World of AI, Fashion & More
Interview Series l Episode #1
Co-Founder & Director of British Luxury Slow Fashion Womenswear Brand – AVIE
Shares Her Story & Journey Into Slow Fashion
"Before we start, could you please give us your story? How did you start in fashion?
How did Avie begin?"
Sonya: Interestingly enough, I wasn't primarily interested in fashion. It was business and economics. I was fascinated by the business of the different components and elements to make a business work and make a profit from that. So I had a natural interest and that's why I studied as well. And then, as I got into college, I was thinking that I really do want to start my own business one day. And I had this natural ability to draw, which I didn't think, I could make a career out of. And my art teacher said, you know, you have a great eye for tone and form, why don't you try to hone in on that? And at the time, I didn't really have a grasp of what that could turn into, so I did a foundational pre-degree course to explore photography, fine art, and textiles, which led me into the textile world. I was really fascinated by the technical components of fabrications and fibres and how they all can be manipulated into a garment.
I then did a degree in fashion, fashion design and associated studies, which was basically looking behind consumer behaviour, the psychology part of why people buy and what influences them. And I thought that was a really nice kind of aspect of entering the fashion world and combining that with the foundational components of design. And that got me into fashion and led to a, I believe, just over 15 years career in fashion. And that stems from being a designer, up to manager, up to head of departments and director, and now to being a director of my own company.
"That is quite a journey - from economics to the fashion industry through the implementation of art. Now, could you please explain what is your understanding of slow fashion? How does it differ from sustainable fashion?"
Sonya: When we first launched in 2019, it was already implemented in our lives, this whole being “kinder to the environment”. It wasn’t as widely known. I think it was merging into the mainstream at that point. And for me, sustainable fashion is a very broad term. It almost renders itself a little bit meaningless because what is sustainable fashion? It can be applied in different ways and interpretations are so different.
For me, the slow fashion, because I was travelling so much for work in my corporate life, was kind of reducing my wardrobe to some meaningful pieces that I could interchange. And having this kind of continuous style, a “go to” style, if I can say so, would make my life easier but also be better for the environment.
For us, it doesn't differ from sustainable fashion, as it's such an umbrella term, and slow fashion is one of the components. So we differentiate it as the opposite of fast fashion. It's about being more mindful, taking consideration into what you're buying and why you're buying it. Is it because it's 30% off and it was already reduced? You want people to love and value what they buy because then it stays in the circular ecosystem for much longer as it's not seen as disposable. And I think that's where our version of slow fashion comes from.
"How do you think technology helps to develop and spread the sustainability, the slow fashion mindset both for brands and consumers?"
Sonya: I think the tech component is about convenience, and in today's society, people are short on time and possibly don't have time to investigate a brand or delve deeper. It is about being very transparent, and upfront and also allowing your clients time to get used to that.
I think tech can bring lots of conveniences but also opportunities, as it opens up the landscape much more for smaller businesses to make this impact. And I think the catalyst has been post-Covid. People are getting more comfortable online, using digital aspects. But at the same time, people are willing to learn. And I think that's what was missing before.
"Taking into account the headwinds we face today, what do you think are the biggest challenges of running a slow fashion business nowadays?"
Sonya: I think the biggest challenge is the regulation. How are you measuring? What are the metrics behind what the brand is doing in terms of the planet, people and the green credentials that they say they are doing? There's not one systematic regulation or framework, or model that brands can adhere to.
"If you could sum up all the activities or sustainable practices that are going on right now in slow fashion, what strategy or approach, in your opinion, is the most promising one?"
Sonya: That's an interesting question. I think the biggest cost for us as a brand is the production and all the elements that come with it. And previously (pre-Covid), we were attending trade shows as we had a wholesale business to facilitate, which was very much investment-heavy upfront before you even show any garment to a consumer or buyer. And that's a huge risk because you don't know what the feedback would be from them. And it's not just for myself as a brand but also for other smaller brands that want to enter the space that is a huge investment. Fashion is not necessarily inexpensive. It is about finding those partnerships where you can facilitate a smaller production run to test the market, to see if you're going in the right direction and if you're not, you've got an easy pivot to an alternative direction for you to be sustainable as a brand and continue.
So I think that's the biggest component is these micro-factories that are literally popping up and helping smaller brands to enter the market, provide space for them and to test.
"What are you most excited about in the near future?"
Sonya: Of course, the partnerships. With yourselves, Aistetic, in particular. I think providing some of these tech offerings. People do not necessarily associate it with a smaller brand, they tend to see it from bigger established players within the field. And when smaller businesses can facilitate a more personalised, customisable approach, that is very exciting because, as I said, consumers are demanding more from brands these days.
So I do think it’s the merging of fashion and tech together for the future. I think it is a very interesting space. There is so much going on at the moment in different areas: there is also digital design, 3D design, and facilitating 3D avatars, where there is no physical product, but people are investing thousands upon thousands. And it is a fast-moving space, whether that provides dividends in the end or how fruitful that will be…that’ll be one to watch. Myself, also, I am very curious about how the industry is moving in different ways. There are a lot more opportunities for brands to be niche in the areas and push through. So, watch the space! I think there are a lot of brands and organisations like yourselves coming to the forefront that you probably haven’t heard of yet but are going to change the industry dramatically.