Ethical Undies Month: Luxury lingerie with a conscience from Studio Pia
We all love a bit luxury right? Global demand for luxury goods is strong and rapidly growing, with over $200 billion in annual sales each year. Luxury items allow us, the consumer, to buy limited edition items; to own products that we can feel proud of. But can we really be proud of our luxury items? The high cost of cheap fashion in environmental and human rights terms is widely documented and by paying more for items we are led to believe that they are ‘better’ or ‘more ethically produced’, but is this true?
The research says not. It isn’t just fast fashion brands that copy other designers or use sweatshop labour. These practices exist across the industry, from budget to luxury fashion. It’s not uncommon to find workers in the same factory producing both fast fashion and luxury fashion garments, or to find them making both the “original designs” and the fast-fashion versions.
So, as conscious consumers, we must remain inquisitive about a brand, no matter how they position themselves in the market or the cost of their products. One woman who knows this all too well is Pia Conaghan, founder of Studio Pia; the luxury lingerie brand with a conscience and this week’s featured ‘Ethical Undies’ brand.
Studio Pia is ethically crafted in the UK, with a focus on fashion-led, creative design, and cruelty-free, organic silk. Every garment is designed to be ultra-flattering (and super sexy) on a range of body types. When I say super sexy, I mean super sexy. This is luxury ethical lingerie with more class and style than you could shake a very expensive stick at.
Here Pia talks to Flor & Cesta about the inspiration for the brand and shares her thoughts on the future of ethical lingerie.
Tell me a bit about you
Since graduating from LCF in 2009 I worked as the designer for Bordelle for 4 years and freelanced for both established and start-up brands for the last 3+ years. Freelancing means every day is different, and I've had the opportunity to explore various areas of the intimates industry.
What was the inspiration for StudioPia?
In recent years, I've found myself becoming more acutely aware of the huge ethical issues surrounding the fashion industry, but at the same time noticing a demand for me to launch my own line.
This lead me to begin creating a lingerie collection that was designed in a responsible way, without sacrificing the luxe factor. From my research into other ethical lingerie brands, I found, for the most part, the products were focussed on simplicity and comfort, so I felt I could carve out a niche for myself combining my background in luxury lingerie with ethical ideals.
The fabrics were crucial to the collection. As a lifelong veggie, I was interested in using peace silk, an alternative to standard silk with cruelty-free production methods. I had also long been in awe of the scope of possibility with embroidery, and frustrated with how formulaic and safe it so often is when used on lingerie, so I wanted to introduce the exciting, artistic designs seen in couture fashion, to the lingerie market. I spent around 6 months developing the debut collection's 'Jungle' embroidery, inspired by Henri Rousseau, in collaboration with a French embroidery house.
What are your plans for Studio Pia and how do you plan to remain ethically conscious as you grow the brand?
Whilst growth is important, we're in no rush. It's important Studio Pia grows at a pace we can manage. We are looking to add new ranges, increase our international press presence, and gain more stockists, predominantly in Europe and the US.
I believe that growth will mean we will have even more ethical options open to us, such as using specialist fabrics with minimums currently too high for us, and working with UK manufacturers who offer great quality at a better price with increased quantity. Our carefully selected suppliers can handle orders both large and small, so we can count on them to stick with us as we grow.
To me it feels like there is a lack of ethical lingerie brands in the UK, do you agree?
I think there are actually a lot of small UK lingerie brands who are working ethically, they just might not market themselves as such. Many of them produce small quantities, in the UK, making only two collections per year, and often utilising end-of-line fabrics and trims. When it comes to using more eco fabrics, sourcing them can be challenging, and minimum quantities very difficult to meet for a small brand.
The number of components required to make lingerie can make it very difficult to be 100% ethical, and I don't pretend Studio Pia is. We decided to focus on UK manufacturing, recycled packaging, cruelty-free silk and unique embroideries. There are a million more ethical ideas we would like to incorporate but it is important to get those core principles right first.
If you could say one thing to all the CEO's of fast fashion retail brands what would it be?
Transparency is key, and some sort of standardised compulsory labelling could be an answer (such as with the food and beauty industries), but honestly, I feel the change must start with the customer. Fast fashion is bottom line driven and only reacts to demand, and right now we are consuming fashion at a disastrous rate. We need to educate young people about the manufacturing process at every stage and change their perception of value. If they can start to buy less and buy better, the high street will be forced to respond with higher quality materials and manufacturing. I'd love it if one day we can do away with the term 'ethical fashion'!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to Flor & Cesta Pia. It’s amazing to hear about brands that are turning the tide on stereotypes and proving that environmentalism and sustainability are not a hippie notion, they are for everyone.
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