Natalia Zawada is the Co-Founder and Head Designer behind Starseeds. After studying tailoring and fine arts, and having worked with Alexander McQueen, she began to feel uncomfortable with the emerging fast fashion culture. Her experiences during yoga practice and her travels to East Asia resulted in a yearning to create sustainable and high quality pieces and ultimately, the birth of Starseeds.
You have fused your love for design with your passion for sustainability; can you tell us about your background in fashion and design?
My first full time job was at a leading luxury lifestyle magazine in Warsaw. After completing a degree in fine arts, I moved to London, where I worked for designers including Alexander McQueen. His craftsmanship inspired me to do another degree - this time in tailoring, and that was when I got into sustainability. Shortly after studying I had my clothing label NAVADA, which was my main focus for about two seasons, but quickly my attention gravitated towards working full time on Starseeds.
What inspired you to start Starseeds?
It was a combination of a few different factors really.
Growing up in post communist Eastern Europe, I watched the growth of the fashion industry here. It started beautifully - with respect for art and craft and using all the available materials, but soon we were flooded with the fast fashion craze and it didn’t feel right to me.
I began practising yoga and went travelling around South East Asia, and these experiences helped me understand the shift that was happening internally. I felt the urge to create a lifestyle that reflected my values rather than follow mainstream fashion industry, which was taking a strange direction; creating more, cheaper and faster.
People in the countries I visited were less privileged and were the most affected by the clothing production industry. My first trip to Cambodia triggered the thought that if I did decide to create my own clothing line, I would need to make it right.
Watching the beauty of nature in pristine areas, where people are more appreciative of values like connection and gratitude, only inspired me further.
What are the main issues within fashion around sustainability and ethics and how can we challenge these?
Well, firstly, we’re generally consuming too much – but only because we are taught to do so. Those colourful ads make us desire things we don’t need. The solution, I think, is to buy less yet choose well - becoming the creator of your own style, embracing your beauty rather than following fashion micro-trends which are changing way too fast.
We have lost the appreciation of things that are well made. These pieces take longer to produce and therefore this quality and process is reflected in the price. We are a bit spoilt by the low high street prices, and proud when we find a bargain, but many of us aren’t aware that someone is still paying for it. Good things are made to last, so if we shop smart and buy better quality, you ending up spending less anyway and you feel and look better.
Most of us heard the sustainability term, but can’t precisely explain the meaning. I believe it is up to us - the brands and designers – to give you a choice. I feel we should be creating beautiful, sustainable products that last through seasons and we should also be tracking the supply chain.
As a consumer - I would dare to ask questions. We can use our common sense- but it doesn’t hurt to ask. The more we do that, the faster impact we will have on the fashion industry and the ethics will have to improve. I strongly believe in the power of the community.
How is Starseeds working to create change in these areas?
Since day one, we have been tracking each step of our production, and constantly improving on eco-friendly solutions.
We organise community events, where we share what we have learnt on our journey so far. We visit our factories regularly to check the conditions and we use only sustainable fabrics and materials for the packaging.
We’re not perfect, but we’re making things better each season.
What does 'lightness of being' mean to you?
My lightness of being is doing what I love without compromising what I stand for. I love fashion, but I stand for sustainability.
Interview by Jessica Duffin
Photography by Pablo Tsukayama