MONTREAL, Canada — Susana Colina is an eco-friendly designer who approaches her work with a minimalist attitude and creates with a global clientele in mind. She only uses natural and organic fabrics because she believes it’s important for her products to benefit the environment and those who wear them. Colina simply lives green and experiments with organic cotton, hemp, soy fabrics, lyocell and bamboo fibres. In fact, the Brooklyn-based Venezuelan designer has always felt at ease and comfortable within nature and believes that her eponymous collection reflects her carefree attitude in life.
Fashion designers are creative individuals throughout their lives and Susana Colina is no exception. She has always dreamed of being a fashion designer and has wanted to pursue this career from a young age. However, her hometown did not offer any fashion design programmes and her family wanted her to pursue a postsecondary education. Consequently, she enrolled as a graphic design student to find her artistic style and to learn about abstractionism and modernism. Colina thought she would simply go to a fashion design school later on. As Colina recalls:
At some point, I decided to start designing what was in my head and wanted to put it out there. That moment arrived only when I was comfortable enough to show what I was doing.
Susana Colina is known for her eco-friendly designs, but she began with a different concept at the beginning of her career. She used regular fabrics to build her first collection until she began to re-evaluate her lifestyle choices. Colina has been a vegetarian for six years now and feels healthiest at this moment in her life. Her vegetarianism made her more curious about eco-friendly techniques as she wanted to live a purer life. After some research, she found a plethora of alternative fabrics and connected with them immediately. Since then, she has gone to thousands of trade shows and done a lot more research to find the best eco-friendly fabrics.
Colina explains that there are even variations of the organic and natural fabrics that we know since there has been an increased demand for them: “It felt like me. At the end of the day, that is what my collection is about. What is funny is that for years, I was trying to come up with a name for my collection that would not be my own name. However, it did not feel right.”
I realised that this project reflects so much of who I am that it should have my name. I use organic and natural fabrics because that is a reflection of the lifestyle I have.
Minimalist At Its Finest
Her Autumn/Winter 2015 collection consists of clean and refined lines that have an elegant edge to them. Colina envisions professional women who frequent art galleries and work at fashion magazines when she designs her clothes. She keeps her designs simple because she thinks it is important for women to express their style and to accessorise as they please. She has tried to create elaborate designs on paper, but she finds herself editing them to their most minimalist portion. As Colina recalls: “I like minimalism. I respect the lines. When I start designing, one thing is having it on paper, another thing is on a fabric, which will tell you where to go. It is part of nature and part of the original fabric. This is the way I am built and these are the shapes I will give you. I love it because I create a lot from that.”
The Confines Of Creativity
There are many challenges to maintain an eco-friendly brand. Prior to the fashion industry’s interest in sustainable fabrics, Colina had limited options, not only in the choice of fabrics, but also in their texture as you could not find the flexible fabrics that you can get now. Hemp was the first fabric she experimented with and she found it almost impossible to iron at the time since they were mainly for furniture. She had to be realistic about the types of shapes she could create, but she finds these challenges rewarding because of its benefits to the environment.
By getting to know lyocell and bamboo, you get a real sense of what you can build because it is not your typical flawy chiffon.
The Eco-friendly Community
Sustainable and eco-friendly cosmetics are also integral to Susana Colina’s life. Her last photo shoot featured a natural and organic makeup artist who opened her eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. She loves the message and the idea of a community around herself who support her values. She says that she would even use organic light bulbs or cable wires to support her cause. There is a strong eco-friendly community and she wants to support it in any way she can.
An Ethical Matter
The Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013 was a disastrous affair where thousands of lives were lost. It brought instant awareness about the consequences of fast fashion and many companies signed a petition that advocated for better work conditions, a cause that Susana Colina firmly supports and practices in any way she can. She knows everyone who participates in the process of making her clothes, from the person she buys her fabrics from to the seamstresses who make her clothes. “Everything I create, I create here in New York…so, I know how well the people that work for me are doing. That is really important for me,” Colina concludes.