if an ANTITHESIS piece has a multiplicity of looks and/or purpose and it can win it’s place in the wardrobe and will be called upon frequently to support the needs of the wearer. If it’s useful and helpful the to our customers we hope this will develop a relationship which goes beyond ‘it looks nice’ thus it’s place in the heart and mind of that woman will remain over time and she will take care of the garment. Our dream is to never see a ANTITHESIS garment hit a landfill, for our clothes to be passed on at best or recycled for new purposes.
Do you think it is possible to combine fashion and sustainability?
Definitely! Of late there are always new and ever improving ways in which people can try to live more sustainable lives. By adopting ‘slow fashion’ principles we hope to decrease the extraordinary amount of textile waste that enters landfills each year, not to mention the fashion industry’s sizable water-and-energy footprint. Our business is based on the premise that there are women out there agree that fashion and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.
We are constantly discovering new sustainable fashion brands and products every day, just this week we visited the Pure Thread/EJF pop up store on Carnaby street and discover brands such as Kami and Jux which are both producing beautiful sustainable clothing. There are many clothes, accessories, lingerie designers who seek to uphold their values alongside creating beautiful garments, and the ranks are surely growing.
How do your designs benefit the environment and society and what benefits do they offer to the wearer? Why a 10 piece capsule collection?
All our materials are sourced locally and we operate a UK manufacturing policy which helps to reduce environmental impact. Encouraging a slower consumption is a strong part of Antithesis’ philosophy. We are trying to influence the average consumer who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in sustainable fashion by bringing in increased functionality and versatility. We believe this functionality will encourage fashion consumers to consider the value inherent in the garments and clearly show the craftsmanship and though that goes into designing and making clothes. We want the term “conscious consumption” to be on the tip of all women’s tongues when they shop with us – but also when they go into any other store. We believe that in thinking why a garment is needed when making a purchase, what one needs to do when wearing it as well as the fabric content and quality and how long the garment could be with you. Fashion garments have a monetary and lifestyle value, even when sitting in a closet, and like any other investment should be considered from many angles, rather than based on aesthetics alone.
For Antithesis’ first collection, we wanted to produce a 10-piece capsule collection that would respond to the hectic lifestyle of cosmopolitan professional women. The pieces had to be versatile, comfortable and easy to pack, while of course looking stylish and sexy. We researched into the pieces that make up the core wardrobe for professional women and put a spin on these classics. Recently we met a women who proudly claimed to have 300 dresses alone. She was neither a millionaire nor apparently a shopping addict. This is something which boggles the mind! That’s nearly enough to wear a different dress every day of the year! We believe people loyal to our garments, should be offered variety too but in a responsible way. Our future collections will always offer new attachments and bases that way existing pieces can be mixed and matched to create new looks.
Each season we will be working in collaboration with a new designer in order to develop a one-off product, not only does it complement our collection to offer something we don’t have the expertise to make alone in house but it allows us to showcase the skills and talent of other designers out there. It’s a challenge for our collaborators as often they have not considered multifunction in their design before and they seem to enjoy the experimentation For us it’s a great way to encourage others in fashion to also consider the needs and preferences of women.
What future do you see for sustainable fashion and also for Antithesis?
We think there is a good future for sustainable fashion, with consumers becoming more ethically aware these days everyone is looking for ways to become more sustainable and these practices can definitely be adopted by fashion brands. Plus, big names like Livia Firth and Stella McCartney have definitely been helping to raise the profile for conscious consumption within the fashion industry and we believe it’s a trend that’s set to continue as more people become ethically aware.
The People Behind Antithesis
ANTITHESIS is a partnership Made up of Renée and Zahra. Renée is originally from northern Ontario, but moved to Montréal to study fashion design. She worked in Italy for 6 months during her degree in Veneto, Italy’s Jeans Valley. After finishing her BA studies, she traveled to Peru and volunteered for an NGO working with indigenous female weavers. Back in Montréal, she acquired experience as a Junior Designer in a leading apparel company before moving to London to specialise in sustainable design. During her MA, she interned with ethical designer Christopher Raeburn and around this time she met Zahra.
Zahra followed a rather more unusual path into Fashion. She gained her BA in philosophy, fascinated by ideas of aesthetics, expression, representation and existentialism. In her last year she became particularly interested in the impact these ideas have on identity construction. A native Londoner, she returned home and settled into a communications agency with a focus on branding, PR and marketing. In 2009 she decided to take a break from agency work, freelancing with several fashion start up brands helping them develop low cost, but high impact communications strategies. It was this interaction with SME businesses which strengthened her resolve to establish a fashion start-up of her own. She applied to the MA Fashion Enterprenuership programme at LCF, won the prestigious Harold Tillman scholarship in 2010 as well as interning with the Centre for Fashion Enterprise and the Fashion Business Resource Studio.
Zahra and Renee are partners as well as friends, they share a vision and although very different in skills, personality and style recognized in each other that these differences we a combined strength and would allow them to work together compatibly over the long term.
You can find out more and check out the full collection at www.antithesis.co