These days when the word “sustainability” has degenerated to the point of being meaningless, it is refreshing to see a fashion label such as Shakkei make “green fashion” look like a credible and honourable idea.
Gabriel Baradee’s label is a reliably regular presence at Vienna Fashion Week. He remains faithful to his ecological demands and is demonstrating this through the way he relates to his staff, his choice of materials and production methods. But none of this happens at the expense of aesthetic values. In our interview the Vienna-based designer who founded his label in 2009, tells us all about how “green” and “fashion” can go together, where there’s still some catching up to do, and why it is perfect for him to be based in Vienna’s seventh district, Neubau.
Before embarking on your fashion degree you did Japanese studies. What made you choose this educational route?
In a way, Japanese studies prepared me for studying fashion. Japan is still a huge source of inspiration for my work. You can also tell that from my label’s name “Shakkei”. I have always been fascinated by handcraft, by Japanese art, woodcuts, origami, ikebana and all those amazing arts. These are all influences that flow into my own work.
Sustainability is a frequently used word. What does it mean to you?
It is an overused term, and I define my label as a fashion label first, and only then in terms of being “green” and “sustainable”. I think it’s really important that the design aspect does not get neglected. Sustainability is an “add on” to us. What does that mean to us? We base it on three different pillars: One is the cloth and the material, so we use a lot of ecologically sound or certified materials. The second pillar is production: we are still producing 85 percent of our clothes in Austria, so it’s local. And the third pillar is distribution. We make small and tight collections, and we produce only in small runs, so when we’re running out of something we get another production done. This way we never have large overstock that we would then have to sell off cheaply at the sale of the sale of the sale.
How do you see the future of sustainability in fashion?
I’m hoping it will develop along the lines of nutrition or cosmetics. I have a feeling that we are still at the beginning. We’ll need to get to the point where there is a green-wear department in every high end boutique, just as they have an organic line of products in every supermarket. But it’s still a long way to go. Stores show very little sustainable evening wear, for example.
You are perfectly located here on Ulrichsplatz in Neubau. What is it that has attracted you to this quarter?
For a start, it’s a very urban environment that suits my fashion really well. Apart from that, I’m profiting from the location, because it’s obviously a cool district that is also a favorite among many visiting tourists. We have a lot of tourist customers. We are close to the MuseumsQuartier, there are chic hotels, amazing bars and restaurants in the area. You quickly feel at home here.
Images courtesy of Zara Pfeifer.