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Making denim sustainable with Anna of E.L.V. Denim

Georgie Grant

Born out of a passion for denim and sustainability, E.L.V. Denim was founded by Fashion Stylist Anna Foster, who sources vintage jeans and transforms them into modern, sophisticated styles that are a bespoke fit. Each pair is made from start to finish in East London to minimise waste and impact on the environment.

A client of The Restory’s from the beginning, Anna is paving the way for sustainable fashion and proves that there is no excuse for the excessive water usage when creating denim clothing. E.L.V. Denim is everything we believe in at The Restory; extending the love story of your favourite items or someone else’s, by turning one woman’s trash into another’s treasure.

Anna Foster, Founder of E.L.V. Denim

Anna Foster, Founder of E.L.V. Denim

How did E.L.V. Denim come to fruition?

E.L.V. Denim was born out of a desire to re-use denim, and at the same time create a jean which was super flattering, modern and chic.  In the past, ‘sustainable’ clothes could be said to have a ‘hemp vibe’, and I wanted to change this status quo. Not to mention that by using vintage jeans every single jean is unique which is one of our major USP’s!  I feel it’s so important to celebrate what we already have and that is why I feel there is such a synergy between E.L.V. Denim and The Restory – we are giving new life to pieces which don’t have to be thrown away.  

What was the decision behind working with denim?

Denim is one of the most functional fabrics, it was the original workwear material.  Just because the original jean is now longer wanted, the fabric still lives on. And when thinking about a supply of already existing material it was the obvious choice to work with.  There are more jeans than people in the world… and they are the ‘dirtiest’ in terms of water use and pollution.

Why was it important to work with Blackhorse Lane Atelier?

Supporting local businesses is one of the core values of E.L.V. Denim (E.L.V. stands for East London Vintage).  I set out to produce the jeans locally, and when I was introduced to Han and Annie at Blackhorse Lane Atelier, I immediately knew that they were the ones to work with.  They have a strong social sustainable policy, another core value of my brand. I probably should have met other factories just to make sure, but I operate using my instinct, and it was right.  Their support with production and mentoring has been invaluable. It’s also a hub of creativity with art restorers, weavers and a rather delicious restaurant and kitchen called Gather E17.

How do you go about sourcing the denim?

I have carefully chosen a list of suppliers and developed strong relationships with them all. I prefer to use non-branded jeans as these are the ones which are less likely to have any resale value.  I essentially want what most vintage retailers don’t want … and that can only be a good thing.

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

Denim has a notoriously bad rep in terms of extensive water usage so what’s the process like when manufacturing E.L.V jeans?

The most alarming statistic is that it takes up to 10,000 litres of water to make ONE pair of jeans.  It’s difficult to visualise this volume of water but when you explain that it’s the same amount of water that one person needs to drink in 13 years… it becomes very real. This allows you to grasp how damaging the majority of denim production is to the environment.  The only time E.L.V. Denim uses water in the manufacturing process is to wash the jeans after they arrive from the vintage supplier and have gone through our careful sorting process. The washing is carried out at a local laundrette in keeping with our policy to support local businesses.  In comparison to 10,000 litres, I only use 8. Hopefully it’s easy to quantify the difference!

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

Spring/Summer 19 Collection

How did you transition from stylist to creative director?

As an editorial stylist, and consultant I believe I have the experience and knowledge to understand what is desirable.  And I also love that I can make clients feel great in their clothes. This combination made the transition quite seamless.  I am still styling as I don’t believe I have to give up one to do the other… (yet!). Both parts enormously help the other.

How do you envision growing the brand?

I am developing using new deadstock materials.  I launch ‘The Cord’ with Net A Porter for AW19. I am growing the product line to include Jackets, Bags, Belts and Scrunchies.  The jeans are gender fluid, so I want to get out there the notion of more boys wearing my jeans. I feel I have so much to do, but luckily I don’t feel the need to create newness structured by the ‘fashion seasons’.  I can launch the new products as and when they are perfect.

What's your advice for people starting out their sustainability journey?

 It’s all about balance.  That and conscious choices.  A bit like a balanced diet… you couldn’t live on chocolate and wine alone, but in moderation they can be enjoyed as long as the rest of your diet is health conscious.  A balanced wardrobe is the same concept… you might have the odd very unsustainable piece of clothing, but if it was consciously bought for a special occasion or has wonderful memories then the happiness is part of positive social sustainability which is equally important.  But try to ask questions of your fashion choices: Where was it made? Where was it produced? Why is it that price? If it’s a cheap online brand divide the price by 4 and that is what it financially cost to make, let alone the cost to the environment, and to the person who made it.