Designer Focus

Designer Focus: LINA MAYORGA



Was there a particular moment that made you decide you wanted to work in fashion?

I always wanted to be a fashion designer since I was a kid and I have always enjoyed being someone who knows the latest fashion news and collections. Helping friends and family with their fashion choices have always been one of my passions. My love for the industry even made me start a fashion blog (Fashion Fab News) in 2010 and to this day I keep writing about the fashion industry on my blog. I don’t recall a specific moment that made me decide that I wanted to work in fashion, but I remember very well when I decided to become a sustainable fashion designer. When I turned vegan in 2013 for my health, the animals and the planet, I started reading more about the detrimental effects of the fashion industry and decided that I should be an ethical person in every aspect of my life including my design philosophy and practice. Everything started clicking and making sense to me, that’s when it was the right time to be a sustainable fashion designer. Fashion has always been an essential part of my life and it always attracted me the idea of dressing up others with my own designs and I knew I wanted to do it with my own brand. A particular moment that made me want to be in fashion was also when I realized that I wanted to share my creative ideas and ethical mindset inspiring and influencing others to be aware.

Do you think you have a responsibility as a designer to respond to the social and political issues of our time? 

The fashion industry is one of the most powerful industries in the world. It makes sense to utilize its power as a tool to respond to social and political issues. By using the fashion industry to bring attention to our social problems, we can reach out to more people. And as a designer, I should be able to reflect my surroundings and how I feel about them in my designs. I think that more than a responsibility is a natural reaction for a designer to use these issues to find ways to help society and open people’s eyes to different alternatives. The best way to do it, it is creating fashion which is in our nature. 

As a designer, I do want to use our industry to bring awareness to various issues I feel strongly about. In my particular case, I support fashion practices and sensible sustainability, meaning my products should be cruelty-free, fair-traded, zero-waste and vegan. I prefer using social issues as an inspiration or addition to a collection because this way I feel my clothes are more than just clothes; they have a purpose, the purpose of sharing a message. That’s why I keep promoting my past collection which inspiration was the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by the UN. I still think that these pieces can spark curiosity about global goals and inspire people to learn more about them. Fashion designer or not, we all have a responsibility to respond to social and political issues of our time. It makes sense to include these issues into our work as well. Our world is run by politicians and the fashion industry can influence them to promote reforming the industry by creating laws and adding sustainable production legislation. These could lead us a step closer to a sustainable fashion industry. 


In your opinion, what’s the problem with fashion today?  

Many of the global problems are directly or indirectly driven by the fashion industry. The fashion industry is guilty of neglecting the bad situations that the industry creates. The main problem with fashion today it’s the fact that we keep creating and designing products with only the final outcome in mind. We are not considering the process and the repercussions of our actions before, during and after design and production. We are actually destroying the industry we are trying to build. I understand that the financial factor is really important for everyone’s life, but the future of the environment we live in and the development of our society is being jeopardized by our greedy mindset. I also believe that the amount of textile waste that is being produced worldwide is alarming and we should invest in recycling technologies that not only reutilize and transform the waste but also promote the diminishment of harmful materials and massive production. And also invest in technologies and inventions that reduce the use of difficult materials like latex ( which is not recyclable). Another aspect that is concerning in the fashion industry is the treatment given to animals. The industry is slaughtering innocent creatures to make purses, jackets and many more. This is leading to the destruction of our natural habitat, promotion of CO2, and just absolutely horrendous treatment for the sake of fashion and luxury. As an animal lover, I can’t fathom why an animal should be bred and slaughter for human use. We don’t live in the ice age anymore, let’s treat animals with respect!. There are unfortunately still many ethical issues in the fashion industry that involve human beings and animals, but I think all these issues can be improved if we actually care about every step along the process. The problem with fashion today is that we don’t care and don’t see the repercussions of our actions. 

Has your relationship with clothing changed as you delve into the fashion world?

My relationship with clothing has definitely evolved. I analyze and see clothes in a more meaningful way, but I’m also aware of the competitive commercial side of the fashion industry. This year I have decided that I need to see my business from two points of view, the creative and the financial side. I want to find a balance between both aspects without losing my own style, the fact that I want my clothes to be sustainable, and be sold successfully. As an activist and fashion designer, now I maximize the use of my resources, see clothing as an instrument to get to people and try to create new clothing concepts. Another side of my relationship with clothing that has changed is the commerciality part because fashion is an art field, but I have become aware that sometimes we need to adjust my craft to the market, of course, not forgetting about my own dreams and aspirations but more about adjusting my relationship with fashion to the demands of my consumers. When you start working for yourself you notice how much you really love this industry because you are willing to sacrifice health, relationships, and secured finances. Having your own product finished feels incredible and now with time, I realized how my relationship with clothes has been building a stronger bond and made me more determined. Now I have to see clothes and the fashion world as my main source of life in every sense because it is my job, my passion, everything that I do so the situation puts me in a complex but remarkable relationship between fashion and life in general. I truly enjoy seeing how my relationship with clothing has changed and I appreciate every lesson along the way. 


What are the trials and tribulations of being an emerging designer?  

In the fashion industry some of the manufacturers or companies with the technologies that I want to use, don’t want to take new designers into their business. They would require a minimum amount of production or product that in reality, it’s not that small for emerging designers who are testing what works or not for them. The lack of capital is one of the tribulations of being an emerging designer especially if you are starting from zero, you would probably need to be working for someone else to save money for your brand first. And even if you have enough capital to run your business, you still need to build a presence in the fashion world. Have a strong presence in the industry is extremely important for any business in general and it takes time and effort to build that presence. The emerging designer need to have that in mind, we are not already established For emerging designers, being turned down or rejected from competitions, sellers and clients is not rare; not having enough production to fulfill the inventory for consumers or also for lack of capital is another of the tribulations of this art. Willing to work without getting a fair remuneration in order to finish different projects or neglecting your physical and social well-being is normal for emerging designers even if it’s not intentional. Another problem is finding a reliable team that works with you well, understand your vision and that fits within the budget. Emerging designers have to be resourceful and ready to perform most of the technicalities of designing, producing, and manufacturing by themselves. No matter what takes to be an emerging designer I think that all of these factors are part of the foundation for a solid bright future, especially for those willing to overcome these trials and tribulations and of course, continue working on their brands, their style, and the industry.

What do you feel are the most important ingredients in building a brand?

Having a clear vision of what your brand stands for is one of the most important aspects of building a brand. Another important ingredient is being positive and hopeful that the hard work would pay off eventually. Possessing strong leadership skills that ensure and organize the business journey, as well as, nurturing and protecting core values, marketing the brand the right way, been committed to working to secure the future of the brand, acquiring interpersonal skills with clients, investors, employees and manufactures, and understanding what makes your different. Keeping finances in check and managing financial planning is an essential and key ingredient to any business and brand. Overseeing and securing financial planning displays brand reliability to customers, potential investors, and banks. Customer service. What do Amazon, Barneys, and Nike have in common? Excellent customer service! Looking beyond purchases and handling consumer issues provides ease of shopping to consumers. Customer satisfaction when dealing with complaints or shopping is likely to stick to brand loyalty and spread word of mouth. Promoting your brand is an everyday job on social media, during networking events, when explaining your vision through emails and it is an ingredient that nowadays with the online world becomes essential and necessary. Creativity is another factor that has to be improved and treated on a daily basis, not only for your designs, promotion and selling techniques but also for business formation and arrangement. My three key components would be positivity, good promotion, and planning. 


What excites you the most about the future of fashion?

I would say that the most exciting part for me is always everything related to sustainability. I’m excited to see how new technologies can help the industry and emerging designers to have a more sustainable production and more conscious consumption patterns. It makes me really happy to see how the fashion industry is having an active role in promoting and supporting global concerns and initiatives. Basically, fashion is becoming a tool and a community for people to show their disconnect and discontent towards government planning, social-economical issues, gender equality and many more. We are realizing that the fashion world’s message gets to so many people effectively and now we are using it to gather and attract people. I also want to see how technology keeps blending with clothing for multiple styles and techniques. The speed on how technology has been adopted in the fashion industry is unbelievable and I think technology facilitates and opens new doors to an improvement in the fashion industry which could benefit emerging designers as well. Fashion is embracing technology and the unknown and I am excited about the accessibility that is being given to people to use technology and fashion together. Wearable sustainable tech is the future and what combines technology and sustainability is what I am looking forward to seeing the most. Matching supply with demand with new systems it could be very beneficial for big and small brands. The fashion world has been growing artistically and technologically at a fast pace in the last 80 years and I am sure it's not gonna stop here. I want to see how as an emerging designer I am going to be able to use all the new inventions in the future. 

How do you balance your creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry?

I need to have a strong unbreakable mindset that is not going to fall for the bad options, especially when having a dilemma between creativity, easiness, and commerciality. Making the right decisions within the fashion industry involve all of us and affect all the planet. Balancing the creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry ultimately is up to every individual. There’s the integrity aspect, the influential side, and the thick skin ingredient; in my case, I do what I prefer and analyze what I consider would be better for myself and my business. I always try finding my own voice rather than listening to others that can discourage me sometimes. Fashion is a really competitive industry and how in all the fields, you would encounter people who are or not nice. The industry is known for being harsh on people with less money or fame competency. It is concerning to me and my creative vision of how the industry is careless in many aspects and don’t seem to wanna change no matter what it is affecting long term. In terms of sustainability and design that looks more than art, people are still not opening their minds to these concepts. I can't balance my creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry if I don't make people aware of what I believe is wrong and why my clothes have a purpose after all. I need to tell my story and this really has been helpful when presenting my collections. As I said before, the fashion industry has massive power in society and to find the stability in my work I need to start discussing and sharing my vision to like-minded people and also to the harsh side of the industry, so everyone knows what my brand stands for and this way I can keep being myself. 


Tell us any anecdotes about the making of your last collection?

When I finished my last collection and flew to Hong Kong to present it for the Redress Sustainable Design Award contest, I was approached by two girls when the other competitors and I were heading to the hotel after a recycling event. Surprisingly these girls recognized me from social media and we started talking about why I was in Hong Kong, my collection and my inspiration behind it which made them curious about the Sustainable Development Goals. I found the whole situation really funny and interesting. This gave me emotional support and motivated me to keep working hard and keep promoting global issues through fashion and social media. Fashion is more than clothing, It is also about influencing others and I definitely want to do that. This was the first time I explained what I do and how I can encourage people to learn more about social issues through my collections. I truly enjoy expanding my knowledge about fashion, sustainability, and social media and I want my message to get to more people. I definitely regret not having had my camera on when the girls were asking me about why I was there, I could have pointed the camera at them but I just kept telling them about my new collection and getting lost in my excitement. I am sure they noticed how happy I was about the whole situation. I really enjoyed sharing valuable information with these two girls and it made me think that I want to take part in telling more to a bigger audience. 

How do go about choosing your materials and manufacturers? 

I use sample yardage, end-of-roll fabrics, and cut-and-sewn waste mostly for all my designs. I also try finding vegan or used fabric from old projects of mine. Pre-planning in advance of getting the materials helps me to quantify how much I need from additional textiles, ensuring waste is minimized. My materials need to be upcycled, vegan, possibly organic and sustainable in general. About manufacturing, I have been doing everything by myself and locally. My production is small now and I’m sure that when the time comes I’ll find more manufacturers that ensure fair treatment to workers and waste management. As a sustainable designer, I want to work with like-minded people who share similar values to mine. This could be the way for me to contribute, participate and support my values, integrity and what I want the fashion industry to be. It is more than exchanging capital and goods, my work is very personal and I care about choosing the right materials and manufactures. Parenting with people who stand behind their work strengthens our integrity and business bond which leads to the prevention of business conflict and the creation of high-quality products. Now one of my main fabric and material upcycled sources is a recycling textile organization in Brooklyn, NY and I really appreciate what they do for emerging designers like myself and NY-based clothing brands who want to recycle and not throw away fabric, scraps, and materials that they don't need anymore. Nowadays finding resources online is easier than going to big manufacturers who don’t work for brands with small production. But I think this would change in the future and more fabric suppliers and services would serve emerging designers and small clothing lines. I am grateful that I can send an email or follow a company that might be willing to work with me, my values and my production quantity. 


Tell us a bit about how you run your business. 

I started to work on my business full time no long ago. It was not until the last year 2018 in March after I decided that it was time to stop working for other people and begin designing my own pieces. To be honest, I always wanted to have my own brand and it was never in my mind to help running someone else's business. As an emerging designer, I try to make the best usage of the limited resources I have. I have been utilizing everything that I learned at school and learning what I don't know from online resources. I find social media to be the best way for me to share my fashion designs, be found by clients and customers and approach potential business relationships. For my business, I like to surround myself with creative people and always try to be part of events and conferences that discuss the fashion industry, how to start your own business and sustainability in fashion. This has helped me to start working on my brand by myself and applying everything that I have heard before from a different source. I do as much as I can by myself and try to find help when I need it. From sketch to pattern making, sewing and promoting my brand, I do everything and much as I’m capable of. Approaching clients and customers online has been the best way for me to advance my brand and I also put my work out there, so I can be seen by stylist and publications. I want to keep growing my business this year and hopefully start hiring more people and when this happens I’d do my best to give fair wages to my workers, donate to practices that support my values, working with people who conduct the same integrity and keep creating beautiful, modern and wearable sustainable products. 

How do you balance economical business practices with creative vision? 

I have different collaborations with online boutiques and other brands that have allowed me to continue my creative vision while earning money and expanding my brand. I design clothes that have higher demand in limited quantities and with the benefits acquired from these pieces' sales, I have been designing my main collections which have more unique and rare pieces. I combine my uncommon style into the commercial collaborations and allow myself and my customers to have a sneak peek of my different concepts through these exclusive pieces. In the beginning, I just want to put as much work as I can out there and let people know more about my brand, I don’t want to limit myself but if I can afford the freedom of making exactly what I want, I would just take my time to find the resources and eventually do what I want. I wouldn’t leave my creative vision behind for the economic factor, I would just fight for my goals. It gets tough, but why would I betray myself and stop working on the pieces I really want to design and present to the public and my customers?. I am always working on multiple projects at the same time to find the silver lining between business and passion. 

What’s your take on the advent of commerce via social media? 

I think it’s a great way for emerging designers to show their talent online and find financial tools that help them grow. I believe that social media and e-commerce platforms are the primary sources of discovery and sales for designers. I use social media every day and it has brought a lot of new opportunities to spread the word about sustainability and clearly about my designs. Social media has served as an instrument for businesses to share information about new products; has enabled customers to make online purchases and has aided in the sustenance of commerce globally. The rise of the usage of social media has expanded dramatically making media business move their practices from traditional marketing, promotion, and selling techniques to online new habits, strictly on social media. For designers, using social media is an economically smart way of advertising their designs and campaigns to the public. Social media generates high-profit margins to those who know how to use it and helps to cut the cost of advertising. As an environmental advocate, this is a great way to promote your products to the masses without the use of paper and ink, and also having the option to say exactly what you want to share. I find marvelous how designers can achieve successful results for the commercial side of their companies and their popularity in the fashion world. The fashion industry is moving forward and evolving thanks to the use of social media as the main medium for driving sales and introducing new brands to the market. I’m very grateful for the rise of social media for my brand and my businesses. I like using it and exploring new platforms. 


The bubble of constant consumption makes it so that fast-fashion and trends seem to rule. What’s your opinion on this? 

Consumption patterns have become insane and the amount of textile waste produced has increased exponentially. Fast-fashion companies and trends are generating an environmental crisis and the total level of fashion waste is expected to be more than 148 million tons by 2030. The carbon emissions generated by the clothing industry have multiplied the last 30 years. When the economy of the country is not the best, the problems of making fast-fashion are the affordable prices that they provide and the fact that they carry the latest clothing styles which attract people who believe that those clothes would last forever and who don’t really analyze or know what goes behind designing those pieces. You see something looking very similar to pieces designed from your favorite but expensive brands and you would be attracted to the prices. It is the same with food or a car, it may look the same but would it taste the same, would it last the same? No! We can’t necessarily blame people for their consumption patterns 10 years ago when most of us didn’t really know that fast-fashion usually means: less quality, underpaid workers, terrible working conditions, and more textile waste. Now we know and I’m hoping that by informing the consumers about the reality of this kind of behavior and clothes would make them aware and their shopping mindset would adjust. I think the fast-fashion industry would fade away eventually and the demand for more unique pieces would rise. People want the latest trends but they are asking for high-quality pieces that most of the fast-fashion brands can’t provide. People are more interested in the story behind the clothes, the process and the designers nowadays which motivates me to be part of the change. 

What makes a design compelling?

I totally believe that what makes a design compelling is the uniqueness of the style and how the pieces are being sold. Creating a piece that hasn't seen before with particular elements that spark interest and add to different styles. Using a beautiful color palette, distinct textures and prints that represent the brand can be very beneficial for designers to produce compelling fashion designs. A unique and strong brand marketing or logo that stands out and carries a clear message helps a design to be compelling as well. Usually, popular brands well known or their signature looks and having elements that are exclusive to the designer would make A design can be compelling when you communicate with your audience with engaging visuals evoking interest for the brand and also touching and inspiring them. These elements can draw the audience to be attracted to the design. One characteristic that makes the design compelling is the creator (the artist) and the story they hare behind their design. People are interested in knowing more about the person coming up with those ideas and products. It is similar to paintings or sculptures like a Dali wouldn’t be a Dali if people didn’t know his outrages mind and behavior. It’s up to the artist creative vision what makes a design compelling, what imagery can she or he have in their mind that can be put to good use, and how the design is rooted in their life and consumer to feel better. Selling the idea of a better life if you acquire the product has always been a marketing and promotional tool that can make a design or a brand compelling. In my case, I believe that my designs are compelling when I finish a product which I have put enough thought about it from the beginning design process, the selection of materials, the after sale usage and of course the style I want to show for the season; feeling good about the overall process and all the pieces together are pleasant to the eyes. 


What would be your dream collaboration scenario? 

I would love to collaboration with someone like Rei Kawakubo or Yohji Yamamoto because I think they are masters of this craft. A dream collaboration like that would make me improve my fashion-forward vision 200%. They are genius and have created amazing and unique pieces, some of their designs are more like art pieces than “wearable” clothes, but this part of the industry is what made me fall in love with fashion. As a sustainable designer, I think it would be great to work with Stella McCartney or Eileen Fisher who have used ethical design practices forever and they rule the sustainable fashion industry successfully. Especially I would like to work with Stella McCartney who makes luxury fashion which is the field I want to get in, but she also works with Adidas which makes sportswear - another area of the fashion industry that I like a lot. She is trying to sell beautiful and elegant clothes not leaving behind sustainable options like using organic and vegan fabrics for her designs. Another collaboration with a designer like Vivienne Westwood would reinforce how I use fashion to make people aware of what it’s happening around us. She is well-known for her political/social/fashion mindset and she is trying to be a sustainable designer as well. We all should be sustainable fashion designers!. There are great designers that inspire me to do my best and I would really love working with them all, but I’m sure I’d feel fulfilled if I find a way to collaboration with a brand with a large popular market, so we can bring sustainable pieces to more people and start rooting in them the way fashion should be made.

Lina Mayaorga on NJAL