ELLISS is a new brand creating simple and beautiful ready to wear garments. The collection is designed and made in England to maintain a low carbon footprint, while the clothes aim to flatter a contemporary female shape in natural materials that are soft against the skin. Founded by Elliss Solomon, the label’s first collection Unconscious Clothing uses a mixture of velvety, vibrant colours, feminine cuts, and dreamy, painterly faces in an original take on sustainable fashion.
ELLISS’ first collection Unconscious Clothing is an original take on sustainable fashion.
T: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
E: I loved fine art when I was at school, and always knew I wanted to do something creative but I needed a more tangible direction. When you are designing a piece you are always working towards a deadline and I like that structure. Seeing how it all comes together, whether it’s in a photo-shoot, film or presentation, is the most exciting moment for me. Ideas are constantly developing and this comes from everyone involved, from the makeup to the models.
T: I would have never considered fashion as a career for myself. Although I loved playing around with my wardrobe. I was always wearing skirts as dresses, always wearing things deliberately how they weren’t designed to be worn.
E: That’s an idea that resonates with my design process. Taking a classic shape and reworking it with interesting details and print is what ELLISS is about.
T: How do you make your designs comfortable and elegant at the same time?
E: I think about what I would like to wear, and how the print could follow and flatter the shapes that the body naturally creates. I also think about the qualms that I have with my own body – one centimeter can make the difference of flattering or not. For example, the sleeveless ribbed tops extend to about halfway across the arm because I know this is an area that a lot of women are self-conscious about. I want to empower confidence in those who wear my clothes. They should make you feel comfortable in your own skin.
T:You told me that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world. If I want to become a more conscious buyer, what should I watch out for on the high street? Is it a dead end?
E: Instead of shopping to buy something on a whim, think about the purchase and whether you really love that item. So maybe you decide not to buy a dress that’s super cheap on the spur of the moment, but to wait a little longer and save up for one that’s a bit more expensive. You’ll end up having less things but a wardrobe that you really love. Vintage is great because it’s already created. That’s the main reason why I wanted to work with jersey, because T shirts and underwear bring a freshness to a vintage wardrobe. The idea with Unconscious Clothing was to design with the mentality that I wasn’t just making clothes for someone looking for an eco-tag. Hopefully ELLISS may ignite an interest – bring the idea of sustainability into consciousness.
T: It feels like there’s a sale on all the time. And with online shopping it’s so easy to get carried away.
E: It needs to come from the consumer more. I think it’s important to think about your wardrobe in a different way.
T: Your designs are subtle in their subversivism. Tell me about your political journey and how you came to this approach.
E: With ethics and animal rights, people don’t like to be put on the spot. I would rather make a subtle statement that leads people to ask questions rather than create something too in your face. I want to create something that’s positive.
T: Which materials do you use?
E: The collection is a combination of Organic Cotton, Hemp and Bamboo. Hemp is the most important fibre as it is very resilient – It grows too densely to allow for weeds so it doesn’t need any herbicides or pesticides. Hemp hasn’t always had the best reputation and ‘hempy’ has even been used as a negative word to describe some clothing but I aim to help change this. It is in fact soft and breathable – It doesn’t have to be heavy duty, it can be lightweight and delicate.
T: Describe to me some of your favourite items from the new collection.
E: I love the ‘Anna Body’, named after Anna Kingsford, who was an anti-vivisection, vegetarian and women’s rights campaigner.
T: Are all of your designs named after a person?
E: Not all, but the ones that are, are either 19th Century activists or women in my life that inspire me.
T: Where did you shoot the ELLISS campaign short?
E: We shot inside Queen’s College London, the first institution in the world to award academic qualifications to women. The gym itself has changed a lot since it was first built, but the equipment is still the original. This creates a subtle play on life now and then – how far we have come, but also the work we still have to do – in sustainability, animal welfare and women’s rights.
T: I’ve already pre-ordered the ‘-ism’ top. I love how this suffix suggests both a spiritual state of being as well as a set of principles. I can definitely see how its ambiguity might be more appealing to people. Let’s talk about casting. The majority of the people modeling your clothes aren’t models or what you would expect at a conventional fashion show. What are you looking for?
E: I wanted to represent more people who share a resemblance to the girls that we know. Orsola de Castro (founder of Fashion Revolution) described the presentation as ‘gloriously female’, which I love.
T: I thought the girls modeling looked comfortable but like they were exploring a new side to themselves as well. No one was afraid to smile. There’s that wonderful moment when Najia looks at the camera, and at first she doesn’t know she’s being filmed but then she realizes and begins to play with the camera. Those shy but also daring and playful reactions felt quite special.
E: Definitely, all of the girls are so unique and wonderful in life and on camera!
T: Which brands or labels do you admire?
E: I love the collaboration between Amelie Pichard and Pamela Anderson. They created a Vegan footwear range that is amazing!
T: That sounds great. Hopefully it’s not long until we see Vegan footwear on the high street but I imagine we still have quite a way to go. When you think of fashion in 2016, what comes to mind?
E: I do think customers are becoming more savvy about sustainable fashion and the cost to the planet of a throwaway mentality. You have to make a decision to say I’m going to be slower and change the narrative.
Collection available to order here from 1st November