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W1P Studios' Journey on Establishing a Slow Fashion Ethos


COVER BY ARNAULD ELE


The slow fashion brand speaks with The Stitch about starting a responsible business, incentivising a value-driven approach, and why collaboration is key for change.


In the fast-paced world of fashion, where trends reign supreme and the siren call of seasonal sales is hard to resist, a darker truth lurks beneath the surface. It's a truth that speaks to the staggering toll that overproduction takes on our planet, the social injustices that often accompany the making of our clothing, and the devastating impact of waste on our environment. According to a study by Fashion for Good, a shocking 62% of clothing released into the market in six Western European countries meets its end in landfills or incinerators each year, leaving a trail of environmental and social destruction in its wake. 


But amidst this troubling reality, a movement has emerged – one that champions conscious consumption and ethical production. This movement is none other than the growing wave of slow fashion, which is gaining traction and attracting a growing number of brands keen to embrace its values. One such brand is W1P Studios, founded in 2022 by Anaëlle Delassus and Charlotte Westphal, who met during their studies in Berlin. With a focus on sustainability, diversity, and inclusion, W1P Studios is "Working in Progress," constantly evolving and driving change. Their ethos centres around creating timeless pieces that transcend fleeting trends, inviting a deeper connection with both the clothing and the materials they were made of.


rachel arthur at the global fashion summit
Credit: Arnaud Ele

Below, Anaëlle and Charlotte speak with The Stitch about starting a responsible business, incentivising a value-driven approach, and why collaboration is key for change.


MELENIE HECKER

Can you share with us the inspiration behind W1P Studios' slow fashion ethos, and how you've positioned your label in a market dominated by fast fashion?


CHARLOTTE WESTPHAL

We were unhappy with the structure of the fashion industry, both with the production methods and work ethics. We felt the need to bring about change, so we started with ourselves and founded our own brand. That was our initial motivation. There are so many things that are wrong with fast fashion, and we wanted to adopt a slower approach in a market that is mainly dominated by it. Luckily, there is a growing movement of sustainable fashion brands we joined. Our commitment is to stay true to our values and principles in every aspect of our business, including our collections. 


Our focus is on sustainability, starting with the materials we use. We carefully consider which materials are good or bad and which we should work with. In the beginning, it took a lot of work to find sustainable materials, as many large production facilities use unsustainable dying or other harmful processes. So, we have developed a three-component approach to ensure that our materials are sustainable. We use many second-hand materials because we feel we should use what is already there and not start producing new things. This includes dead stock material in good condition from larger companies that would have otherwise gone to waste. We use a few new materials made from regenerative fibres, such as tencel or bamboo, which are environmentally friendly. Through this approach, we are able to provide added value to our customers by using high-quality, sustainable materials that we openly communicate and transparently source.


MELENIE

In the competitive landscape of sustainable fashion, how has W1P Studios navigated the challenges of establishing a distinct brand identity while adhering to ethical production practices?


ANAËLLE DELASSUS 

One of our biggest challenges was sourcing the materials for our small brand. It was not easy to get them because a lot of bigger suppliers usually require a very high minimum quantity order, which was not feasible for us. It was difficult to find sources and partners that could supply things in small quantities and also had the required certificates to prove where things came from and how they were produced. Getting a sustainability certificate is quite costly for a young brand, but we aim to work towards it in the future. EU regulations on greenwashing will be interesting to see, but it is still challenging to navigate which certifications are truthful and meaningful. All we can do is to maintain high standards in our work. In the beginning, it wasn't easy to acquire customers, and we had to find the right retail places. We cater to quite a niche market and have already established a base, but it took a lot of work to start in Berlin, especially with the price point of our pieces.


MELENIE

Financing can be a significant hurdle for emerging labels. How has W1P Studios managed its financial resources to support its vision for slow fashion, and what advice would you give to other young designers facing similar challenges?


It was important to us to grow slowly and organically rather than trying to do everything at once.

 Anaëlle Delassus, W1P Studios

ANAËLLE

I mean, when we began our startup, we were fortunate to still be in our studies, which gave us the freedom to explore our ideas without financial risks. It was important to us to grow slowly and organically rather than trying to do everything at once. We said we wanted to do that slower and more consciously. We took things step by step, and recently participated in a showroom in Paris which was partly funded by the Berlin Senate and other initiatives supported by the German Fashion Council. This approach of conscious and deliberate growth is something we believe other startups should consider.


MELENIE

Before starting your journey with W1P Studios, what are the things you wish you had known?


CHARLOTTE

For me, it's the finances. It is starting as a fashion brand, and getting it off the ground takes a lot of money. It's always better to have some personal funds on hand, which is the merrier because costs are often underestimated. There are hidden expenses that aren't taught in university. Additionally, applying for funds is a complicated process. At the start, one of the most significant challenges was dealing with the amount of paperwork involved in building a brand, as well as the administration and organisation required. Kind of finding the balance between the creative part of designing and the administrative work, so you don't spend all of the time just on the latter.


ANAËLLE

It seems like a lot of research and trial and error is required to create a successful product. Sometimes, even after paying for resources, unexpected issues pop up. Unfortunately, our university only offered a summer program for startups to establish a company. However, it was not tailored to the creative industry or sustainability. It's important to understand that not everything can be accomplished at once. Some things require time and patience. Conducting thorough research is crucial, especially when it comes to sustainability. It can take a significant amount of time, but it's worth it to ensure the product meets the desired level of quality. It's important to plan accordingly and allocate a lot of time for the research phase.


rachel arthur at the H&M foundations' open perspectives event
Credit: Arnauld Ele

MELENIE

Collaborations have become increasingly important in the fashion industry. Can you share any strategic partnerships or collaborations that have contributed to W1P Studios' growth and commitment to sustainability?


CHARLOTTE

The core team consists of three people and has been that way for the past couple of years. We collaborate with around ten individuals from diverse backgrounds, including interns who change from time to time, freelancers who assist us in production and suppliers' end, and a PR agency. They assist us in marketing and raising awareness on our work, which has been very helpful in accessing other groups we wouldn't ordinarily have contact with.


ANAËLLE

Working with photographers, musicians and influencers who share the same vision is crucial. This is because when you decide to support sustainability, you may encounter challenges, but collaborating with people who share the same values and passion is essential. These collaborations are necessary because they push you forward. It is also essential to get visibility from individuals with a public following because they help small brands like us gain a platform. They also know other people who share the same values, making it easier to reach out to them.


MELENIE

The concept of 'slow fashion' is gaining momentum, yet it often requires significant investment in materials and production. How has W1P Studios balanced the demand for affordability with the commitment to sustainability, and what strategies have you employed to communicate this value proposition to consumers?


CHARLOTTE

I believe that it is important for us to make sustainable fashion more accessible, especially for those who have limited resources. We collaborate with different platforms like WeDress Collective that allow people to rent our pieces for a small amount of money. Additionally, we make sure to include affordable pieces in each collection alongside more expensive ones that require more craftsmanship. However, sustainable fashion comes with certain challenges, such as higher costs of sourcing materials from Europe, where we currently produce everything, particularly in Germany. We try to get better with each collection, find ways to improve our techniques and find suppliers that offer good prices. With each year, we have more patterns and suppliers ready, so it takes less time and becomes more efficient.


ANAËLLE

One of our design focuses is on patchwork, which we used for our Insomnia blazer. We made it with deadstock fabric and smaller pieces that were challenging to make pattern pieces of, but we managed to create a unique shape with organic little patches that are very typical for our brand. We also stick to hand-knitting and experiment with different patterns. Consistency is essential for us, and we aspire to show our brand in Paris and expand to other European markets. Berlin is super amazing for us as the rent is lower, but other cities like Copenhagen have an established passion for sustainable fashion. It's essential to be part of this passion, and we strive to be included.


“Starting and sustaining a passion is worth pursuing, as it may be the future.”

Charlotte Westphal, W1P Studios

CHARLOTTE

We should encourage people to start their own projects and startups, because it can be a lot of fun and offer a great deal of freedom. Creating your own vision can be very fulfilling. Starting and sustaining a passion is worth pursuing, as it may be the future. Even though it may not be an easy start, the long-term benefits will be worth it. Therefore, we should always try to pursue our dreams.


 

What inspires Anaëlle:


Climate Action Guide” by Ferry Heilemann.


Not a big secret, but the amazing fashion movie "McQueen" by Ian Bonhôte & Peter Ettedgui.



"Die Lage der Nation" (German) by Philip Banse & Ulf Buermeyer and "The BoF Podcast" by The Business of Fashion.


What inspires Charlotte:


"Glitch Feminism" by Legacy Russell and the “European Retail Giants Linked to Dirty Brazilian Cotton” press release by Earthsight's recent investigation that links deforestation in Brazil with the production of supposedly sustainable cotton certified by Better Cotton.


 

Not fashion related, but the series "Parlement" by France Télévisions.



The new "brendawareness" fashion podcast by Brenda Weischer (brendashashtag).



Find W1P Studios on




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