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Bikinis Made in Brazil – a chat with Ruth Ferguson of Olga Olsson
Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011, 11:28 AM / Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
For some fashion labels the ethical tag is little more than a crafty marketing tool. Yet for Ruth Ferguson, founder and creative director of luxury swimwear label Olga Olsson, an ‘epiphany’ to create an ethical brand inspired the label's creation.
After studying fine art and politics, Ruth lived and worked in Cuba, Ghana, Central America and South America, before relocating to the United Kingdom in 2004 to study at the London College of Fashion. During this time Ruth honed her design skills for five years with Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson, River Island, Principles and Harrods.
We caught up with Ruth in sunny Rio de Janeiro to find out more about the label's ethical production.
Where does the name Olga Olsson come from?
The brand is named after my grandmother Olga, who was both glamorous and kind, both qualities that I try and reflect in the design and production of my collections.
What inspired you to start the label?
After university I went to Brazil to work for a fair trade fashion project run by a local NGO. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do – to make some change, however small, through the creation of clothes. At the time the concept of ethical fashion was beginning to grow, but it wasn't as big as it is today, and a lot of what was produced wasn't good enough in terms of quality or design.
What type of materials do you use to make the bikinis and kaftans?
Much as we'd like to create bikinis out of organic cotton or silk, this would not last long on the beach or in the pool, so we use the most luxurious high blend Brazilian microfibre lycra to ensure comfort, fit and durability. Fabric and trims are sourced from within Brazil close to production, reducing the carbon footprint considerably. The tags we use are recycled card, also made in Brazil.
The kaftans are made from Brazilian silk crepe and silk georgette grown in the Southof Brazil and woven in Petropolis, a hill town just outside of Rio de Janeiro.
Isn't producing ethical products in a country thousands of miles away from potential markets oxymoronic?
It depends what you mean by ethical. Do you mean green? Is eating a fairtrade banana oxymoronic? Would you give up bananas for the rest of your life? If we only could wear clothes close to us then we wouldn’t have much choice of what to wear – we’d have no cotton clothes, for example, in England. I think it’s good to try and produce clothes as close as possible to where the fabric and trims are made to reduce carbon footprint, but ‘ethical fashion’ is a wide church, involving upcycling, vintage, fair trade, organic, new pattern cutting methods, high tech fabrics etc. No one garment can be completely carbon neutral unless you grew the fibre in your back garden and wove it yourself.
Olga Olsson prices are significantly higher than the average green label. How do you justify this?
There are luxury ethical labels and there are also lower priced ones. The price reflects the quality, design, and production methods. I don’t think ethical labels should be lumped together.
What’s the secret for a successful ethical label?
The same as any label I guess: innovative design, excellent quality, lots of hard work.
Ian Morales | TribaSpace
Ethical Wear, Accessories, Creation, Sportswear
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