Q&A: Asha : Eleven does good, inspiring stuff to inspire others to do the same

by | May 14, 2021

Olivia Kennaway founded Asha : Eleven in 2018. Ethics and sustainability are the driving force behind her Cape Town-based brand. Olivia, a mother of two, is on the Fashion Revolution South Africa team and works to reduce fashion’s negative impact on the planet. We caught up with Olivia:

Tell us about Asha Eleven?

Asha Eleven is a women’s wear and lifestyle brand. We believe that social ethics and environmental awareness should be integrated throughout our lives, not just in the odd special dress you buy. So, we aim to embody the full spectrum of a woman’s needs in terms of clothing; ranging from plain T’s made from hemp and organic cotton to occasion dresses made from Tencel to one-of-a-kind, treasure forever pieces made from vintage upcycled fabrics. The fast fashion route was never really an option. I grew up in Kenya and sustainability is very much a way of life: upcycling, recycling and being considerate of ones’ community. Life is not about pushing others down to get yourself up!

For your brand, what does sustainability look like in practice?

I’d like to admit that fashion can’t be sustainable. It’s simply not possible to produce new clothing without having an impact on our planet. We prefer to say that we strive to be the most sustainable version of ourselves that we can be. To do this, we carefully consider every aspect of our process and try to source/make/do fashion in the most sustainable way; a way which will have the least negative impact our planet possible and in a way which will have the most positive impact on humans.

Why did you choose to become a fashion designer?

I’ve always loved creativity, but I also have a very practical mind. I considered studying fine art but ended up choosing fashion because I felt it was much more applied. I really enjoy the business aspect of fashion; the spreadsheets, report analysis and strategy as much as designing prints and clothing.

What is the most important value you align yourself with?

To do good, inspiring stuff which we hope in turn inspires others to do good, inspiring stuff too.

What inspires your design?

My inspiration comes from a multitude of sources, a lot of it is spiritual. I love to interpret signs and messages that channel into my daily life into both print and garment design. Nature, and her many wondrous ways, is also a source of endless inspiration. From a young age, I’ve loved to play with colour and the combination of palettes.

What are your preferred fabrics?

We work a lot with a blend of hemp and organic cotton, both a woven version which feels a lot like linen and a knit version which has a nice natural stretch and works really well for our basics range. I love working with this blend because not only is it a great combination in terms of the farming of the fibres and manufacturing of the textile, it has brilliant properties. It’s durable, it breathes really well, it thermoregulates…. I could go on. We also work with Tencel, not only for its amazing sustainable properties but the feel and drape of this fabric is like silk.

How transparent are you about your business practices and ethics?

Very! #askusanything 😉

How is mass production of sustainable fashion different from fast fashion?

It’s a good question. As I mentioned earlier, producing more of what there already is, isn’t sustainable. But at the same time the fashion sector creates millions of jobs globally. We need consumers to understand that there’s clothing that’s made at a human cost and there’s clothing that contributes positively to livelihoods. This awareness needs to impact our consumer decisions.

How can consumers tell if a garment is sustainable?

Transparency is key. There’s obviously a lot of green washing out there but platforms like Instagram give brands the opportunity to show the behind-the-scenes production process. There is also the matter of accountability. Use your voice – as the Fashion Revolution movement encourages us all to do – and ask brands for transparency. Who made the clothes/bags/shoes/textiles that you wear and use?

What is the best-selling Asha Eleven garment?

This season our Transcendence print has definitely stolen the show, and the best-selling garments are the Dada Dress and the Muda Dress. Our upcycled bunting is probably our fastest selling item though!

Do you have a take back system and offer a repair service?

We don’t take back, and yes we do offer a repair service.

What are your hopes for the future?

My greatest hope is that fair fashion replaces fast fashion. That it becomes common form and that we don’t have talk about it – it simply is. It’s a long way off but we’ll get there.

 

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