KUALA LUMPUR: It has well been established that fast fashion produces poor-quality, disposable, “trendy” items that cause much harm to the environment. The industry is also notorious for its poor treatment of garment workers.
Founded in November 2020 by friends Alia Farouk, Kylie Francis and Aisha Hassan, Dia Guild is an online fashion platform that champions Southeast Asian artisanship while advocating for conscious, ethical fashion.
Having started with just seven brands, Dia Guild now collaborates with almost 30 designers across the region.
The platform is running a pop-up booth at The Starhill in Kuala Lumpur until tomorrow, showcasing exquisitely designed apparel and accessories by the likes of award-winning Filipino designer Neil Felipp. Visitors also get to purchase curated items on display.
On Thursday, Dia Guild held a half-hour panel discussion with three of its founding brand designers, who spoke about their respective brand’s philosophy, the notion of conscious fashion, as well as the inspiration behind their creations.
Responsible fashion was about “getting to know one’s self and heritage while reducing carbon footprint”, said the founder of eponymous luxury brand Neil Felipp, whose minaudières or ornamental clutches feature in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”.
“Many of my designs are made from food by-products found in the Philippines, such as shells, goatskin, and stingray leather,” said the 33-year-old, who was born and bred in Cebu.
He is also known for fusing his love for myths and literature into his creations. “For example, I thought about what would happen if Medusa and Midas [of Greek mythology] were to meet and fall in love, and that inspired the Medusa & Midas minaudières.”
Each of Felipp’s designs is handcrafted in Cebu by highly skilled artisans, and no two pieces are completely alike.
Meanwhile, Angie Lai-Tay, the founder of ethical luxury brand ALT, works with fair-trade companies in Cambodia to transform bullet and shell casings from the wars there into fashion accessories.
All of her pieces are made from upcycled materials to minimise the waste that ends up in dumpsites.
“As a mother, I often think about how I can leave the world a better place, and it starts with our daily consumption choices,” she said.
Lai-Tay added that her brand’s accessories are made by artisans who were impacted by the conflicts in Cambodia. As such, every piece serves as “a declaration of peace, and symbol of strength for both maker and consumer”.
The third speaker on Thursday was Fern Chua, the founder of FERN, a conscious-fashion brand that specialises in beautiful hand-drawn batik apparel.
Inspired by her late father, who named her after a plant and who had a love for nature, Chua’s designs are infused with subtle details that occur in the natural world.
“We aim to cater to what customers want while preserving the traditional form of making batik,” she shared, adding that they are “mindful of not overproducing”.
“We also employ zero-waste methods where offcuts or fabric remnants are repurposed into other accessories such as scrunchies and twillies, or long, narrow silk scarves.”
Besides being environmentally friendly, items from so-called “slow” and conscious fashion are meaningful given the amount of thought and care put into them, as well as the recognition given to local and regional artisans.
And as a bonus, the apparel and accessories will last considerably longer, minimising fabric waste in dumpsites – which, according to the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation, amounted to a staggering 432,901 tonnes last year.