In an ever-evolving landscape of sustainable fashion, designer Ipek Onuk shares a unique vision for the future of the industry. Ipek’s philosophy revolves around creating durable pieces using deadstock fabrics, natural, biodegradable, organic, or recycled materials. Her designs aim to reduce the constant buying cycle, making fashion more sustainable for consumers and the environment.
Ipek prioritizes transparency, ethical practices, and empowering women in fashion and textiles. Her commitment to sustainability goes beyond fashion, advocating for cruelty-free and ethical choices. Ipek’s journey reflects the challenges and rewards of pushing boundaries in the sustainable fashion world, focusing on circular fashion, collaboration, and raising awareness. As the industry transforms, Ipek looks to the potential of AI and technology, all while continuing to inspire sustainable choices in both her brand and consultancy work.
In the ever-evolving landscape of sustainable fashion, can you elaborate on your personal philosophy and vision for the future of this industry?
I work with multiple brands with multiple branding areas from Swimwear to Pets. In this fast-paced Textiles Industry with Fast-Fashion to compete, my philosophy is to create durable pieces with either deadstock fabrics or prioritise natural, biodegradable, organic or recycled fabrics to suggest my clients or create Upcycled pieces for my own brand with a unique design aspect. The items in my own collection help you to create minimalistic yet adjustable outfits which will reduce the clients constant buying need with nothing to wear following this will help the environment by the customers sustainable choices.
All our Soft Sculptural items are made in order to support the Slow Fashion movement and prevent overruns. All items are ethically made, some of them are even hand made with love by me.
Sustainability often encompasses various aspects, from materials to labour practices. Could you discuss some of the specific sustainability pillars you prioritise in your work and why?
We work with Turkish Manufacturers in my Mentoring and Merch business. In Turkish Factories, there is no child labour, the regulations, especially in the factories I work with are extremely strict and they also have hard to get Certifications such as BCI. In my own brand, the items are made in house either by me or my other teammates by hand. The supply chain that I have created is 90% women lead, from pattern making, pattern cutting, designing, sewing… In this work environment that is made for men, I really prioritise woman in Fashion and Textiles Industry for both my business areas, especially young woman entrepreneurs or small business owners and try my best to support and grow with them.
As a sustainable fashion designer, you’ve likely faced unique creative challenges. Can you share an example of a design project that pushed the boundaries of sustainable fashion and the innovative solutions you employed?
Oh, this list is the most heartbreaking and long list for me. The most challenging thing was to Market my brand competing with Fast Fashion brands as their power of low cost for low quality is unbeatable. Changing the narrative in the Fashion Industry is hard for me when I try to Source, Market and Promote my brand. For creativity ; I think the most challenging part was to create pieces for lower cost because we are a small team and we try to make unique pieces in house sustainably. That stress challenges me every day, every launch.
Collaboration is key in advancing sustainability. Are there any noteworthy collaborations or partnerships that have significantly contributed to your sustainable fashion journey?
I have recently done my shoot in a talented photographers’ studio: Andrew Kimber, he really helped me get in touch with models, influencers and really boosted my confidence. I can’t thank him enough.
How do you approach the concept of circular fashion and reducing waste in your designs and production processes?
We have Upcycled pieces which, in my opinion, are unique and one-of-a-kind. We also create pieces from Deadstock fabric, some of our items are made from just one-of-a-kind fabric. If we must buy fabric because we couldn’t find the right fit on donated fabric or deadstock fabrics, we always choose bridgeable or recycled fabrics.
Transparency is a crucial element of sustainable fashion. How do you ensure transparency in your supply chain, and what benefits does it bring to your brand?
We share literally everything on our social media platforms for both of our businesses. For now; I haven’t really seen any benefits, but I do it for my values and reasons so it’s okay by me ?
Many consumers are eager to support sustainable fashion, but they may not fully understand what to look for. What advice would you give to consumers for making informed, sustainable fashion choices?
I would advise to look for the brand’s manufacturing country before anything else, chillador and non-paid labour is common these days. Before looking into the fabric contents, I believe looking for the brands supply chain is more important, you can always recycle polyester or upcycle a poly garment, but you can never pay off the time and effort those people suffer when they are making you garments. You can’t go back in time and take those kids to school or save those animals’ lives that have been wasted for a bag or clean the clean water resources that brand has ruined for a t-shirt, but you can always find a solution to repair a garment or get a second-hand poly garment for example. Same goes for NON-Cruelty Free Brands, I really don’t understand brands who still have animal testing. Some. Aspects. Are unforgivable and undoable for me and my values, I think people should think of this when buying anything, not just fashion, food, makeup, cleaning supplies…
Ethical fashion practices, such as fair labour conditions, are integral to sustainability. Can you share an instance where you’ve made a positive impact on the livelihood of artisans or workers in the fashion industry?
I think I’ve covered this on the previous questions but I’LL repeat, I always encourage women, young and ethical manufacturers/businesspeople when looking for new connections to work with. I also try to collaborate with small, sustainable, and slow fashion brands or supporters.
Sustainable fashion often carries a higher price tag. How do you communicate the value of sustainable pieces to potential buyers and encourage them to invest in quality and longevity?
I think when you invest in a quality piece, you tend to keep it clean and take better care of it. When the garment is cheaper sometimes the fit is not the best, the fabric is too thin, the stitches are not strong enough for you to wear it more than 2-3 times, which I think is a Fast-Fashion strategy. So, if you really like the fit and feel of something, it’s worth the money.
What initiatives or projects have you undertaken to raise awareness about sustainability in fashion, both within the industry and among consumers?
In my textiles consulting business, I have been promoting this area for over 2 years. For my own brand E4I, unfortunately I didn’t have the budget to create a huge campaign about this, but I have been attending WGSN and ITKIB (Turkish manufacturers official house) for over a year to prepare my brands.
The fashion industry has been criticised for its environmental impact. What are your thoughts on how the industry can transition to more sustainable practices?
I think all the big Fast-Fashion brands are forced to take accountability for this, but I know for a fact that it’s not enough because there are lots of ways that they get around. For example, they can put Recycled Poly but there isn’t a test that can prove if the fabric is recycled or not, same with Organic Cotton. I believe the best way for any Fast fashion house to genuinely support this cause, should invest a huge amount in the development of Textiles Technologies and Regulations.
In the context of fashion technology, are there any emerging innovations or trends that you believe will play a significant role in advancing sustainability in the future?
AI is taking a huge part in this, I believe Programs like Clo-3D are going to create a huge role in reducing test productions and analysing what would sell, how much it will sell and the target markets for this. I am also getting my certifications for this, and I cannot wait to apply it to my businesses too.
Could you discuss the importance of education and knowledge-sharing in promoting sustainable practices within the fashion industry and among consumers?
Marketing this cause and raising awareness in different areas of sustainability is so important as the Fashion industry is responsible for more than 30% of the pollution. It must be prioritised in Universities, Courses and even in Sales.
As a consultant, you’ve likely worked with a diverse range of clients. Can you share a particularly rewarding experience where you helped a client make a meaningful shift towards sustainability?
I have helped Turana Atash London with her sustainable, modest swimwear line and it has been amazing since then. The feedback from clients and media has really motivated me to expand and help more Small Businesses to shift to an Ethical Production Chain.
Looking ahead, what are your personal aspirations and goals for the future of your sustainable fashion brand and consultancy work?
I want to learn more about AI and more Technologic areas of Fashion as it creates a Sustainable way to explore and experiment but in the meantime I can never give up physical designing and creating actual garments so I want to explore more in the Business Casual Looks with a Twist 😉
Brand: @eforipek Header shot: Zlatko Sreblj @zlatkos.photography Header Model: Marija Vukasina @marija.vukasina