If the two-year-old luxury fashion label Sottes is anything to go by, definitions are out. In its place? An emergence of designers who are creating for an undefined audience – one that can choose from an array of genderless, sizeless and seasonless apparel.
The duo behind Sottes – pronounced Sot and French for ‘rebellious’ – Jeanne Guenat and Elliot Upton, presented their second collection Recommence 2.0 (which ranges from $890-$5,800) in Singapore this October. The new line-up (of reversible, embroidered jackets, trousers and patch-worked shirts) keeps in line with the brand’s one-of-a-kind, upcycled and ethical ethos. Instead of the sticking to its signature white palette, however, Recommence 2.0 sees a slow progression of colour in the form of fun, child-like embroidery. It’s also accompanied by a capsule of accessories that consists of crocheted keyrings, throw pillows, bucket hats and silver jewellery.
Below, Guenat and Upton fill us in on what’s changed since their debut at Surrender last year, what to expect from Recommence 2.0 and how mindfulness, fashion and creativity can most definitely co-exist.
Hi guys, it’s been a year since you first entered the scene – how was the reception to the brand when it first debuted?
It was really successful. People say that it’s very knew and that they haven’t seen anything like this before. Our concept is new. We do upcycling to the extreme. There are hints of upcycling coming through now, but, we’ve been doing it from the beginning so it’s easier for us rather than the big companies to do it. The response has been great.
A year later, how would you say the brand has progressed?
JG: It really has progressed a lot, especially in terms of the identification of the brand.
EU: I think we have now a certain direction that we need to head in and really plan for the future, the next six months, one year so on. This tour that we’ve just done has given us a lot of good feedback and ideas for the future. It’s more of a defined thing, because before it was all over the place.
The second collection is markedly different in design and product categories from the first – could you explain the expansion in the brand’s vocabulary?
JG: The line Recommence is a line that we expand all year long. The first collection was very white because we wanted to begin with a white page – like the beginning of a story. The idea was that the four additions from this second collection would add onto it with more drawings and colour, like you’re drawing on a white page. That’s why we’ve included colour on the inside and not on the outside, but of course you can wear it inside out. We have a concept where we like to tell a story that makes sense, not one that jumps from one thing to another.
We added more hand-embroidery that really symbolises the brand’s visuals, so really a childish-like look like a kid’s scribbles. The idea is that we are going to expand this line more and more with maybe colours and more drawings. Maybe after ten collections we can come back to white and create an organic way of moving.
In the first collection, the fabrics were sourced from vintage shops in Switzerland – but as you continue to expand the brand, how do you balance the problem of attaining raw materials with increasing demand?
JG: What is important to us is that the materials we find are ones that people don’t use or want – or that we can trace the background story of it. We are really lucky because we have a lot of material that people don’t use and we source all year long, so we are not in a rush to find new things.
Even in the future, if the demand increases, we would still do small quantities. Otherwise we would lose the whole purpose of what we are trying to explain. If really we were to do a big order it would be because we were lucky that a company sent us a massive amount of items they were going to throw away. It would need to be really well-thought.
In this new collection, we’re seeing you guys use new materials such as recast silver and leftover leather – where are those sourced from?
EU: We work with a local jewellery designer who really shares our passion. It’s really exciting to work with him because he’s got connections when it comes to sourcing silver and old jewellery that he can melt down to recreate. The good thing is with the casting process, it’s left with little indentations. So it’s a real organic feel. Normally with factory-made jewellery or high-fashion jewellery, it’s really shiny and perfect.
JG: We like the idea that creating mistakes makes the beauty.
EU: The keyrings are made from up cycled leather as well. These are pieces that factories can’t use. You’ll have imperfections like dents and scratches, but it’s the beauty of it anyway. It’s all hand-embossed in our studios, everything is done in-house.
JG: And then we collaborate with a leather worker for the finish stitching. There’s a local seamstress who does crochet by hand. We did the keyring first because at the time we had a really small amount of leather. We wanted to show that we had a source amount of material and the keyring was the best ID, because it was small but it represented the brand well. Since we’ve collaborated with more companies who are reselling us more leather, we’ve even thought about doing bags.
While I understand that Sottes goes beyond the extra mile in its mindfulness to the brand’s carbon footprint, there are activists who say that the best way would be to not create anything new in the first place. What’s your opinion on that?
JG: Where I’m from, a lot of the area is a market for watchmaking. It’s a whole area living on one industry. So if we do what they say and stop creating garments and jewellery – imagine how many people would go out of jobs. We love fashion, fashion is our background. It’s not just about upcycling. I’m creative and like to create things. So, we want to create it in a way that makes sense. We also like to think that if everybody changes a tiny little bit, it makes a big difference.
The brand has emphasised its focus on genderless, one-size pieces since the start but with certain designs such as the survival trousers, does that approach still apply?
JG: Yes. Like this coat here – you can use the string to change the size and I think it looks beautiful on both men and women. As a girl, I think half of my jackets are men’s jackets. I love it because I like the fact that I’m not considered by the clothes I’m wearing. We might even do skirts one day, a unisex one.
Walk us through the design process – for example, do you design based on materials first? What’s usually on your moodboard?
EU: The design, really, is dictated by the fabric, not the other way round. So it’s a really exciting process because whatever we receive one month it’ll give the idea for the garment.
JG: It’s difficult for us to say, what we’re going to do with each material because we have such a huge amount of fabric. So we know what we want to do by the material we have, but we have to keep in mind what we have and then do research. It’s a nice creative process.
Finally, any plans for next year you’re working on that you can share?
JG: A lot of exciting things! We don’t want to share too much, but we have a lot of new projects and we’re really looking forward to going back and making new things.