How do you express the amount of waste we are producing through clothes? Through stories, paintings or films it’s quite obvious, but when a designer uses overconsumption as a starting point for a collection it may be a bit difficult to visualize the final result. Laura Jasiunate used layers, deconstruction and functionality for her collection in order to portray a mountain of waste in a beautiful way. She was inspired by the Smokey Mountain, a large landfill in the Philippines, consisting of over two million metric tons of waste.
I met with Laura Jasiunate for a cup of tea in a cosy café in Shoreditch, London in order to find out more on how she transitioned from an avid shopper to a designer concerned about overconsumption.
Laura is Lithuanian, but she was born and raised in a small city near Barcelona, called Tarragona. Growing up in her town, she usually felt a bit judged because the way she enjoyed dressing was not exactly as the norms dictated.
“I was just uncomfortable for a very long time in which I was not able to express who I was in the way of dressing” she explains.
Laura moved to the UK 7 years ago when she started high school. In 2019 she graduated from London College of Fashion, where she did her BA in Fashion Cutting Patterns. The Smokey Mountain inspired collection was her graduate collection, and everything started with a simple vacation to the Philippines:
“I went to the Philippines, Manila with my flatmate and I found out that there is a place that was like a mountain of waste. I said that I have to go see it because this is important research for me as a designer trying to live a zero-waste life. That location really inspired me. I went there with a guide and there were kids picking up garbage for which they would get a small amount of money. It was rough to see all of this.”
After this experience, Laura wanted to represent the visuals from her mind through her clothes but in a more aesthetically pleasing way in order to raise awareness. Her collection is made out of natural and biodegradable fibres or recycled materials such as pineapple leather, recycled wool, beeswax fabric, cotton and linen.
“The main outfit that I’ve made was a white shirt. That was the representation of the mountain, all the clothes piled up,” she points out.
The centrepiece of the collection, the shirt, can be worn in different ways. Laura is aware that in a way by producing clothes she contributes to the consumption loop, which is why she focuses on making a piece that can be deconstructed and used in multi-purpose ways. She also saves as much fabric as possible and buys fabrics that might, otherwise, end up in the landfill as they are part of an overstock. All the garments she chooses are made out of natural fibres or recycled materials.
As a teenager Laura loved shopping, and she referred to herself as a shopaholic while reflecting how her behaviour changed along the years. Laura’s interest in sustainability strongly manifested 2 years ago when she noticed and understood how much useless plastic was around her. That was the trigger, and she slowly became a mindful consumer. She explains that she started by eliminating different things:
“I started with food packaging. Then, I started to go to alternative shops, to support smaller shops, that are not owned by a corporation. I stopped buying high street clothes. I invest in pieces of designer that I like such as Margiela or Yoji Yamamoto. I invest in these garments because I want to support that art.”
Starting to make these changes in her life led her to incorporating sustainable practices in her design as well:
“When we move to the creation process, there are so many resources we end up using. For my graduate collection photo shoot, the background is made from sample clothes that I’ve used in the beginning. You don’t need those any more after you did them, so that’s already waste. And I wanted to show that, so I put them as a background because that’s the starting point of all the collection, and I got to reuse them,” she explains.
When I asked if she feels limited in her creation because she wants to reduce the waste as much as possible Laura reply was:
“People are saying that being sustainable is a limitation, but for me it’s inspiring. It made me think differently.”
Therefore, being sustainable can also be a creative incentive for some people.
Laura’s aesthetic can be described as minimal, deconstructed and avant-garde at the same time. She found her way to this specific aesthetic when she started studying her BA in London, the city where she can express as she wants.
“I was inspired by Margiela, Yoji Yamamoto, Rick Owens after coming to London. And this is the kind of fashion aesthetic that I’m pursuing.
Margiela really inspired me because he takes a minimal approach, he dissects what clothing is down to the thread. He is like a doctor saying: this is how the lining inside the jacket looks like. Why should we not bring it outside?”
As a business Laura is not focused on rapid grow. She hopes she will be able to sew most of the clothes by herself for the next few years, and she doesn’t want to follow the 6 months process of showcasing a collection as most of the big designers do.
“I want to continue to challenge people with the idea of clothing and why clothing should be in a certain way. My clothes are still within the norm, they are classic items, that are simple, minimal and wearable, but with a twist.”
*This article is part of the pilot issue of Divest Magazine