In a world where fashion has become so costly and wasteful, it’s reassuring to see that there are designers out there who love our big blue planet just as much as they love fashion and design. One of the designers who’s focused her career on creating sustainably beautiful and elegant clothing is Peggy Sue. Made with carefully selected materials, threads, and fabrics, Peggy Sue’s designs are made to meet the standards of today’s eco-conscious consumer. Recently, Sue was named one of 3 finalists in the Design Forward competition, which called for designers who focus on sustainability to show three looks to a jury. Recently, Novella Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with the designer, who took home the prize, and talk sustainability within the fashion industry, eco-friendly supplies and sourcing, and how everyone can play their part in creating a better world for the future.
Christopher Zaghi: Sustainability is very important to you, do you think the fashion world will catch onto the idea of sustainable fashion?
Peggy Sue: It’s been extremely exciting to see that the fashion industry is starting to become interested. We’re part of Fashion Takes Action’s Design Forward show competition. We’re one of the 3 finalists and we’ll be showing October 3rd. And the panel of judges there are 10 Toronto industry and New York industry professionals, half of them are from the more traditional sustainable sector and the other half is the more big business, bug fashion sector. So that’s been pretty neat to see those people themselves come together. You know, honestly, I do think fashion is trying to have that conversation about sustainable sourcing and designing. When you see it in so many of these larger companies and supply chains in the way that they are starting to produce most of their textiles, recapturing most of their waste. Which is all very commendable. But it’s harder for existing fashion companies to make these giant swath changes because, you know, they’re set up, their machines are going, we have our seasons and if you miss a season at this point in the fashion industry, it’s akin to closing up shop. So it is hard to make changes in that kind of a model. So slow changes are actually big. So that’s where we come in. I started the company with sustainability at the forefront because I knew that we were starting from scratch so now would be the time to do it. But even in our product delivery timelines, we do sort of take on that slow fashion sustainable concept of fibre to finish and zero waste and consideration of end of life cycle. But I do think the fashion industry is interested. I think there are a lot of initiatives that are coming out in support of it and whats more exciting is that the younger customers that are coming up don’t necessarily want “things,” they want to experience things, they want to be more mobile, they want to travel. So the things they want, they want to take with them on their travels. They want them to count, they want them to last a lifetime. So that itself is very exciting. Because it means, you know, behavioural changes could actually happen and at the end of the day, you bet companies are going to have to listen if they want to stay in business. So, yeah, I think it’ll get there. I don’t think it will ever be like, forefront, I think it’ll be a systems progression in the background.
CZ: I was lucky enough to sit front row at your last collection. I noticed that the natural texture and colour of the cotton came through as a very big design feature. Are unprocessed and organic fibres a go-to for your work?
PS: Great question. So what I like to tell people about the work is that it’s a live pulse of where the North American fibre industry is. As in, when you look at our fabrics and our fibres, this is basically what North America can do at this point. The fabrics that are running through the mills that are supper mechanized, lightweight and perfect, those are cotton-poly blends and we’re never gonna run fresh poly. So we’ve had to start from scratch, so our colour grown cotton, which is all grown in various colours, are still seen as a colour pollutants. When you go to a mill that is processing white fibre all day long. They will either not process colour grown cotton because it may contaminate their machines and they’ll have to shut down their machinery and clean it all out. Which comes at a huge cost and they run the risk of contaminating the next batch that goes through. And having all those chargebacks coming from their larger customers, so there aren’t many places that will process colour grown fibre. So it’s exciting that we’ve been able to find some and they’ve been able to work with our colour grown cotton farmer Sally Fox in California. So yeah, we’re always going to be the niche fibre go-to. You’re never going to find Merino here because as far as I’m concerned Merino is like the white bread of wool. Like, most wool is Merino they just decided that maybe if they throw the breed name on here it’ll be really special. So we worked with heritage Canadian sheep’s wool brands. It’s just so much more exciting that way. I mean, you can go to the market and find so many different kinds of tomatoes and so many different kinds of apples, so why the hell can’t you do the same with fibres? So I guess it really is a go-to.
CZ: What do you feel is your biggest inspiration when it comes to design?
PS: It’s definitely a combination of what the textiles are doing because I don’t get the luxury of going and buying textiles, we make it all. So some years we get felts, some years we get fine wovens or chunky wovens. SO we have to take these textiles and do the best we possibly can with them. When you look at that 13-ounce raw denim laying there in a pile, what does it speak to you? What does it crave, so we definitely get inspired by that. It’s also very exciting to see how people wear their clothes. Do they cuff their pants? Do they cuff their sleeves because they’re always too long? Or do they cuff them cause they like it like that? Do they button their shirt all the way up? Do they use their pockets? What do they put in their pockets? Where are they wearing it to? I love actually seeing people interact with their spaces and seeing the demands they place on their apparel. I think that’s beautiful, I mean, who the hell wants to be constrained by their apparel? Unless you’re in a really exciting sexual position, but that’s a completely different thing! I just think there’s such freedom in personal expression and if we just left behind the ideas of gender biases, body type, and race. And if we just focus on who we are as humans and be comfortable with who we are and my God there isn’t anything sexier than someone who’s comfortable with themselves. So that’s the dream. If I can make someone feel comfortable with themselves through natural local fibres, I’m a happy woman.