Leeds fashion brand ZaraMia Ava is pioneering inclusive sustainable fashion with zero waste and repurposed collections including genderless clothing and designs for those with hidden disabilities and sensitive skin. Stephanie Smith talks to its founder.
Friday, 9th October 2020, 4:45 pm
ZaraMia Ava is a fashion label that does not believe in fashion labels. Many of the Leeds-based brand’s customers want clothing that they can style uniquely to suit themselves. “I didn’t want to put labels out there,” says Zara-Mia, the founder, designer and chief maker of all the ZaraMia Ava main collections. “When styling on photoshoots, I mix it up and make it androgynous. I feel fashion is getting quite inclusive.”
In February last year, the brand featured in an exhibition entitled He She They? at Abbey House Museum in Kirkstall, Leeds, curated by the Vintage Youth Club, exploring genderless clothing from the Victorian era to the present day.
“They chose ZaraMia Ava as their contemporary designer of genderless clothing,” says Zara-Mia. “We made miniature versions of our genderless clothing for the exhibition.”
Zara-Mia, 30, was born and brought up in Leeds. Her father, Nick, is a complementary therapist, while her mother, Elaine, works with Zara-Mia as the brand’s operations manager. Zara-Mia’s brothers, Alex and Nathan, are both authors.
“My parents are such a great influence,” she says. “From a young age, they always let us follow what we wanted to pursue, which inspired such a creative family.”
She studied at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University), graduating in 2012 with first class honours in her Fashion degree. “When shopping I could never find exactly what I was looking for so I decided to make my own clothes,” she says. “Then I was asked where I got them from and started making garments for other people, and things progressed from there.
“I admired Vivienne Westwood for her ethical activism through fashion and Alexander McQueen for his controversial fashion that empowered women. I like creatives who think out of the box and have a sustainable approach. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. It is my passion.”
Sustainability and ethics have always underpinned the brand and its development, creating sustainable luxury, produced with zero waste, made for fashion-conscious people with a conscience. The brand uses end-of-roll fabrics, many with beautifully striking, limited-edition prints. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone” says Zara-Mia.
Contrasting structured shapes with fluid draping is fundamental to ZaraMia Ava’s distinctive take on minimalistic functional clothing, made to order using sustainable materials including bamboo, organic cotton and Irish linen.
The Identity range is made using a variety of small Yorkshire and UK artisans and manufacturers. For example, the crocheting and printing is done locally.
Following UN sustainable development goals, Zara-Mia has made a circular fashion pledge to try to ensure that her brand is part of a movement that uses materials already in existence and does not use the earth’s resources to create more. Part of this involves working towards making pieces entirely out of the same material – for example, organic bamboo – so that when the garment is no longer needed and is returned, it can be remade into something else. With the outsourced circular printed T-shirts, the returner receives £5 towards another garment.
Of course, the brand is named after Zara-Mia herself, with the addition of Ava, meaning life. “That’s what my fashion brand is to me,” she says. “As I also do graphic design, I designed the logo. The octagon has many symbolic meanings that we identify with – infinity, regeneration and transition.”
Most customers are UK-based but she also ships worldwide. “Our customers are creative. We encourage them to style our multi-purpose pieces. We love that they become the stylists.
“We also cater for a niche market of customers that have invisible disabilities. We line most of our fabrics to make them more durable, cover the seams, and we try to put labels on the outside and use soft fabrics that are gentle for people with sensory issues and pain. Also our bamboo and organic cotton clothing is popular with customers who have skin allergies and sensitivities.”
Many of the pieces can be worn in a variety of ways. Zara-Mia says: “The Emi dress is my favourite because of its versatility. I have it in a few different colourways. I wear it throughout the day with layers like the Ayame jacket and Rei leggings and dress it up at night with the mini Dai jacket. I get so many compliments when I wear the Emi dress I always have to take my business cards wherever I go.”
Zara-Mia makes sure she cuts all her designs to make best use of the fabrics and minimise waste. “All the waste fabric from pattern cutting gets used to make our zero waste accessories,” she says.
“We hope to inspire people to make better choices, have a clear conscience by being part of something bigger, making a difference for a better world.”
All the collections and ranges are sold online on the website www.ZaraMiaAva.com
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