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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND TRENDS WITH SILVIA STELLA OSELLA

Discover the story of Silvia Stella Osella, and witness her wise approach towards design and trends in the sustainable fashion industry.

Words By Ivana Coletta

15/04/2022

Silvia Stella Osella 

A creative designer, color trend and sustainability consultant, Silvia Stella Osella started her career working with big international fashion companies, seizing the opportunity to experience the fast-fashion phenomenon firsthand. She explains, “It was super useful for me, for my career and for my path, understanding how the system was working. But at the same time, after a few years of working for these big companies, I also felt that something was wrong. It wasn’t close to my values. I saw with my own eyes this huge waste of materials and resources, and the impact that the fashion world was creating”. 

This is the reason why she had a turning point in her career and life: she launched her own startup and helped the widespread transition to sustainable fashion. “Back then, it was around 2010, 2011. There wasn’t much talk about sustainable fashion, so it wasn’t easy to even find another professional to get some feedback about these topics. So, what happened was that I started thinking how I could keep doing this job I love,” she admits.

At first, she decided to collaborate with other designers to promote sustainable fashion. Some businesses were already sensitive about this topic at that time, but their aesthetics and design were not pleasing. So, Silvia channeled her energy and knowledge to design something better, both aesthetically and ethically. However, launching a sustainable startup was a challenge at the time. Customers weren’t prepared, and neither were the suppliers. There was a lot of greenwashing, even with suppliers, who were trying to sell something which wasn’t certified. Despite all these obstacles, she decided to leave her daytime job and invest fully in her dream: the consultancy studio. She had learnt so much, and she wanted to share it.

A Creative Designer 

Silvia decided to open her own studio to help startups that wanted to design sustainably or with less impact. The aim was to minimize their effects through design because, as we know, it is estimated that 80% of an item’s impact comes from its design. This is fundamental to the education of the customer and the designer. “I’m trying to help smaller brands and startups to pursue a low impact approach to fashion, but at the same time, I’m also keeping working with those big companies I was working for before”, she adds.

Firstly, she refused because after all those years she just wanted to make a massive shift. But then she realized that those big brands need to have some push to do things differently concretely. It’s not easy because those are big companies with really complex ways of producing and designing. But, at the same time, it’s also a significant challenge. And that also allows her to always keep an eye internally on what’s happening in these big companies; she also feels that it’s essential to keep that monitored and with a full vision. Therefore, her job is to help them make wise choices when it comes to materials and fabrics, analyzing trends and colors, and bringing something designed consciously into the market that people will use hopefully for a long time.

A Sustainability Expert

When asked about her opinion on greenwashing, she answers, “a few years back, people weren’t ready to discuss sustainability yet. Then suddenly some opinion leaders started to talk about it, and consequently the fashion world started to react very quickly, usually not always really prepared to do something in the right direction. Sometimes companies make mistakes in unconscious ways; so, at the very beginning I think it was a mixture of things happening very quickly – with people starting to ask their questions, talking about it more and more. It caused a lot of confusion from both companies’ and consumers’ sides. 

Nowadays, greenwashing is completely different, it’s mostly intentional: it’s good that people are starting to gain consciousness and are starting to ask questions and demand transparency.”

A Trend Specialist

One of Silvia’s favorite topics to discuss are trends, and how they relate to sustainability. 

She shares, what I usually hear in the sustainable fashion field is that trends are bad, that they are not complementary to sustainable fashion and actually something that should be discouraged and – at the same time – that timeless fashion is the key. 

But what I really want to try to convey in my daily job is that what people normally have in mind are those micro-trends, like the ones we see on TikTok, or those really fast moving, aesthetic trends. Trends are actually more than that: they are basically a mirror of what’s happening in the society, something that we people actually create, not something that we need to follow. It’s something that describes where people are going, where our society is going, and this for me is the most important thing: if we listen carefully to trend forecasting, if we learn to learn to “read” the future consciously, we are also able to make wiser design choices. 

Fashion, just like any other field – cinema, music and so on – it’s actually part of the human expression, it will always be. That’s why we can’t really talk about timeless fashion: because people keep evolving, our species is evolving. This is normal, and this is good. So nothing can ever be truly timeless, if you understand what I mean. Everything changes, everything evolves, and we don’t have to focus so much on timeless fashion: we should focus instead on designing something which is good for a specific time of our society, that responds to people’s needs, and that hopefully will last for a very long time.”

In sum, Silvia recommends paying attention to trends for everyone who wants to start a new business. This means being able to read the future, stay up to date with innovations and new materials development, which are crucial to their design process. In conclusion, it means designing something better, something with a lower impact that allows designers to put into the market something perfect for that specific time and demand.