ADIEU

...designing sustainable t-shirt collections with cosmopolitan influences

Melinda Santillan is a true cosmopolite: studying at Central Saint Martins in London and graduating in fine arts at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, she now lives between Montreal and Mexico City. In her own words, Adieu “is the project that I take with me wherever I go. Each new place has its own inspirations and brings something new to the collection. I also love selling exclusively online because it allows me to connect to people from different places. It's fun to go to the post office and ship packages all over the globe; it’s like putting a pin on a map. It's interesting to know that something that started in my room at home in Canada ends up in Hong Kong or Austria.”

Her sustainable t-shirt collection is inspired by ghost friends from childhood, sleepovers from junior high, rock concerts from high school, heartbreaks, drawing alone in her my room, smoking and hanging out with her cat. The original ink drawings were made in Melinda’s apartment in Montreal during a winter snowstorm.

“I love looking out of the window and seeing the snowflakes falling and the tree branches coated in crystal ice. It’s like being inside a snow globe. Being alone surrounded by all that white cleared my mind and allowed for all those memories to come back in sharp focus. The process of putting them down on paper was very solitary in a way.”

In contrast the actual t-shirts and final graphics are assembled in Mexico City and handmade by an incredible husband/wife sewing team, surrounded by heat, friends and non-stop activity as well as all the noise and different colours and textures of the city. “I found the fashion community in Mexico City very open, and the designers I met were really supportive of me as a newcomer. It was actually my friends at TEAMO (another Mexico City based NJAL label, ed) who suggested I move my production there."

"From finding fabrics to printing and packaging, there was always someone who invited me to come along to show me their secret spots. I really enjoyed exploring the city with friends to check out fabric suppliers and manufacturers, exchanging thoughts, ideas and talking about everything along the way. The process of producing the collection was a lot of fun for me and was really instrumental in defining and cementing many friendships and creative partnerships.”

Nothing inspires me like…
Beautiful spaces. Places embedded with history, culture and architectural thought. I love walking into all types of old historical buildings, churches and very old apartments. It always feels like I’m walking into a movie.

I hope…
That we can one day get away from super disposable consumer culture and back to having well made things that last a lifetime. The kind of things we can treasure and pass on from generation to generation.

Cultural influences…
I’ve always been interested in looking outside my own culture and my own generation. I especially love looking into youth cultures from the past to try and find a link with my present. Travelling has always been important as well, especially before you could find everything online.

I got where I am...
By not listening to the voice of reason. I always want to do things my way, no matter how much harder it is or how impossible it seems. Whether it’s a good or bad decision, I like to make it on my own and be responsible for the outcome.

Fashion can sometimes...
Be found in the most unexpected places. I love fashion shows and magazines, but I find it more exciting to be surprised by finding fashion when I’m not looking for it. My favourite memory is working in a shop and seeing a bag lady sitting on our windowsill with a giant bag made out of woven plastic, the exact same print and colour as the Comme des Garçons purse I was selling inside. I pointed it out to her through the window and we both laughed.

Creativity comes from…
Lack of options. Sometimes the worse your situation is, the more creative you have to be. When I am too comfortable, I am less creative. There sometimes needs to be some kind of unease to push me to do something different.

I scream when…
My cat kills a mouse and leaves it in my path for me to find it (and I end up stepping on it), or when my friend jumps out of the bushes or the closet to scare me, or when someone is telling me a story of something super crazy that happened to them.

I've been a Buddhist...
When I was 13, a guy asked my friend and I if we wanted “free” books. We said ok, but it turned out he was part of a religious cult and they were by donation. We didn’t really want them, but we gave him a dollar to make him leave. The books were about another religion but somehow got me interested in Buddhism. That phase lasted about a year, although I still love many of the ideas and concepts.

I get bored easily...
When I don’t challenge myself or when I don’t travel for a while. Travelling is my antidote to boredom because even small things like finding the basic shops or ordering in another language become a challenge.

Money makes…
Things more complicated and really easy at the same time.

I tried to live...
As far away from home as possible when I moved out. I just wanted to see what it was like to be completely removed from anything or anyone I knew. It was scary but exhilarating at the same time.

I once thought…
Being older meant wearing a business suit with shoulder pads and being at a desk under fluorescent lights. Thank god, I proved myself wrong. (I’ll still take the shoulder pads though!)

My first crush...
Was 6 and didn’t know I existed. The next one wore a jean jacket and drew helicopters and Venus fly traps. I forced him to make me exact replicas of the drawings in his notebook so I could take them home.

Studios make me…
Happy. There’s always something interesting going on in them. I love visiting creative people’s working spaces and looking at all the little things they surround themselves with. It’s like seeing what’s going on inside their head.

I wouldn't pay for…
Bottled water 10 years ago. Now I get expensive water bottles for their design or because it’s “Lacroix for Evian”. I even get designer ice cubes sometimes…