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Behind the brand: Meet the designer creating sustainable knitwear

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Valentina Karellas is a fashion designer, who specialises in knitwear. Her eponymous knitwear brand is sustainable and made in London. Here she talks us through how she created her brand, female empowerment, and gives her advice to any budding designers.


 Image courtesy of
Valentina Karellas

Launching a brand...

Valentina explains how she launched her brand: “I launched my knitwear brand in August 2016 - of course with the extra challenge of summer time it wasn’t easy but with any business you learn and rise above. It was after years of designing for other suppliers, seeing fast fashion, travelling to factories that I planned and researched for five years before launching.”

The importance of sustainability...

 

Sustainability is a huge part of Valentina Karellas, and this is clear through the very ethos of the brand: “Everything is handmade, focusing on zero waste making, made to order from the website. The collections are all named ‘Untrend vision’ volumes of a book, each collection is a chapter, an on-going story that I am shaping the story as I go. Not following trends is a huge factor for me, I want these designs to be in 30 years’ time and for it to still be relevant and in style.”

 

She grew up surrounded by a sustainable environment, which she has brought into the core of her brand: “I have always been around zero waste growing up; I just never knew there was a different way of life, even when it comes to food waste/consumption. #

"However, it was when I worked in fast fashion - suppliers and brands that made me see the true nature of the way the fashion industry works - where my plan started to form.”

 Image courtesy of Valentina Karellas

 

A childhood love for fashion...

Valentina has always had a love for fashion, which stems back to her early childhood: “As I child I used to help my mother sew and make bespoke garments; back in the early 90’s when people cared about their clothes, (and) repaired and upcycled (them).”

 

This love for fashion led to Valentina deciding to study fashion, and focus particularly on knitwear: “I studied knitwear design at London College of Fashion in 2004, I then focused on Knitwear in my masters in Italy. I have always worked in design and knitwear - it’s a labour of love; very technical, yet there are so many options when it comes to knitwear.”

Top picks...

 

What are Valentina’s top picks from her brand? 

The Walton jumper, one of Valentina's favourite pieces. / Image courtesy of Valentina Karellas

 

 

1.  The Walton jumper 

"This is my latest winter piece; it means a lot to me as I have left the usual loose thread that would normally have to be sewn in and cut off. This piece celebrates the rawness of knit - why waste it?"

 

2.  The Harriers jumper

"This is my first Raglan jumper. It took many attempts to get the right shape/fit, but it was worth it - it's bright, bold and super comfortable."

 

3.  The Craven Scarf

"This scarf utilises the waste I produce when knitting; it is then implemented into little pockets I created in the making process. It's bright and fun and symbolises all the waste in the fashion world that can be turned into something special and new."

 

Being empowered...

 

Empowerment is incredibly important for Valentina, and especially building up other women around you in the industry: “I think it’s important to share experiences with each other and build each other up, rather than the opposite. I express this by making my pieces loose fit, even unisex. I want my items to be for all and make you feel good, comfortable as well as fun. I have also taken part in empowerment talks, encouraging other women to pursue their career paths.

 

“I think it’s important to surround yourself with positive people in general; woman have a comforting and supportive nature that encourages growth. Not to take anything away from men either; it’s important to have a mix within any career path.”

 Image courtesy of Valentina Karellas 

Inspiration and words of wisdom...

Who is Valentina’s biggest fashion industry inspiration? “For sure Stella McCartney - the fact that she has always stay true to her sustainable routes, she always strives to empower the environment through fashion, plus designing amazing garmentsnot sacrificing aesthetics with ethos.”

 

What is Valentina’s advice for people wanting to get into the industry? "I highly recommend (you) to do as many internships (as possible) and (get) real life experience before even considering starting a brand. Funding is key to a longevity of a business - making sure you have enough to sustain yourself and your business for at least two years, as it takes around this time to start gaining some traction, (and|) with that you need money. Also, go to as many network and support seminars/workshop available; you will meet people going through similar things, (and) you always learn from each other.

“I would also always encourage (you) to make local, so if you don’t have the ability/space to make your own collection, I highly recommend producing your items in the country you are based. It may cost more, but it helps with local jobs and you get to monitor your samples a lot easier, whilst speaking the same language.”

 

Lead image courtesy of Valentina Karellas  

To read more pieces from our 'Behind the brand' series, visit this link.




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