For Kevin Germanier, sustainability was born out of frugality. “I was a very broke fashion student,” said the Swiss designer, who studied at Central Saint Martins. “I didn’t have the money to buy the right fabric for toiles, so I used vintage sheets. People rolled their eyes. It wasn’t cool at the time.” Fast forward to 2018 and sustainability is ingrained in Germanier’s business model. His designs are entirely made of upcycled material — fabrics, beads, zips and even threads. “Some of our fabrics even have stains on it, but we just cover them with beads,” the designer shrugged.
Key sustainability achievement of 2018: Prototyping is kept at minimum, and the brand doesn’t generate any waste: “People don’t know that when they buy a jacket, at least five toiles have been thrown away before getting to the final design. We always include the first dress we created in our final collection, so buyers can understand the design process.” Germanier’s first collection was picked up by Matchesfashion.com after its presentation in March and the brand caught the eye of Christian Louboutin, with whom Germanier teamed on a capsule of upcycled heels.
Sustainability target for 2019: Germanier enjoys the challenge of sustainable sourcing, tapping into contacts in France, South Korea, Italy, Switzerland, China and Thailand to find the right pieces for his collections. “I first found our glass beads when I was interning at a company in Hong Kong,” remembered Germanier. “Because they are individually tinted, they can’t all be melted together to make new pieces and sorting them out takes too much time, so they are discarded and buried like trash.” He used them to embellish his party dresses, sticking them on to the material with silicon.
Third-party plaudits: This year the brand — a 12-person team based between Paris, London and Switzerland — was among finalists of the ANDAM Prize and took home the New Generation Award by Vogue Talents and Swarovski. “Upcycling is what really set me apart,” Germanier said. “I asked Swarovski to tap into their stock of unused crystals. It was a win-win situation for them.”
Biggest challenge: Despite sustainability being at the core of his brand, the designer stresses the fact that it shouldn’t be what initially draws customers in. “I want to show that a sustainable garment doesn’t have to be a cotton T-shirt saying ‘Stop destroying trees.’ My creations are colorful, feminine, very embellished and super sexy. That’s what makes people remember me. The sustainability aspect is always secondary: fashion is first and foremost about beautiful products.”
If you could wave a magic wand: To change stereotypes usually associated with sustainable brands: “Sustainability is not just for hippies.”