The fast fashion industry has polluted the environment and enabled the disappearance of the local craftsmanship that dates back to the 1950s. There is excessive waste of material and fabric that comes from mass production. There are passionate and creative people like Anouk Von, the founder and creative director of PlanB1 who have gone the extra mile of standing against this and making a sustainable and eco-friendly brand. She doesn’t stop there she also makes jewelry from old bullet shells. It is true what they say ‘not all heroes wear capes”. Below is our interview with the stunning Anouk.
What does PlanB1 stand for?
I have been having the nickname PlanB for some time as I have always come up with a creative solution for everything, so when plan A doesn’t work there is always a plan B. This doesn’t mean the goal has to change but you know when life throws at you curveballs you have to adapt and be creative with the situations that you find yourself in, hence that comes with having a plan B. Then the PLANB1 stands for a plan to be one, meaning We’re All In This Together. I mean no success was built with one person alone. I think everyone that you meet in life, you can teach them something or you can learn from them. Never underestimate anyone.
Tell us more about what PlanB1 does
PlanB1 is more of a platform for international collaborations in the creative industry. I believe that everybody coming from different parts of the world have certain skill and different cultures so when you melt that together you can have something creative. For example the pieces that we are currently making like the kimono coats are from completely upcycled material from one of the largest second hand markets in Ghana called Kantamanto. We combined this with locally woven textiles like mud clothes and Kente. We realized those kinds of traditional ways of making fabric are slowly disappearing in the fashion industry so each garment we’re making is a statement against the fast fashion industry. We aim to promote slow fashion, local craftsmanship and traditional textile weaving.
It seems that your brand advocates and utilizes upcycling and reusing. What motivated you to focus on eco-friendly designs and products?
When I was in Cambodia I discovered the fast fashion industry and I wasn’t aware of the devastating consequences this has for the environment. The chemicals that are being used and excessive waste that they create is too much. I have seen warehouses as big as football fields with mountains of excessive clotting and fabric that were being used by bigger brands like H&M Zara. Therefore I thought to myself all this is in one Warehouse, one city, one country. I was so overwhelmed by the excessive products and then the exploitation of the employees who work in bad environments and get very little salary. This also meant that there is erosion of the creative industry because what fast fashion does is leave no space for textile weaving since it takes time and the fast fashion industry is all about quantity and not quality
I feel like fast fashion does not have a soul and all those things combined together make me want to go against that and show the rest of the world what fast fashion does to the industry and the environment.
What inspired you to specifically use old bullet shells to make your jewelry?
While I was staying in Cambodia I met this incredible human being who had set up this business with his wife a couple of years ago. We created a jewelry set with them made from old bullet shells, so I do the designs and they produce it in Cambodia from old bullet cases. They have built a relationship over the years with shooting range institutions, the army and the police who do their exercises for training purposes and normally throw away those cases. Therefore we saw waste that can be reused and turned into something beautiful like jewelry.
Tell us more about the kimono jackets
Creating the kimono jacket is a whole creative process. The kimono jackets are made from discarded clothing from the global north. We get a bundle of existing discarded fabric from Kantamanto which is the largest second –hand market that has close to 15 million items each week. We then put the color palette together. Once this is done, we start cutting those old clothes and revive them into a new jacket. The most interesting part is that we do not know the end product of this jacket. It is a continuous process where my tailors have to think creatively because I give them the opportunity to put their creativity into the designs. Funny things is at the beginning they looked at me like this person is not well *Laughs* now they get the hang of it and it’s a beautiful process.
Moreover all my products are one ofs, no particular jacket can be re -produced. We can replicate a little bit but one jacket cannot be reproduced because we use upcycled materials parts. Therefore all the jackets have their individual signatures.
All your products are only produced once, so there is none that has been reproduced before?
The only thing that we can reproduce is the mud cloth jacket. I personally love those ones. I think they’re really statement pieces, it breathes royalty. They are hand made by our partners in Mali. We can reproduce those but it can take some time to make the same textile, even the color that goes from the neck up to the bottom down it’s made from old clothes that are coming from Kantamanto so even if you want to reproduce the same jacket it will still be different every now and then like all the other products once it’s gone it’s gone.
At the beginning I was seeing a lot of challenges with this because that means we can’t upscale those kind of products, but I would rather see it now as a pro than a con as each piece is unique and a statement making piece.
Your Handwoven Mud Cloth is a unique and interesting fabric. Could you please tell us more about it in terms of the process of design?
The mud cloth originally comes from block printing with things from the river like mud and leaves. They use the mud as dye in the block print and weave the material by hand. They come in long strips of about 10 cm wide and then assemble them together like pieces of clothes which are approximately one and a half or two yards. Once this is done they print and dye them with all these natural materials. Most of the products that we have been using currently are designed by my partners in Mali.
I also just came back from South Africa where I met blackboard South Africa which is a community that teaches the youth about the creative industry. They asked us to create uniforms for them so we are going to work with the students where they will do the artwork for the textile and then we will produce everything in Ghana or maybe even in Mali.
The designs on the recently launched collection “RETURN OF THE WASTE” are so beautiful. You instantly fall in love with it. What is the story behind it?
There are only two in our collection for that particular piece. One is called REDsolute and the other is called the Picasso. Those fabrics are found in kantamanto as Dead stock or leftover material. Therefore I picked it and from those pieces that were leftovers we created the kimonos
I’m an artist as well, I draw. Therefore I implemented some of my art in the jacket so we digitized the artwork then we printed it on the fabric and stitched it at the back of the jacket.
Although the ultimate goal is to eventually create our own textile. I’m still finding challenges on how to make this in line with a vision of not producing new stuff. I want to hold on to the fact that we are up cycling, reusing and recycling and if I’m going to start making my own textile that means I’m going to create something new. There’s already so much in the world that we could reuse there’s nothing that we need to add to this planet. I’m still trying to find a way to balance that.
What feelings do you want the clients to experience when they rock PlanB1 Designs?
Fashion statement makers. Like I said earlier you wear something completely unique that makes a statement against the fast fashion industry but also at the same time promotes local craftsmanship and traditional craft making of textile. People wearing it must have a proud and confident feeling, this is not your usual jacket it gives you a sense of royalty when you wear it.
Your wearable Picasso Kimono is indeed alluring and unique. From your Instagram page, you have stated that it is limited. Therefore, do clients have to pre-order it or how can they access the product?
We have an e-commerce platform that clients can purchase our items. We deliver worldwide.
Do you make exclusive pieces for customers who want specific designs?
Yes we do. We would like a client to be as creative as possible with their attire.
Who is that one celebrity you would like him or her to rock your designs?
Burna boy. He has given afro beats a whole new flavor and his music videos are very interesting, therefore I would love to see him wearing my clothes.