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Behind the Brand: meet the woman giving streetwear a sustainable kick

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As a former school teacher, Londoner Ashlea Atigolo’s latest gig couldn’t be more different to her days as an educator: once working in a female-dominated field, it’s believed that less than 14% of major fashion brands in the world are female-led - so as a menswear designer she is now one of just a handful of women doing so.

Image courtesy of John and Ashlea at EBYAK.

A man's world

Her mission is to empower more women to challenge the enduring trend of men heading up major fashion labels and break down the barriers her fellow ladies face when attempting to enter the “boys’ club” streetwear scene and menswear industry. 

As if that wasn’t enough shaking up of the male-centric status quo, she’s also making sure her ventures don’t have a negative impact on the environment, with her streetwear label EBYAK being a committed sustainable brand. She has combined the popular, commercial streetwear style with an ever-increasing awareness of the detrimental effects fast fashion is having on our planet to produce a collection that has style and sustainability at its core, with neither of those characteristics being sacrificed for the other.

The eco outlook 

This is not a case of green-washing; Atigolo has left no stone unturned when ensuring EBYAK pieces are sustainably and ethically made from start to finish. The garments are all GOTs-approved, made with 100% certified organic cotton in an ethically accredited factory, and hand-finished in the UK with revolutionary production techniques and low-ink waste technology.

Image courtesy of John and Ashlea at EBYAK.

And there’s more: all of the garments are GM-free and animal free, with “The Collection” being awarded PETA’s vegan seal of approval.  Atigolo has proven that there’s more to vegan fashion than breezy, muted hemps and linens, and given the more urban among you a chance to maintain true to your sense of style and your morals.  

Style and substance

Better yet, despite its sustainable status, this is a brand that refuses to scrimp on style: “The Collection” went viral on Trend Hunter, the world’s largest trend insight platform, and this August “The Collection” will be showcased at the UK’s first vegan fashion show, Bare Fashion, alongside other ethical and sustainable brands including Kat Von D Beauty. Basically, this is a brand for every man. With that said, we couldn’t help but wonder if Atigolo was at all tempted to start designing for women too?

Image courtesy of John and Ashlea at EBYAK.

“I would never say never!" she says. "Once I have been able to highlight the equality issues surrounding women in the menswear industry and educate [sic] more people about sustainable fashion alternatives like EBYAK., I will definitely look into designing a sustainable womenswear label. To be honest, I don't think that I’ll be able to get away from doing womenswear as I'm continually approached by women asking me when I am going to design for them, so it could be on the cards!”

A word of advice

It’s clear that Atigolo is a woman on a mission to change the face and practice of our troubled fashion industry, and we’re so here for it. It can’t be easy sticking to your guns in a business that isn’t designed to nurture a more ethical approach, but Atigolo has some great advice for any student hoping to make it in the big, wide fashion world:

Image courtesy of John and Ashlea at EBYAK.

“Have your own vision, no matter what it might be. Stay true to yourself, and create clothing that makes you feel good, and it doesn't matter what other people think. If you're setting up your own label, perseverance, networking and Google are your best friends.”

All this time we’ve been looking to the runways for our fashion inspiration, maybe we should’ve been paying more attention to the streets.

For more like this, check out other features in our Behind the Brand series here!

Lead image: courtesy of John and Ashlea at EBYAK.




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