For our Projectino Befter we chose the topic Upcycling Fashion. We wanted to know how sustainable clothing is made. We contacted Karin from Animazul who is a distributor at the clothing company and went to visit her to ask her some questions. Animazul is specialised in Latin American clothing, which is upcycled from traditional handmade clothes and textiles. Karin herself is from Guatemala and she is very passioned about Animazul and the beautiful clothes they distribute in Europe.
The interview with Karin
It took place on Friday, Oct 5th in her apartment in the city of Zurich. The following article is based on this interview.
Introduction: What is upcycling fashion?
A lot of people are more familiar with the term “recycling” which simply means to reuse the raw materials and produce the same product again. Upcycling on the other hand means to use the raw materials from a used product and make a complete new one of higher quality. For example to make clothes out of waste.
Behind the scenes
The founder of “Down to Isabelle” is Isabella Sprüngli, a 22-year-old woman with down’s syndrome. From her disease comes the name of the brand. BBC put her on the list of the 100 most important women in 2016 because she is a popular designer. She is the creative part behind the scenes because Isabella does almost the whole process of upcycling for 3 years. Karin is her business partner which is responsible for the distribution in Switzerland. Isabella uses traditional Guatemalan clothes and shapes to create upcycled outfits. She buys the pieces by a retailer from Guatemala. The “Down to Isabelle” team consists of 5 needlewoman and weaver.
A fashion line with heart
The material comes originally from Latin America. The clothes there are handmade with a weaving loom. Jeans, shirts, blouses, ponchos and jackets get upcycled by Isabella and get a second life. Birds and flowers are typical prints and there is often a meaning behind it. Isabella puts a lot of social engagement into her work because the society does not take much knowledge of her or her work. At the beginning she only wanted to produce clothes for people with down syndrome because for them it is hard to find fitting clothes but after her success she decided to expand her clothing line. The special thing about “Animazul” is that their costumers can just find single pieces. Furthermore the clothes are very colourful and can be added to a basic outfit to generate an eyecatcher. In order to see the work behind every item you have to feel the piece.
How did Karin get the idea to distribute the clothes?
Karin studied economics at the university in St. Gallen and had to write her master’s thesis. Since you have to work on this for a long time she wanted to write about something that she is passionate about. Her mother collected clothes that are made out of textiles like organic cotton and Karin grew up with it. Therefore she decided to write about this topic.
After she finished her master’s thesis she wanted to somehow work with Latin America and Animazul is the result of it. It was an excellent idea because she lives here and knows the European market.
How does Karin distribute the pieces and how is it advertised?
She distributes mostly everything through the internet through the website where people also can get further information about the company. Besides that it is also possible to make an appointment with Karin and try the clothes on at her apartment.
Animazul works a lot together with bloggers on instagram that have a latin american background. She also started to do some Facebook advertising to reach selective customers. The plan is also to open a Pop-Up shop someday.
What is the main target group?
Animazul generally distributes women clothes and accessories. It surely is a goal to distribute male clothes, too but it is very difficult since there is not a lot of men’s fashion that are produced in Latin America.
What is the price range?
It depends on the brand and the piece itself but the price starts from CHF 15.- and goes up to CHF 300.- because everything is handmade and they know exactly from where everything is coming. That is why she does not want to sell it cheap and stay in the middle price range.
Plans for the future
The market for this kind of clothing line is quite small but for Isabella, the social part of her passion is the most important. The economic reasons are also important. The sales are good and the company is able to go on even though the enterprise is at its beginning.
It was very interesting to see how Karin distributes all these clothes and accessoires. We really admire that she focuses on sustainable brands from Latin America that support the social life of the workers.
It is also very impressive how Isabella is such a successful woman despite her down’s syndrome. It shows that if you really want something and put a lot of effort into it, nothing is impossible.
Elma, Michelle and Jasmin
– Interview with Karin from Animazul, www.animazul.com
Vocabulary of technical terms:
– recycling = reuse the raw materials for the same product
– upcycling = reuse the raw materials for a new product of higher quality
– weaving loom = Webstuhl
– organic = biological
More infos about upcycling:
Another “upcycling label”: “Romy Hood” in Zurich (romyhood.ch)
Cloth sharing alternative: “Kleihd” in Zurich (kleihd.ch)
About “Circular Fashion” in the Netherlands (youtube.com)