Sometimes a random encounter with an inspiring individual is enough to turn your world upside down, to switch your scale of values and make you pursue your dreams even more decidedly. Arianna Reagan found this inspiration in Caroline Fuss, an Australian woman in New York running Harare, a small design label. “She really inspired me to get into textiles preservation and sustainable fashion,” she explains. “After coming from a big corporate environment where everything was made in China and nobody cared, it allowed me to see a really authentic side of the fashion industry.” This rewarding experience was the seed for Arcana, founded by Reagan in 2015 and named after the trump cards of the Tarot deck that weave the narrative of a soul’s journey through life. One can say that her creations epitomize the good side of globalization. Textiles are being sourced from artisans practicing their indigenous craft and helping thus to preserve such unique cultural expressions, endangered through fast fashion manufacturing practices. At the same time, production takes mostly place within manufacturers based in New York’s Garment District, in order to make sure that the people who actually make the garments work in a safe environment and get paid a fair wage.
Reagan’s freakiness for rare fabrics brought her to Bali recently. “I rode on the back of a motorcycle all the way around the island looking for someone who’s still processing traditional Balinese textile weaving until I found one. Then I had a late night chat with the owner of the company trying to break down into the logistic: how are we going to get all of this fabric from one side of the planet to the other.” For Arcana’s spring/summer 2017 collection, she’s offering a bodice and matching pants manufactured in Balinese Endek fabric, where every ikat style is hand-woven on back-strap looms, displaying traditional motifs through a subtle array of palettes. Other collection highlights are a blouse with bishop sleeves that can be removed entirely in high-summer thanks to its lace-up construction or a full-length gown with ruffles that can be transformed into a slip dress.
Willing to experience more about Arcana’s commitment to changing the way we view the consumption of fashion and other interesting insights, here’s the rest of our chat with Arianna Reagan.
Even though your clothes are manufactured in NYC, the fabrics are sourced from artisans in exotic places like Bali or Maheshwar (India). How do you find out about these people?
Different ways. For sure the internet is becoming a better tool for sourcing international fabrics. There are fantastic resources that are strongly growing and focus on connecting designers with sustainable textile producers around the world, e.g. the Ethical Fashion Forum [sourcing directory].
What are your current bestselling pieces?
The bomber jacket is absolutely a bestselling piece. They’re made out of vintage kimono stock bolts and one bolt can only make one kimono, since they’re very tiny. So I can do one or two bomber jackets out of few of these bolts. They’re total unique, really special pieces!
Do you attend any trade shows to pocket new stockists for the brand?
I did Capsule last spring and I decided not to do it again this season. Instagram is really the new way of finding stockists for me, probably because this is such a visual industry. Half of my current stockists come from Instagram. We were following each other, we’ve loved each other visual storytelling and that’s how we connected.
Half of my current stockists come from Instagram. We were following each other, we’ve loved each other visual storytelling and that’s how we connected.
How do you think that the market demand for sustainable clothing will evolve in years to come?
Right now, sustainable fashion is very expensive. The textiles are more labor-intensive to produce; the people who are manufacturing these clothing are actually getting paid a living wage and obviously that’s going to be more expensive than a sweatshop. I think that sustainable fashion needs to break into the other areas of the market, so that it’s acceptable to everybody. On the other side, the population at large needs to start shifting in order to understand the value of their clothing and how much it really costs for other people to buy cheap clothes. I think that’s happening in the market right now. You’re seeing a very savvy consumer who really understands the origins of their clothing while looking to buy less and buy better, and designers need to keep up with that.
The population at large needs to start shifting in order to understand the value of their clothing and how much it really costs for other people to buy cheap clothes.
What are the biggest challenges for young designers to start their own label?
I would say it is about being able to balance life with work. Because I work seven days a week and I’m always on. If I’m hanging out with friends and someone from the garment district is calling me saying ‘hey, your kimono stock is on the cutting cable and there’s not enough to make a bomber jacket –what do you want us to do?’, I need to drop everything and go there. So the challenge is to keep experiencing the real world, other people and what’s going on outside of your own studio.