Joanna Lyle, fashion and sustainability
We met Joanna, designer and founder of the eponymous brand.
Hi Joanna, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! My name is Joanna Lyle, I am English by birth but I have lived and worked in Milan for thirty years now.
After so much time spent here, I have become Milanese at heart, a city rich in history, events and, in my
opinion, the capital of design.
What do you propose on your new site?
My website is a showcase of my business but at the same time reflects my idea of fashion, born years ago but
matured greatly in the last three years. We live in an era in which the pace of everyday life is increasingly
frenetic. We eat in fast-food restaurants, buy various items with a simple click and receive them in a very short
time. The apps on our smart phone allow us to reach any information in a few seconds and even the way to buy
clothing has undergone an uncontrolled acceleration. We buy clothes that cost less than a sandwich and we
don’t make them last even a season. This is a very complex issue but also something that became even more
apparent during the pandemic; we have all been faced with the need to slow down, stop and reflect and in
particular with regard to fashion: do we really need all those items in our closet? The answer that we give is
going to make a difference to the future of the planet. Slow is better. In short, this is the philosophy of slow
fashion, a reality gradually being adopted as a standard in the fashion industry abroad but still unknown to
many consumers in Italy.
Do you want to explain what Slow Fashion is?
Ethical fashion, the term of which was introduced in 2007 by Kate Fletcher, a sustainable design consultant
inspired by the example of the Slow Food movement and its key points (good, clean, fair), establishes the
principles on which this new fashion concept is based. These are the foundations and the philosophy of the
Slow Fashion movement. The movement that also reflects the basis of our approach to fashion.
What are the key principles of slow fashion?
There are really five principles which I will try to summarise :
• Quality is the basis of a sustainable garment, which must be made of the best available natural, ecological
fibres. Quality increases the life cycle of a garment and allows you to reduce waste that dramatically increases
landfills already full of discarded garments.
• The beauty of the garment is obviously fundamental, and should aim to be almost eternal, with a timeless
design, in order to allow the customer to reuse the garment year after year.
• The transparent supply chain is another factor that can convey greater peace of mind to customers at the
time of purchase. The one in which every step, from the raw material to the finished product, is traceable and
ethically flawless. Handcrafted garments are preferable, produced locally (this is the case of Made in Italy); and
gives enormous value to the work ethic and transparency that companies put in place towards their workers.
• The value of sustainable clothing is certainly greater than others and this involves a price increase to ensure a
conscious purchase and high quality (a well-designed and well-made garment will survive at least five times as
long as cheap clothing items). In essence, the greater the value that is given to the garment, the greater the
value given to the consumer, which in addition to the aesthetics of the garment itself, will reward the most
ethically conscious companies.
• Lastly, virtuous practices: these are concrete actions, customer habits, to put into practice the principles of
slow fashion such as, for example, buying less and better, reading the label carefully, preferring natural or
recycled materials, knowing how the processing waste is used ……. In short, adhering to the principles of ethical
fashion is not impossible: you can try it too!
How does your brand manage this “ethical” part in the products you create?
Our fashion design, production and consumption practices stand as an alternative to the dominant systems. We
say that we are “not global” compared to the big fast fashion brands in the sense that we refer to ways of
creating and producing our fashion garments and accessories, in an artisanal way, locally in small quantities
often on request. The items in the Shop section of our website called “sustainable” are instead produced, in an
ethical and responsible manner, using our off-cuts from the garment production. In collaboration with Kapdaa ,
a UK company that reuses fabrics, wallpapers and off-cuts of leather to create gift items handmade by people
involved in an ethical project in India. They help society to move towards sustainability and promote the
concept of upcycling and traditional craftsmanship. All materials, including paper, come from ethical sources,
supporting local and family businesses.
Your intent is challenging. It is not enough that you design, research fabrics, produce and offer your products
but try to make your contribution to the protection of our planet and the people who populate it. How do
you do all this?
Of course I’m not alone. First of all I have Luca, my right hand man, who helps me design and implement my
ideas and my fantastic collaborators who follow the various aspects of each company. Administration, sales,
logistics and so on. We share the same vision of the concept of slow fashion in a broad sense. Customers on the
site will find several items but not in all ready-made sizes. Sizes not available immediately are marked with the
words “on request”. We did this on purpose to give you the possibility to have a garment in the desired size but
ONLY when you want it and we are able to deliver it in about two weeks. This also allows us not to have
extensive warehousing facilities. It doesn’t seem like having a place to store material has a cost that would
inevitably be charged on the price as well as on the environment with its heating. When we get boxes or
cartons containing the material we need, we reuse them if we have to ship the goods to our customers. There
is no point in buying a new box when we have a used one at home. This is part of the Virtuous Practices that I
described above in the five points. We try to do our best. We only have one planet !.
Joanna, thank you, it was a pleasure to talk to you.
Thank you and please remember… … buy less, buy better!