When people ask Ivana Basilotta why it's so important for her to make glamorous apparel and footwear that's gentle on animals and the environment, she answers with a question of her own.
"Why would one not be creating cruelty-free and eco-friendly [fashion]?" she said. "Since everything is available to us and we all have choices, I've never felt that I have to compromise… There is a vast supply of wonderful eco materials readily available to make use of. All it takes is the thought. We are powerful when we realize we have choices."
Ivana, who hails from Germany and England and is based in London, realized the impact of her own choices early on, eschewing animal products from childhood. She grew up appreciating glamor, but not at the cost of other living beings, and her eponymous fashion label reflects those values.
Until recently, Ivana focused on flowing evening gowns and other garments in recycled and biodegradable fabrics, but she added shoes to the mix this year. The designer collaborated with Amber Valletta and her brand Master & Muse for a spring '14 footwear collection, and she's now working on her own ultra-chic collection, No One's Skin. Not only are the sumptuous flats, stilettos, and wedges vegan, but they're made of a micro-suede composed of 100% recycled materials, incorporating a grain- and seed-based lining.
Ivana recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for No One's Skin, which didn't reach it's fundraising goal, but she's still planning to go ahead with production in the near future. We think she simply needs more people to know about these stylish new shoe options, so we're spreading the word, and we hope you will, too!
Read on for more about the designer's mission, what she thinks is wrong with mainstream fashion, and what's next for No One's Skin.
What originally inspired you to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle?
It was a gradual awareness. As I was growing up I become more and more aware of what meat is and how it is farmed. As a child, for example, I realized that our lunch was this cute animal -- a rabbit -- [that] I so adored, and I would refused to eat it. Just knowing what meat was, the thought of how it is farmed put me off, I simply can’t imagine enjoying eating this kind of produced flesh. But more so, on the way I discovered how great it feels to be a vegetarian and how delicious it truly is. I can’t imagine not being one. There are wonderful benefits of being a vegetarian; it brings a great sense of freedom and well-being. And if you like to be part of a greener world, this is an easy way to start. We know that farmlands that could be producing food for humans are used to farm and feed animals for slaughter, and this uses far more resources [than growing plants].
Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
I dreamed of being a glamorous and stylish actress [and] that was what lead me to designing. [It] inspired me to make my own clothes. As a teenager I thought I could start off by looking like an actress, by creating a unique wardrobe for myself. My mother used to sew as a hobby [so] I learned some basic sewing skills from her. When I was 13 years old, I designed and stitched together my first top at crafts class at school. It was a sleeveless yellow cotton top, [and] of course it didn’t fit properly but I wore it a lot and I did impress my teacher. I was the only pupil to do so, and I scored the top mark.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
My aesthetic is based on values. Naturally, I am drawn to beauty. I see beauty as a value -- it is something I feel, it is a sense of appreciation, love for craftsmanship, expression, our planet, joy for life, people, newness, and expansion. As human beings we are geniuses creators. It is fun to play and create.
What's your personal style like?
At the moment I love to wear loose dresses, and my Gialetta wedges are ultra convertible and look super smart for every day. [Even though they] have not gone into production, I adore them so much that I had to start wearing them. So many people stop me when I wear them, [which] is excellent feedback for me.
What was your favorite thing about working with Amber Valetta on your Master & Muse collaboration?
Amber is amazing for leading the way with ethical fashion. I was delighted to have been asked to collaborate with Master & Muse and yoox.com.
What's the biggest challenge facing the fashion world right now?
Most people believe the fashion world is very creative and innovative, but [many players] are followers, and they stick to what they believe is safe to sell. Only a few are experimental and venture beyond. Big changes happen gradually, even when there is a big demand from the consumers. Department store buyers are very hesitant to introduce new ideas. Until someone comes along and has the courage to be the first, then the rest just follow. But luckily through the internet, we can reach out and make the end-consumer aware of things they didn’t know about.
What advice would you give someone who wants to transition to a cruelty-free wardrobe?
Make it fun, don’t be too serious about it, enjoy the change, and get a pair of Ivana Basilotta vegan shoes -- you will love them!
What are some of your major plans and goals for your brand?
I am working on a vegan accessories collection and hope to be able to launch it soon.I am also planning to include a menswear collection, as many have asked for it. I believe vegan shoes should be available in every retail store, just like vegetarian options are available on every menu and vegan cosmetic products in every beauty store. It is my dream to see this happening with the No One's Skin project.