By Marane Plaza
Conversations about sustainable fashion have been continuously flourishing in recent years, with even big, influential luxury brands announcing their ongoing and future efforts to practice eco-friendly production in their businesses. From Gucci’s 10-year “Culture of Purpose” strategy, to Burberry’s plan to refrain from using exotic leathers in future collections, sustainability in fashion is definitely beyond just a trendy concept in the coming years.
Sustainability in style is even more refreshing though when earth-friendly and ethical practices in a fashion label are simply its innate DNA, and not just an effort or strategy.
Lost Lorelei, a global resort wear brand founded by Australian-Filipina fashion designer Lorelei Bookluck, learned early on in her business that transparent sustainability is the core value she wanted to focus on. She did not want sustainability to be just a forefront effort of her brand, but the root culture of her enterprise. She found her purpose in the world of style by not just advocating sustainable fashion, but actually living and creating it.
“I’ve always felt everyone has a role to play when it comes to doing the right thing by society and the environment. When I first started the label 6 years ago, I had two choices: to blindly outsource from a manufacturer in China, or to try and do it in the Philippines– with the hope I could pull together a team that did things the right way, and with an ambition to eventually achieve full transparency of our supply chain,” Lorelei shared during our cover shoot interview.
It was a slow yet sure journey indeed, as Lorelei spent years and years creating every little step in her own process to make sure she can develop, do and maintain pro-earth business practices in their workplace. Outsourcing her clothing production staff members and raw materials in the beginning led her to discovering that there can be more to fashion than style and glam.
“At the time, I had no idea how to navigate the manufacturing terrain. I explored Divisoria in Manila for fabrics, and found my first dressmaker in a Facebook Group.”
“I quickly learned about ‘high speed culture’ and I found out right away that building a sustainable supply chain was definitely challenging, but I’ve gradually been able to improve our practices and we are getting better through the years.”
She realized that fashion can be both fun and purposeful by gearing its direction to something sustainable, and can truly help the earth. She navigated her way into actually staying true to her brand’s ecological integrity– without sacrificing style, wearability and quality of the clothes.
“As a brand, we have always been seeking to contribute to environmental change and sustainability, and that is why we opt for natural fabrics, and absolutely no plastic. And when possible, we opt for dead-stock. Our high standards of quality, design and construction ensure all pieces can become your fashion essentials for seasons to come. It is really about thinking of the earth and our future, and using and honing our creativity and innovation along the way.”
Inspired by her own stylish mother as a child when it comes to fashion sense, Lorelei’s path to good and purposeful fashion business is something not surprising to her.
Although mostly raised and now based in Australia, Lorelei has spent part of her life in the Philippines. This Pinay beauty has always seen the strength of the local fashion business in her mom’s home country. She’s always believed in the huge potential of sustainable style production in the Philippines.
“My dad is Australian while my mom is Filipina, and both are strong influences in my life.”
Her Filipino roots have definitely pushed her to build her business based on the mission to put the spotlight on sustainable Filipino craftsmanship. This is why she decided to have her own manufacturing hub in Taytay, Rizal in the Philippines, and to work closely with talented Filipino creatives in the local clothing production landscape.
“We love the process of enhancing the skills of our makers through our unique designs. We are working hand-in-hand to build our own sustainable supply chain. We put our makers at the heart of our organization, which is why they have the option to work from home, as well as from our Lost Lorelei Taytay Manufacturing Hub in Rizal. We impart our design innovation and creation process, and in turn, also hone the creativity of everyone in the team.”
Aside from her Filipino roots, Lorelei’s design sensibilities have always been inspired also by her own wanderlust– as apparent in her laidback yet elegant, even sexy, edgy resort wear creations.
Chic with multi-style designs in neutral colors, Lost Lorelei pieces are ideal for quick, light packing yet super fashionable travel OOTDs suitable for almost all occassions.
“Many of our pieces have been designed to be worn in multiple ways. Most of our bamboo pieces are reversible, so our clientele have two different colors, which they can opt to wear many ways on different days when they travel. Our multiverse top really has dozens of ways it can be worn,” she shared. “An added bonus is that each piece allows the wearer to be creative and unique. So if you are traveling, you can travel light without compromising your style options,” she said.
The designer styled herself during our cover shoot, which showed us just how many ways one can wear a Lost Lorelei piece or ensemble in one go, hassle-free. Truly, this designer is all about stylish, minimalist yet innovative designs as seen in the multi-style engineering of her creations.
The brand name Lost Lorelei is derived from ‘being lost in the moment, enjoying the simple pleasures of life now’ mindset.
“I am inspired by travel, inspired by nature, inspired by a laidback yet purposeful lifestyle, which you can see in our chic, elegant pieces. We use neutral colors, natural fabrics, and although you wouldn’t know it by looking at our pieces, we are solely focused on sustainability.”
Sustainable Business Culture
During her early years in business, being hands-on from design concept, fabric sourcing to clothing production has helped her to discover, create, rehash and maintain a process that absolutely embraces sustainable practices in all ways possible. That process has turned into a strong culture in her business, as she has trained her team members to stay true to their core ecological practices– allowing the Lost Lorelei brand to continuously make consistently sustainable fashion pieces accessible to her global audience.
“We believe that everything we create today needs to have a positive impact on our future. We’ve learned a lot over time about how to ensure our clothing designs, as well as production quality, can last multiple seasons, which can assure timeless styles, and less to no excess. We are focused on producing collections in limited runs to meet demand, and definitely on reducing excess.”
“We over-engineer our clothing so they are meant to last. And our fabric selection, primarily bamboo and rami linen, is designed to last multiple seasons, too. We avoid chunky hardware on our clothing as we find it lowers the longevity of the clothing.”
The business tries to inject eco-friendly practices in every little detail possible, even with their packaging and shipping.
“When we were starting, I would see online groups posting job requirements to make a large number of low quality pieces per day, using only polyester fabrics and plastic packaging. Aside from having the ‘natural fabrics, absolutely no plastic’ policy in our business, we try to improve our sustainability in obvious ways, like using mailer bags and packaging made from 100% biodegradable and compostable materials.” This effort, although may be deemed little, can totally minimize plastic pollution globally.
“Also, when customers order from our website, we provide the option to offset the carbon from their delivery. And over 90% of customers do select this option, which is just a big proof that customers care about the environment too,” attesting that sustainable fashion is a two-way thing, and something the market truly supports as well.
With her brand’s steady growth and global reach in recent years, the fashion creator could not be more grateful of her humble business milestones.
“Originally we had next to no visibility. Now, we have our own manufacturing hub in Taytay, Philippines, and have much better supply chain visibility, given we have our own manufacturing hub and good relationships with suppliers.”
This brand owner hopes to expand the business in more global locations in the coming years. Always flying back and forth between Australia and the Philippines, the designer envisions eventually imparting her business know-how’s someday to aspiring clothing entrepreneurs and designers– so that they too, can develop their own eco-friendly clothing manufacturing hubs. She is planning to spearhead campaigns that can gear fashion business-owners toward sustainability, as she believes it would be a bigger impact if more and more people will try to embrace ethical ways in their fashion businesses in the coming years.
“When it comes to business, we can guide people to make more sustainable and ethical choices by creating products that they love, and that doesn’t always mean they need to look like a typically ‘sustainable’ product. The pieces, of course, need to be beautifully designed, elegant and suitable for the occasion.”
“Currently, most of our customers are based in Australia, the USA and the Philippines. We plan to expand into new markets, including Europe, where we have had a bit of organic interest already.”
“We will continue on our path towards better sustainability practices, particularly with our fabric suppliers,” she concluded.
With global issues on climate change, deforestation, plastic pollution, water shortages, loss of coral reefs and biodiversity due to overproduction, creating strategic contributions to at least no longer add to the problem is already a huge impact. Sometimes, we do not need to provide quick solutions– but slow, steady ones that can affect great, positive changes to our world little by little.
It is indeed inspiring to know that there are fashion entrepreneurs and designers who truly care about the earth – and not just talk and talk, but actually walk that talk.
Producer and Writer: Marane Plaza
Photographer: Redj Sayco
Stylist: Lorelei Bookluck
Makeup: Geil Trazona
Hair Stylist: Robin Sabay
Layout Artist: Roderick “Jhung” Mendoza
Shoot location: Manila Coworking Space
Special thanks to Illo’s Party Trays