It makes sense that a brand focused on sustainability in materials also strives for sustainability in design, staying away from fast fashion trends. Designer Edson Alves of New York City-based Bambu has a multi-layered sustainable aesthetic. On the surface, minimalistic and simple design work is made to last through brand integrity that is consistent from loungewear to gowns. Edson keeps it in the family – working with his mom and local families in Brazil on design – all of whom contribute to the world of Bambu. We caught up with Edson to get his thoughts on collaboration with clients and working with family.

How and why did you start designing?

My mother worked from home as a seamstress and clients dropped off drawings from designers along with bags of fabric.. As soon as they left, I’d scurry downstairs and paw through the bags. I’d pull out each drawing and hold it in my hand, studying the lines, the colors, the way they created shadows. I only had to remember to put them back in the right place (my mother usually had to remind me of that). My passion for design started there – I was about 13.

What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?

Obviously, finances come to mind. With money, you can have your studio space, buy your fabrics, buy dress forms, purchase the equipment, find a pattern maker, get samples made, and get PR people to put your brand out there.

What do you think about fashion today?

I came from a family owned business and fabric store in Brazil. Our work started with a conversation with the client. We talked about their needs, their body type, and their personality. As they talked, I sketched. It was a truly collaborative design process. I would say much of fashion today has lost this. In New York City, I saw women wearing things that weren’t made for their body types or personalities.

What is your fashion philosophy?

I remember working with a client of mine, who had a severe back problem, to create an evening gown for a wedding that she’d be comfortable in. I learned to empathize with my client, and I carry this empathy into my work. I start with this, and then produce practical, ethically-produced garments that are healthy for the body. Doing so creates design work that is always in fashion. My formal wear, for example, is made from the same material I use to create my yoga wear. There isn’t even a zipper.

Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

I’m very inspired by nature, such as a texture found in a leaf, its color, or its shape. I’m even inspired by the way tree roots are interlaced. I think of the shapes, colors, and aromas of plants in Brazil. In terms of people, I greatly admire the work of Elizabeth Hawes. Even in the 1930s, she was trying to find ways to produce comfortable, innovative clothes for the mass market. Hawes advocated for a revolution in mens fashion – bright colors and even skirts! She was way ahead of her time.

Any tips and tricks of the trade?

If you’re not, learn to be a good listener. Don’t be a “diva” or a “diva wanna be.” Be humble, open for suggestions and criticism. Learn how to be in control and sell your idea to your client, but always in a respectful manner. Finally, value the work of your employees and learn to work as a leader in a team. Nobody is beneath you. Oh, and listen to your mother.

See what Edson and family have come up with in Bambu’s  Virtual Studio.

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