Feature

Eco-fasionista

G Magazine (issue #26, May/June 2010)

Simplicity, fluidity and understated elegance are all hallmarks of Sara Victoria's style.

Sara Victoria

Credit: Meghan Petersen

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Sara Victoria launched her eponymous range in 2005. Today her Organic Softwears collection features everything from everyday basics for ladies and gents to more sophisticated pieces - all created with the planet in mind.

Designed in her Sydney studio, Sara's garments are made in Australia from a variety of natural fibres, including organic cotton, hemp, wool, silk and flax. Simplicity, fluidity and understated elegance are all hallmarks of her style.

What does 'eco' mean to you and why have you based your label on eco-fabrics?

Eco means there is minimal to no harm done to the environment through the growth and the production of materials and the making of products. It's all about asking questions and researching the full stages, including the growth and production of materials through to the manufacturing or making up of the garments.

For me it all comes back to health. Not only physical, but emotional and mental to us as humans, as well as the creatures that share our existence, and then of course the planet, that houses us all. In the long term, to the grower, the producer of the materials, then the manufacture of the product, right through to the wearer and user. With the ethical structures in place, and the use of these organic materials, creating better standards for these processes ultimately leads to better lifestyles for all.

Everything is connected. The earth that's treated badly with toxic substances affects other areas close by. A river will bleed the toxic substance into the ocean, which will then affect the fish and marine life; the air will be affected where the animals breath and the soil where the vegetable that we grow. So the fish we eat from that sea, the vegetables from that soil, and the animals breathing that air, including us, all are carrying the toxic chemicals that will inevitably affect our health.

What inspires your work?

Nature is what inspires me the most, from the way everything is connected, to the colours, creatures and possibilities. With my new collection I have been influenced by the concept of a completely natural starting colour, and the possibility of natural staining and dyeing.

I also appreciate the Japanese style; I really admire the way they master their art, the simplicity of origami and the art of folding. I love a classic stripe, from the French influence. Also an Indian influence, with my love for the simple lightweight fabrics and minimal seams.

With nature inspiring me, comes the interest in the concept from Japan - wabi-sabi, the art of incompleteness. Keeping the raw edges, using what is there already, allowing the fabric to inspire the creation. The less thought I put into it the more creative the outcome.

I am always inspired by the masters in design, when things are beautifully done. As well, galleries, museums, books and just life passing by, whether it be a beautiful butterfly, dragonfly, person, cloud or even a tree.

Are you a city or a country gal?

My father was from the country, and my mother from Melbourne. I grew up just outside of Canberra, actually Queanbeyan NSW, on a few acres. We had a dam, compost, chickens and a veggie patch. My father grew up on the land; he studied agriculture. It's great he knows all about plants, soil and even how to find water in the ground with a coat hanger! I have great memories of staying on larger properties too and lots of wilderness walks.

How did a pioneer like you get started?

I am lucky to have sewing in the family; my mother is very good - she made all of my clothes as a child. My grandmother would give me sewing projects in the holidays. My great-grandmother was a dressmaker and designer with her own shop in Collins Street, Melbourne, doing haute couture (high fashion). And apparently her sister was a milliner in the shop next door.

From my early interest in design, then my back ground in natural therapies, the idea for the eco fabrics was a natural progression. My friend Annette, who was already using the fabrics for her baby wear collection, Gaia Organic Cotton, said as much to me when I ran the thought past her. The idea came from an article on the front of the Sydney Morning Herald by Maggie Alderson titled "The gap in the market for ethical fashion". I just knew that was how I wanted to go; the ethical and eco go had in hand.

What are your favourite fabrics to work with?

I love organic cotton, but I am aware of the importance where it's grown. It does need water, but in places like India, where they have a lot of rain, it's perfect! I have heard that the organic cotton is not as water intensive as conventional as it uses the toxic chemical; herbicides & pesticides which dehydrate the soil more.

How do you think the industry has changed with regard to eco principles?

There has been a great growth in the market for using the eco-fabrics. From small designers starting up labels, to larger labels incorporating an element of eco in part of their collection.

Initially, there was a limited amount, but through the increased demand, there have been a lot more farmers moving towards the organic principles making a wider variety of fabric styles to choose from. When I started there was not a lot to choose from.