Poodles, pentagrams and plants: an interview with VIN + OMI

(Image credit: VIN + OMI)
When you think ‘eco fashion’, luxury might not be the first thing that springs to mind
(hemp and hippies might be).
VIN + OMI is here to change those perceptions. Not so much a fashion label as a movement, VIN + OMI is the brainchild of two designers who stay true to the best parts of fashion - art, beauty, provocation, fun - while eliminating the worst parts - mindless waste and unethical business models.
Dr Jackson’s was delighted to sponsor VIN + OMI’s Spring/Summer 19 collection, ‘Thought: The New Religion’, whose riotous colours, spunky models and boundary-pushing designs brought several uninitiated travellers to a standstill at St Pancras International Station last week.
Following the show, we caught up with VIN + OMI to learn more about the collection and their vision for the future of fashion.
You describe VIN + OMI as ‘not just a fashion label, but an ideology’. When and how was VIN + OMI born?
We’ve worked on fashion projects since 2004. We started with latex, but we wanted to develop the origins of where our latex comes from, in conjunction with the designs. So we looked at different ways of finding latex, and then researched where latex comes from and how we could make our latex sustainable and organic - with village plantations that are looked after in the right way, too.
We spent a bit of time in Malaysia researching that – and so this kind of fashion came along with the origins of our textiles and our processes.
We love this commitment to using pioneering materials and processes to create your clothes. Can you tell us a little more about how these have evolved over the years?
We use latex from our own plantation in Malaysia, which is organic, eco and sustainable. We work a lot with fabrics made from plants, so we grow our own nettles, baie rose, willows, herbs, and flax. We amalgamate them in different types of fabrics. They’re all grown in the Cotswolds, and we process and weave them locally.
We also collect ocean and river plastic. We’ll research areas of rivers and oceans that need clearing up, and we’ll work with organisations that do that, or we’ll set up our own project with an organisation to salvage plastic, which we will then use for our collections.
“We don’t have a set formula, we don’t go on design research projects. We just walk around with our eyes open and organically design as the collection grows.”
We’ve just worked on a project called Bin to Body with London College of Fashion, where we’ve taken the waste bottles from Men’s Fashion Week and turned them into textiles for Women’s Fashion Week, which we then put on the catwalk in the form of bags. We’re doing a project called Can to Catwalk. This is taken from a homelessness project near Birmingham, where they collect cans from parks and clean up metal objects from streets and areas full of rubbish. We then pay for that metal and turn that into textiles, which we’re now putting on the catwalk.
We also make No Kill Fleece –– so that’s pet animals who have their clippings once a year. We use those in our wool outfits.
Who or what inspires VIN + OMI designs?
Everything! We don’t have a set formula, we don’t go on design research projects. We just walk around with our eyes open and organically design as the collection grows.
If you could describe your clothes in three words, what would they be?
Bold, thoughtful, interesting.
“Luxury, for us, is the process as well as the actual end result.”
‘Luxury’ and ‘eco’ have historically been two very different industries. Has it been challenging to build a label that straddles the two?
Yes, it has been challenging. Because ‘eco’, for many years, was just seen to be the domain of hippies, and it has been difficult for us to develop the luxury end of it, so that we’re aiming at a market that appreciates the time and effort we put into developing our textiles. Luxury, for us, is the process as well as the actual end result.
Sustainability is core to your brand, from your clothes to your business models - and while eco textiles are becoming increasingly popular, the latter is often neglected. What do you think is broken in the fashion industry and how does VIN + OMI aim to change this through alternative business models?
We’re doing a business model that is very sustainable in that we’ve been going for many years – we’ve been going now for 13 or 14 years. Many fashion companies peak and then die in a couple of years because it’s a very hard industry to stay in. We’ve reversed the normal way of doing things in retail, so that we don’t depend on retail income in that way. We’re selling in our own ways, dealing with buyers and retailers, and just slowly doing things organically. The important thing is that we have sustainable revenue streams coming from different directions.
What can consumers do to drive social and environmental change?
They can buy carefully –– think with their wallet and choose their clothes very carefully.
See more of the VIN + OMI SS19 collection here.

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