Totally Besotted: Jeanne Guenat And Elliott Upton Of SOTTES On Sustainability In Fashion

Ahead of the launch of their second collection, Recommence 2.0, the founders of the Swiss label sat down with L'Officiel Singapore to talk about sustainability, upcycling, and the link between fashion and the climate crisis
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All images courtesy of Surrender

When Jeanne Guenat and Elliott Upton started SOTTES two years ago, protecting the planet and people was the first thing on their minds. Before sustainability became a buzzword, the duo were walking the walk with their unusual approach to design, wherein each garment and accessory is made using recycled materials. 

Seasonless, gender-neutral, handmade, and waste-free, SOTTES is an expression of rebellion against mass production, cheap labour, and unrelenting quest for the new. Available at Surrender, the Recommence 2.0 collection represents a creative evolution from the first, while still upholding the core values of the brand's DNA. We sat down with the designers to find out how they continue to forge their own path in fashion. 


Tell us more about the inspiration behind, as well as the message of Recommence 2.0?

We did Recommence 1.0 as a kind of blank page for us to write on, so 2.0 is a continuation of the SOTTES story. With the four new additions to the collection, we added more colour, more embroidery, and more prints as a way to emphasise the mentality and childish aesthetic of SOTTES. 


Both the Recommence and Recommence 2.0 collections have a heavy emphasis on white, what does the colour mean to you?

White is like a clean slate for us to start on and keep going. We use upcycled materials from bedsheets and tablecloths, so the details on the fabric would go to waste if we dyed it otherwise. We want to share with people how the things you find around the house can be amazing as clothes. 

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In terms of materials and techniques, have there been any updates of changes?

There is a lot more hand embroidery to showcase the handmade element of SOTTES, and we definitely explore more colours in the 2.0. We've also switched to upcycling the buttons instead of making them. We've become more confident, more creative, and less safe as we go along. 


Which are your favourite pieces from the collection?

The coat - it's simple, but detailed. When you look more closely you see things you didn't notice before, like the thread marks in the lining and the raised pillows in the checks. And the patchwork shirt that's made from the leftover scraps of cloth from Recommence 1.0. And the fully reversible jacket, which you can wear inside out for an explosion of colour. And the hats!

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The recent Spring/Summer 2020 shows were marked by a greater focus on environmental consciousness, upcycling, carbon neutrality etc. What do you make of it?

Like we say in French, something is always better than nothing. For big brands, it's so difficult to change because they have to completely switch up the way they work, but if they already take small steps that's good. Brands have to understand it's not a trend but an obligation, and it has to be something they really believe in, not a marketing point. Hopefully the momentum will continue. 


How do you think brands can do more?

It would be a nice step to also save the people on this earth, for brands to treat their workers better and pay them better. They have to rethink how they employ people, and how factories work in terms of water, electricity, pollution, and all that. Buyers also need to be re-educated to think about the people behind a product, so it would be easier to accept a certain price or idea. 

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What first sparked your interest in sustainability?

It came naturally while working for other brands and seeing the big problem of waste. There's no point adding to the problem, so we wanted to do something where we're conscious about what we do. You can't keep coming up with brands that are fast fashion and making waste, because things will go downhill really quickly. 


What are you working on next?

We've spoken to some others stores that share the same ideas of fashion for the future, so hopefully more collaborations and more capsule projects, depending on what we can source. More accessories and maybe even a lifestyle line. 


First seen in the February 2020 issue of L'Officiel Singapore

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