As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Vanesa Perez Sanchez from Valise London about creating sustainable clothing with a soul. 

Valise London Founder, Vanesa Perez Sanchez on location Valise London Founder, Vanesa Perez Sanchez on location

 

What were you doing before starting Valise London, and what inspired you to start your own sustainable fashion brand?

One of my first jobs was working for a designer in Barcelona. In my more recent career I’ve helped small firms in London - many of them making clothes - to start out and grow. After a while you walk away thinking ‘some day I want to do that’. In the end I caught the bug.

The future is clothes that are made responsibly and from sustainable fabrics. I was searching for clothes I wanted on the high street, but couldn’t find them. Designs that are simple but elegant. Made of good fabric and a reasonable price. I was visiting Los Angeles for my birthday, walking around Santa Monica on a beautiful October morning, and I had a lightbulb moment. If I started making clothes, how would I want them to be?

When did you first become interested in the sustainability of fashion? Have you always had a preference for natural materials?

My interest in sustainable fashion has developed over time. I’ve always preferred natural fabrics. They allow your body to breath. Synthetic fabrics like polyester are cheaper, but they just don’t feel the same on your skin. When I was growing up there was less variety, but clothes were better quality. That’s decreased over time. We have more information in the news. People are working in some really bad conditions. There is a lot more awareness about the impact textile production has on people and the planet. Now we all know about this, we can make choices and change some of the ways we consume.

Valise London currently offers a small, thoughtful collection focused on Kaftans.  Why did this shape call to you in particular?

Putting on a kaftan is about travelling back in time. It’s been a favourite of Hollywood glitterati like Elizabeth Taylor hosting parties in Palm Springs right back to the Ottoman Sultans in Ancient Mesopotamia. It’s an invitation to step into something comfortable and step out looking effortlessly elegant.

What is your favourite piece of the Valise collection, and how do you like to wear it?

I’ve worn the “Two Bunch Palms” Beige kaftan all summer. I was inspired to make this after a romantic trip to a dreamy hot springs oasis in the Palm Springs desert. It’s very comfortable, luxurious fabric, earthy colours. I wear it during my free time and it gives me a happy feeling. So I wear it as it comes.

How is Valise London driven by Slow Fashion principles?

As I started out my brand what I learnt about the fashion industry is that it can be incredibly wasteful. So I create small batches of high quality clothes, that are made to be treasured, kept, and worn for years to come. My collections are inspired by iconic places and garments. They are about capturing the spirit of somewhere and a moment in time. Like kaftans in Palm Springs.

Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. What is your definition of ‘ethical fashion’?

It’s about looking beyond the narrow commercial side of your business and having some rules about how you will operate. Central to this is that I make clothes responsibly and in a way that minimises waste and damage to the planet. I also believe it’s important to give back to local causes. That’s why I have committed that part of our profits will help charities that empower women facing injustice, violence and poverty. These are issues that are important to me personally.

How do you ensure Valise London is ethical and transparent in its production?

All the fabrics we use are organic GOTS certified fabrics.  The garment labels are sourced by the same principles. Packaging is recycled. We don’t use plastic. Everything I buy is sourced from small companies with strong sustainability values.

My manufacturer is a small firm in Portugal. I’m able to visit regularly, so can be face to face with the people making my clothes in the place where they work. They are a key partner in the process, helping me to make every garment something really special.

What do you look for in other fashion brands that you support?

I buy fewer clothes now than I used to. I’m much more interested in the person making my clothes and their values. I’m generally buying clothes from small fashion brands. I’m inspired by makers who’ve created really distinctive, well made garments which I know I can wear for years to come.

What do you see as the biggest challenge of the fashion industry today?

Waste.

How would you like to see Valise London expand in the future?

My collections are inspired by iconic places and garments. Right now I’m working on a new collection inspired by Lisbon. There are many more places I want to travel to. I’d like Valise London to be a brand you’ll think of when you’re looking for something special and classic for your wardrobe - effortlessly elegant clothes with a soul.

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