Fashion from upcycled silk by Genki Designs

Summer is here again. The sun colours everything around us, the blue sky, the lush green of the fields and trees, the colourful fruit we harvest and the turquoise of the sea. Bright colours inspire us to be more optimistic, joyful and lively and we spend the days outside to recharge much needed energy after the long, grey winter.

Today we bring you an interview with the brand Genki Designs from the UK, that has colours and joy in their DNA. Their clothes are made from scrap silk saris from India, which means that their clothes are not only soft and cool for the summer, you can also be sure that they are sustainable. We talked to Camille, the founder of Genki Designs who told us more about their philosophy, background and challenges sustainable businesses must face to compete against fast fashion corporations.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My love for silks started when I was little and visiting my French granny where I would spend hours delving into her boxes of vintage fabrics. I was fascinated by the mesmerizing patterns and the delicacy of the silk she wore. As I grew up and remained obsessed with fashion, I inevitably over time became acutely aware of the damage the fast fashion industry has on the environment, and mixed feelings about my love for clothes.

We’re a small independent London-based fashion brand working transparently with our supply chain in Rajasthan where our artisan tailors and designers upcycle vintage 100% silk fabrics into completely one-of-kind handmade designs. We source our fabrics from small, family-run businesses in India, supporting local, slow production. Our range is built up of unique one-off pieces where we pair different fabrics to build an exclusive collection of conscious, affordable designs.

“We work against overproduction and waste using fabrics which already exist.

What does sustainability mean to you and how do you contribute to sustainability in fashion?

To Genki sustainability means being both socially and environmentally conscious. Our supply chains are transparent and built on mutual respect – we don’t negotiate with our suppliers on fabric prices and want to ensure each and every person across our business can live happy, healthy lives. Overproduction and waste in the fashion industry is creating unparalleled damage to the planet and at Genki we work against this using beautiful fabrics which already exist. Upcycling vintage silk saris encapsulates our commitment to creatively, consciously tackling this issue. The designs we work these fabrics into embody this further and are created with as much opportunity to wear as possible, many designs being able to be worn by sizes 6 – 14 due to their wrapping shapes, along with many being reversible to offer people two garments in one! We encourage our customers to continue this process by caring for our clothes with all the love that was taken to create them and make sure Genki designs last as long as intended!

Can you tell us a bit more about the manufacturing process of your products?

We have an amazing network of designers, tailors, factories and suppliers forming our transparent, tightly-knit supply chain founded on mutual respect and love of beautiful, high-quality fabric. We work with independent tailors and fabric traders in Rajasthan, India. We believe in absolute transparency in production and have personal relationships with everyone in the production of Genki clothing from the families who sell us the recycled silks to the independent tailors who make the clothes. These fabrics are then upcycled into our patterns where each garment is completely unique and one of a kind.

“I’m feeling Genki!” means full of vibrancy, life and fun in japanese.

What’s the story behind your brand’s name?

My parents met in the 80’s whilst working in Japan. When they moved back to start a family, they always would speak of these days as the happiest of their lives – their favourite word they learned was ‘Genki. It means a mix of peppy/up for it/fun/energetic. As kids whenever we had a big day coming up, be it facing a challenge or something really exciting, they’d ask us “Are you feeling Genki?” and we’d say “I’m feeling Genki!”. So, when it came to naming the brand, and how I want people to feel when they wear the clothes, it was a no-brainer. Genki. Full of vibrancy, life and fun.

How did you adapt to the pandemic and the complications it brought? What challenges did you face and how did you tackle them?

Our team’s creativity and collaboration of has overcome challenges to blossom in the best way. At the beginning of lockdown, we thought designing and creating across continents was going to be entirely unfeasible considering how closely we’ve always worked with the suppliers, tailors and designers and we couldn’t envision not being physically together within our creation process. But the strong foundations we build through working this way meant we were able to confidently video chat and develop designs, sending photos of fabric, and sketches as we went. This new process was only possible because of the trust we have in each other, and the amazing talent of our makers and suppliers in Rajasthan. We have felt grateful and lucky to have been able to survive and continue working with our incredible team!

What do you think the near future looks like for independent/sustainable brands like yours?

I think this is a really exciting time for small, sustainable brands as people are starting to support small and recognise and respect the unique, personal approaches of independents and the intrinsic values they have! As the sustainable fashion industry is growing I think the near future looks to celebrate diversity and ethical production to be part of a wider, more engaged conversation across fashion.

What could be improved in this sector?

As much as the industry is growing and sustainable practice and discussion is becoming more commonplace, there is so much further to go. As larger brands try to capitalize on sustainability as a ‘trend’ I believe that sustainable brands have a lot of opportunity to be highlighting greenwashing tactics of larger brands and their ‘recycled’ ranges. The more scope we are given to promote our products, the more we can celebrate the conscious and creative ways in which small independents are working to create a sustainable fashion industry.

To finish off, what are some of the products you have created that are closest to your heart?

One of our most unique items is our Reversible Wrap Trousers – our designers over in India are actually what make these so close to our heart! They call them “Sunday Monday Trousers” as they are adaptable with four different tying options, to fit whichever mood you’re in from chilled Sundays to working Mondays!

Thank you very much Camilla!

Author: Adela Bermellova

image sources: Genki Designs

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