Behind The Scenes With Designer Sarina Menzies of Alteva
What drew you to become a fashion designer?
Well my mother was an opera singer in the 80s and I have these vivid memories of watching her get all dressed up, always very glamourous and fashionable, classic and sophisticated. I think that’s why I’ve always had a love for the old school designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and quite drawn to the 70’s/80’s eras.
I get the designing gene from my father and his father, who were both talented architects. I love to sketch. I love art. The sewing instinct comes from my Grandmother who was a very talented seamstress.
In my teens, I dabbled with a bit of modelling while working in fashion retail which lead me to study fashion design, although it wasn’t the right time for me so I took a long break to travel. My love for editorial photoshoots and runway has been strong ever since.
Then a few years ago after walking past Karl Lagerfeld in Paris and literally brushing shoulders with him, I guess you could say the fire was ignited again, I came back full circle to my original path and I started to retrain myself again designing evening wear. I’m glad I waited because I wouldn’t have been embarking on this exciting journey, on the forefront of the sustainable revolution in the fashion industry. Now is the right time for me to start my own label and I’m so grateful that it can be sustainable.
Why was it important to you to offer a sustainable, responsible, Eco fashion line and how do you incorporate ideals such a Zero Waste into your work?
As long as I can remember I’ve always been an environmentalist, always recycling every chance I had, wanting to save the planet so for me it was really a no brainer. My conscience got the better of me when I started designing again and I couldn’t bear to throw away any of the offcuts, (although they were minimal as I was trained to incorporate as little to zero waste) so I would save them all and my little girls use them to design their own dresses.
It was from this that I knew my label had to be sustainable for me to be true to myself. If I didn’t I would feel as though I was adding to the epidemic of textile waste into landfill. The technologies are available to help us turn things around so if you’re in a position to then why wouldn’t you use sustainable fabric etc to create your line in this day and age?
Where do your find inspiration for new work?
Art, music, photography, architecture, people, places, light, colours, textures, the past, present and future.
What materials do you work with – organic, reclaimed, etc.?
At the moment, I particularly like working with the innovative fabrics using recycled resources. The first time I learnt that you could take the form of a plastic coca cola bottle and turn it into the form of a dress or a suit, I nearly fell off my chair I’m also really excited about future endeavours to produce cotton made from recycled fibres. Recycling all those piles of cotton clothing that usually end up in landfill.
Vivify Textiles has so many beautiful fabrics and they are a dream to work with and wear.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an sustainable designer?
Firstly, finding sustainable suppliers but once you’re connected to the ethical forum everything falls into place.
Secondly the minimal selection available when it comes to fabric with patterns but as technologies advance and demand increases that will change.
And Thirdly I would say just changing the perception of ‘Eco Fashion’ and showing people that sustainable is the future of fashion. Luckily retail giants like H&M and designers like Stella McCartney are making it mainstream.
Also, celebrities such as Emma Watson are paving the way and leading by example, turning the ‘Red Carpet’ into the ‘Green Carpet’.
How do you help customers understand the higher cost of sustainable garments when they are so inundated with sweat shop-produced cheap merchandise?
Ethical practices in manufacturing is slowly but surely filtrating through the system and I think people are becoming more aware of how their clothes are being made (thanks to campaigns such as, “Who Made Your Clothes’ and forums like ‘The Ethical Fashion Forum’) and growing more conscious of their choices when buying clothes.
I just think transparency is the key. By telling customers the story behind creating your designs from beginning to end then I think they have a greater appreciation for all the work that goes into it and don’t mind if it costs a little bit extra knowing the fabric is sustainably and ethically produced and the clothes are made in Australia.
What can we look forward to seeing on the runway at Eco Fashion Week Australia?