Carmen Gama, a Mexican designer from Eileen Fisher Renew, is leading the sustainability movement through designing scalable solutions for fashion circularity. With Remake in Mexico this month to meet garment makers and artisans, we are very excited to sit down with Carmen to share her fashion journey with you. Go Mexico!
Eileen Fisher Renew is created with garments from Eileen Fisher’s take back program. Through reimagining the production process and redesigning, Carmen is helping finding new lives for discarded clothes.
Tell us more about Eileen Fisher Renew. What inspired you to join the brand?
We share the same values, which is why during my senior year at Parsons I applied to a competition that Eileen Fisher and the CFDA created to bring three recently graduating fashion students to figure out a solution for all the damaged inventory from Eileen Fisher’s take back program. I was one of the three winners.
how would you describe the brand’s aesthetic?
Eileen Fisher is a womenswear clothing brand that focuses on simple dressing through timeless designs and sustainable practices.
When did you first become interested in sustainability?
I came to Parsons with my childhood dream of becoming the best designer in the world. You know we all have this crazy dream. I wanted to work for the best designer houses, especially Dior, since John Galliano really inspired me to become a Fashion Designer. Luckily enough, I was surrounded by teachers that really pushed my design thinking to the next level and taught me about all the waste that this industry generates and the impact it has on our planet and people. From then on I decided that if I were to bring more “stuff” into this world, I had to at least create solutions through my designs.
What has your journey been like as a designer – from both an aesthetic and sustainability standpoint?
It has been very challenging, but not necessarily in a bad way. I love challenges! My personal aesthetic as a designer is very bold and colorful. I am very inspired by pure and innovative designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Iris van Herpen and especially the work of fashion design students. When we are in school there aren’t any limits with our designs since we don’t have to worry about sales or production. Our designs are pure. However, I am now very grounded in the idea of functionality, durability and responsible design.
But it is my boldness in design and pattern making skills that have helped me with the daily challenges I face of designing new wearable garments out of old garments and to design scalable processes to produce these garments.
Can you describe what a typical day for you is like?
I am a morning person and I like routine. I get up early to exercise and take my dog, Wagner, to the dog park. Then I head to work where I always start with a nice cup of tea and checking emails. My daily work is a very fast paced. I am constantly learning and adapting. Either I am designing new collections, working with our technical designers on creating new patterns, fittings or giving tours to industry leaders and students. I do like taking a nice lunch break with my friend and partner in crime Carolina Bedoya.
After work I really need to decompress from all the brain pushups so I take Wagner for a super long walk along the Hudson River Park. On my walk I always skype with my mother and brother and then head home to either keep working (I know I just said that I need to decompress from work and here I come right back to work lol) or just treat myself to some romcom movies over cookies and chips.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Follow your dreams and find a way to make a living from them.
Do you feel like marketing Eileen Fisher Renew as sustainable has helped or hindered the brand?
Eileen Fisher Renew has been a great part of the Eileen Fisher business. It has created more loyalty with our core customers. We have also acquired new customers that are in love with the brand but weren’t able to afford the first life garments.
What are your thoughts on today’s fashion cycle?
Fashion needs to slow down. Companies are just putting more stuff in the world that has no real value or even good design. Designers need to have more time to generate new and disruptive ideas. That is the only way we can make real progress against the challenges our industry is facing.
How do you believe the fast fashion industry can begin to fix itself?
If it wants to change, it needs to slow down and take time to reevaluate the entire business models, values, process, designs and start making slow changes towards the goal of becoming an industry that generates solutions rather that creating more problems for the environment and people.
How can brands manage their waste?
As designers, we have all the tools in our hands to impact the whole supply chain and create a solution that is not wasteful and more resourceful. We have the power to design without waste.
It all starts with the designers.
The fabrics and colors we choose, the construction of the garments that we decide and even the trend of the moment we decide to follow really will impact the waste we generate in the world.
What brands do you look up to?
Eileen Fisher of course.
What advice do you have for other designers interested in sustainability?
Consider what goals you want to achieve and your personal values. Then start making real and small steps towards your end line. But the most important piece of advice is this: you cannot do it alone. Reach out to people and corporations that will help you learn more and grow.
And now for some fun stuff. If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
An artist. I’ve always loved painting and my house in Mexico is covered with my amateur paintings. Bless my mother for letting me be super creative and make a mess of my house.
What do you do for fun?
I love going to museums, art galleries, concerts and festivals. And rollerblading with my huge husky, Wagner.
What is something nobody knows about you?
That pink is my favorite color.
Who would you love to see in Eileen Fisher Renew?
Iris Van Herpen
Where do you like to shop?
I only shop at thrift stores for clothing, and for shoes if I could own all the Dr. Marten shoes I will be super happy.
What is your most favorite thing to wear?
My pink studded Dr. Marten boots. Loveeee them, and they are beginning to fall apart now so I will be super sad when they stop been wearable.
How do you wear your values?
By supporting secondhand and wearing secondhand everyday.
You can shop for Eileen Fisher Renew Here. <3
Headed to Net Impact? Come hear Carmen and Remake’s Founder Ayesha’s talk: Building Urgency in the Slow Fashion Movement.
Photos: Courtesy of Carmen Gama and NY Magazine