Do you remember the bewildering images of piles of clothes, covering the Atacama Desert we got to see some months ago?
Images that do not need words, because they already speak for themselves: the umpteenth consequence of our lifestyle, marked by a voracious consumption, in which we buy, use, and throw away. A circle endlessly repeated over and over. But what about the environmental impact of the latter? For decades, we have been buying new clothes, without considering that textiles, especially synthetic ones or those ones treated with chemicals, are certainly not less harmless than plastic materials or discarded tyres.
On average 59,000 tons of unsold clothing reach Chile, coming from China or Bangladesh, passing through Europe, Asia or the United States and eventually dumped into the Atacama desert. Among them, are clothes from well-known brands, such as Adidas, H&M, just to mention a few.
The images of the Atacama desert have gone around the world, together with the work of many non-profit organizations, raising awareness about how consuming fast fashion is as unsustainable as consuming disposable plastic, things start to change, also thanks to individuals and smaller companies striving to make an impact, among which Nabila Doudou, who stepped out of the world of big fashion business, to dedicate herself to her own fashion design agency, named Fous A Fous.
Fous A Fous means ‘hand in hand’ in Amazigh, a dialect in North- Morocco, where Nabila is originally from and where her passion for garments and fabrics started.
“Whenever we were going back for holidays, we were going to choose the fabrics for our kaftans (kaftan is a traditional dress worn on special occasions). We were making our own design and letting it make accordingly at the atelier. There was always a wedding or any other special occasion to wear It.”
Today Nabila Doudou is based in Amsterdam, where is the founder and owner of Fous A Fous fashion productions. After gaining extensive knowledge in making collections, curating the product development and management for bigger fashion collection, “I saw there was a need for smaller labels, for more sustainable labels, in need of expertise. Therefore, I started Fous A Fous fashion production to help smaller sustainable labels to launch their collections in Europe” she says.
About Fous A Fous
Starting a collection isn’t that easy. “I imagine for others who are not in the fashion industry, that it’s just about buying the product and the design phase, but it’s actually much more than that” continues Nabila. Everything starts with a line plan, what kind of style you would like to put in your collection, which items should the collection entail: sweaters, jumpers, cardigans, dresses or more. Once decided, comes the research of the most suitable fabric, along with the choice of colours and graphics. All aspects and choices to take requiring knowledge and a good concept idea about what type of collection and for whom the collection should be.
And that’s where Nabila’s expertise steps in, a process subdivided into 7 phases, as you can read from her website, through which Nabila and her team guide you and your fashion collection, taking from from the concept to the final realization without neglecting anything.
Everything starts with consulting, Fous A Fous support you with what is needed to finalize your plan and the ideation of your fashion brand.
“Once fixed the ideation part, I start sourcing the fabrics, which is the most important. It’s also the highest costing point, moreover the choice of the fabric is what makes the difference in being sustainable or not. Last but not least, ordering fabric comes with minimum order quantity to guarantee quality” explains Nabila. Indeed, there appear to be many small details to take care of. Sourced the fabric, starts the designing process, for which a technical drawing, containing all the measurement specifications, is required.
“Once the design is approved and the technical aspects and measurements are set, we start sampling. Many people do it by themselves, they look for suppliers somewhere in Europe or Asia, asking for sample, which end up not being what they wanted. What we do is to request a protosample, then we have a fitting session, to see the fit, the drape, is it the right fabric. We also get samples for instance for the graphics, or for the trims (buttons etc.). There are a lot of different aspects, facets in only one silhouette. And just think that an entire collection consists of different sihouettes, different colours and fabrics” tells Nabila.
Once this is also done, one of the last step is reached: the production. Fous A Fous’ manufacturer are based in Europe “we try to be local, and to have low impact in transportation, we prefer not to have one sample coming all the way from Asia to the Netherlands” explains Nabila.
While we only see the end result, there is a lot involved behind the scenes, even more when you want to make a change and be more sustainable, affirms Nabila. “Although I don’t like to use the word sustainability, if you want to work low impact, every step in the whole process is important to achieve that.”
But hold on we are not done yet. A collection is not only about the samples or the fabrics or the designs for the production, it starts with branding. And that’s where Fous A Fous collaborates with other agency, among which WGreen and Renoon. WGreen is specialized in Branding and Renoon in Strategic Marketing.
“In a nutshell, this is what we do, quite some work to do especially for smaller labels with less expertise”
Her passion for fashion and garments resides in her family, at home her mother used to sew her own clothes. “I studied marketing and economics, and not fashion, but I was always interested in the supply chain and how and where it starts to achieve the final delivery. So my interest in the supply chain and fabrics and garments, became the perfect combination”
The entrepreneurial spirit, although working for companies, accompanied her throughout her career. “I always liked to work with smaller companies. Something I realized especially after working for Frenken. When the label was smaller, you had more freedom, and you could be as entrepreneurial as you wanted. That was for me what I always loved, to find your own solution, optimize the process and come with great results. And unluckily when a label is smaller, suppliers often put you at the end of the queue, given preference to bigger mass productions, but a shift also in there is starting”.
A client is a client, according to Nabila. No Matter how big you are, if you talk about ethics, why wouldn’t you include a smaller label. Focusing only on the big labels, it’s not inclusive. That’s another one of her arguments.
To my question if slow fashion will be the future, Nabila convincingly replies “Yes it’s the turning point! Needless to say that those bigger collections target a broader audience, standardized sizes based mostly on western aesthetics. “Through smaller labels you target a specific group of clients. It’s more tailored, I had clients asking me to make collections for shorter people, as well someone wanting to make a collection of blouses for disabled people, who could not put the buttons themselves, searching so for magnetic buttons but still integrated in an aesthetically nice collection.
That’s also a part of inclusivity smaller labels have because those collection start with individuals who have an idea” concludes Nabila.