For me, it’s an opportunity to not just be a designer that happens to live a sustainably conscious lifestyle; but actually be a sustainably conscious designer.
This week I sat down with Looptworks designer Alyssa Augustine to hear about her design philosophy, the future of sustainable fashion, and the one thing she wishes everyone knew about designers. — Carolyn White
CW: Hey, Alyssa! Tell us, what's your "official" role at Looptworks?
AA: I'm the Designer II/Developer. I work on everything from consumer/product/trend research to design, initial prototypes, product testing and fit sessions. No day really looks the same, which keeps things super fun!
CW: What originally inspired you to get into fashion design?
AA: I started sketching clothes when I was about 11. I’m not sure why I started, but I never stopped. After getting my undergrad degree in Apparel Design, I entered the industry in more of a product designer position, so, working on bags, backpacks, etc. I quickly fell in love with the challenge of fitting and developing and exploring the opportunity for functionality that more 3-dimensional products pose.
CW: So what brought you to Looptworks and what are you most excited to do here?
AA: Looptworks is an opportunity to “walk the walk and talk the talk” of environmental and socially sustainable design. For me, it’s an opportunity to not just be a designer that happens to live a sustainably conscious lifestyle, but actually be a sustainably conscious designer. I'm excited to have an incredibly hands on approach throughout the entire lifecycle of the design process in this position. And, to be working with a collaborative team where we’ve created a safe space to bounce ideas off each other and explore solutions and opportunities in unique and creative ways. And to continually push the possibilities of what we can design and develop in the upcycled space.
CW: What would you say is your philosophy as a designer?
AA: Ahhh, that’s a tough one! My philosophy as a designer has a few different paths and is ever evolving. At this moment I’m really leaning into the idea that the world around me is a better designer than I am. So, looking to nature as always, but also just sitting at a park and seeing how people move, communicate, and live — and being inspired by that.
LW: How would you personally describe "sustainable fashion"?
AA: I'm not emotionally tied to the word “fashion” as a designer, really. So, I’ll say, sustainable “design” is rooted in the longevity of a product. And that looks like following the life cycle of a product in its original form to its second life and maybe even third or fourth life. To design into a cradle-to-cradle concept is sustainable design.
LW: Where do you see responsible fashion going in the next 5, 10 years and what shifts need to happen to get us there?
AA: I see two big pushes happening and gaining traction that feel responsible and I that I think will continue to grow:
Purchasing more minimal timeless pieces of quality, over cheaper/trendy pieces. So, more statement and modular pieces designed for longevity and durability and even multi-use, rather than cheap, fast and replaceable. To get there I think we may need to replace our coffees with a meditation session and S L O W down. Fight the urge to push out content and product daily/weekly/whatever, and take the time to understand why, what, and who you are designing for. Take the time to work the issues out and solve an actual need, in order to come out with strong product that will last and be loved.
And 2, I think “responsible fashion” is going to continue to lean into the social and political space. We are a powerful industry and community, and our actions can have true and lasting impact. Whether that be in physical product design, company structure, or innovative processes, I believe the fashion and product design industry can make huge changes that benefit real people. To do that, we’ve got to change the thinking that “sustainable” and “responsible” design stops at environmental sustainability and responsibility, and look at the opportunity for socially sustainable practices as well.
The design process is such an in-depth and well-rounded process of exploring and learning and seeing from different perspectives - I think product designers can and will change the world through many different industries and situations.
AA: Designing with excess is kind of like the difference between going to the grocery store and buying exactly what you want for a recipe vs looking in your fridge and concocting that same recipe from what you already have. As a designer it’s an added layer of creative opportunity to take something that already exists and make it into something new. A lot of designing with excess is navigating the challenge of balancing what you have with what you want it to be, and finding the sweet spot.
That’s the interesting thing about working in upcycling; this step of getting to know the material. It’s like you have to hang out with it, listen to it, take it for a walk around the block, to really understand how it’s best going to work for your goal.
CW: What is interesting/challenging/unique about designing with excess materials?
AA: When you’re designing with virgin materials, you’re ordering exactly what materials and trims and hardgoods you want, and they work for you. With upcycling, you get your upcycled materials and you are working for them. That’s the interesting thing about working in upcycling; this step of getting to know the material. It’s like you have to hang out with it, listen to it, take it for a walk around the block, to really understand how it’s best going to work for your goal. It’s kind of like designing backwards almost. Which can be incredibly challenging sometimes but is guaranteed to be incredibly thrilling all the time.
CW: What is one thing you wish more people knew or understood about the design process?
AA: If I could yell from a mountain top and everyone would be forced to hear, I would yell about a designer’s abilities to problem solve beyond physical product. The design process is such an in depth and well-rounded process of exploring and learning and seeing from different perspectives - I think product designers can and will change the world through many different industries and situations.
CW: When you're not creating upcycled designs, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
AA: O U T S I D E. Getting that vitamin D and healthy dose of nature is what keeps me inspired and creative!
CW: What music do you listen to while you're working?
AA: Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Maggie Rogers. Her creative spirit is really fun and inspiring and it’s easy listening when my brain is full and trying to navigate all of the ideas, numbers and product plans I have juggling around.
CW: What advice would you give to someone who's considering getting into fashion design?
AA: One of my favorite pieces of advice I was given at a young age was to be observant. So, I’ll keep that advice rolling and say, keep your fashion magazines but also look at the world around you and get inspired by whatever speaks to you. Any age person, any industry, any experience, they are all valid to you as a creative.
CW: Can you share some details of your role in the creation of our latest Denim Collection?
AA: I'm lucky enough to have stepped into my role at Looptworks at the very beginning of the Denim Collection. So, this was my first project with the team where I was able to be involved from start to finish. For me, that looked like consumer and trend research, and concept sketching and design. Then, into initial prototyping and product testing. Through final prototyping with Junko and product testing with Matthew and Suzanne, the team and I were able to add a lot of unique, handmade details to this line that makes each product really special. I think I’m particularly obsessed with this collection because of that.
Check out the new upcycled Denim Collection from Looptworks.