Last week we had the pleasure of (e) meeting Florence from Fil Etik. Vibrant, easy going and inspiring are qualities that stand out from our conversation. She is in charge of design and sourcing at Fil Etik, but originally started her journey as a luxury fashion designer. When she met Aurelie (founder of Fil Etik) she started to connect the pieces of the puzzle and started to truly question the textiles she was using, how they were made and where they came from. Now she is part of the team of Fil Etik, a place where fabrics make sense.
Name: Florence Blall
Works at: Fil Etik
Something that surprised you about the fashion industry: That every 6 months we had to reinvent the wheel. Why are we always rushed?
Sustainable cause you feel strongly about: Everything is of interest to me, but I am now more interested in natural material sourcing that respects both people and the environment.
Books worth reading: Le petit prince, it brings me to the core of the sense of life.
People always come to you for: My expertise in luxury fashion, in design and teaching design, and a growing knowledge of sustainable sourcing.
Someone you look up to: Nelson Mandela
Better Magazine: How did your journey in the fabric world start?
Florence: My mom was a really good sewer, and I was full of ideas, so I would always go to her several days before an event so that she would help me create new outfits. Then later when I was 13 I went to a job fair at school and met a fashion designer. I went home that day and told my parents that this is what I wanted to do. I studied Fashion Design at Saint Martins and worked over a decade in the luxury fashion segment as a designer.
My specific interest in fabric grew around 8 years ago when I met Aurelie (founder of Fil etik). She was back then already connected with ecology and sustainable practices in many aspects of her life and started making her own clothes but she couldn’t find beautiful fabrics that matched her values. She wanted to provide home sewers with fabrics that would meet good sustainability standards. We started to help each other as I had my technical knowledge as a designer and she inspired my views on fashion because when I met her I started to question everything. 10 years ago in the fashion industry your address book was your best kept secret, transparency was not even a topic, nobody questioned where fabrics came from.
BM: How do you select the best fabric? What do you look for?
F: There are different ways to approach sustainability when it comes to fabrics sourcing, but we, at Fil Etik, always favour natural fabrics, above recycled polyester for example. So far, we have not considered artificial fabrics yet, but we are open to the possibility of lyocell, which is the eco-friendly version of the viscose process. Above all we work with Organic cotton, Hemp and Organic linen, as these last two have a history of being produced locally in Europe.
We are facing the problem of the growing costs of organic cotton, the demand is higher than the offer, so we have to consider alternatives.
We are working with European organic linen weavers, and another company who is planting their own hemp in France. They are not organic yet, but by working with them and trusting their mission we can support their transition towards producing local organic hemp.
80% of linen is grown in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands but most of the production goes to Asia to be spun into yarn and woven or knitted. This doesn’t make sense to us and that’s why we are looking for ways to support initiatives to redirect a bigger part of this local production to the local market.
Besides tracing down the origins of all our materials one of our 2022 goals is to get GOTS certified. We also have been asking all our sourcing partners from the beginning for full traceability and being GOTS certified from the raw material to fabric. Next to that we occasionally buy deadstock from ethical and sustainable brands to resell to smaller businesses or home sewers who need smaller quantities, but are looking for high quality.
BM: What would you recommend to someone who is thinking about starting their own clothing label and doesn’t know which fabrics to select?
F: The word sustainability is complex on its own, it tackles many problems and you have to find what is the most important problem you want to solve. Is it circularity? Not using virgin materials? Or do you only want to use fabrics that have the smallest impact on the people and environment? For example bamboo has been made popular as an eco-friendly material because it uses a lot less water than cotton and is easy to grow, but bamboo fiber is not directly spinnable into yarn and has to be transformed through a viscose process which uses lots of chemicals and the people who produce it are exposed to dangerous hazards, so to me it’s definitely not the best material. Synthetic textiles, even recycled ones, have lots of issues with shedding microplastics, this is why we have made the choice, at Fil Etik, to only work with organic and/or endemic natural fibers so far. So I recommend you find one cause you feel strongly about and start from there.
BM: Which role do you think textiles play in our society?
F: Everyone is wearing clothes, so it’s very present in everybody’s life. The fashion industry employs a lot of people in the world, from farmers, to weavers, knitters, manufacturers, designers, retailers etc., so if it would change it could have a high level of impact not only for our industry but for the entire world. The impact is huge, we can potentially go from one of the most polluting industries to one of the most innovative and inspiring industries. One of the keys to this systematic change is to rethink where we put value. We attach so much value to designing, ideation, marketing, but no value at all to the making of those fabrics and garments. This needs to change.
BM: What’s your next step regarding improving your sustainable practices?
F: Getting the company GOTS certified, it will give us that extra credibility as we are the last step in the transparent supply chain that we have put in place that needs to be certified. We want to carry on discovering knitters and weavers here in France, and we want to support new initiatives in Linen and Hemp in Europe. We feel there is lots of potential for short circuit production here. What is also important for us is that we want to keep on creating modern, timeless fabrics, so people can express themselves with their designs in these high quality fabrics and move away from the trends and seasons.
If you would like to contact Florence or work with the beautiful fabrics from Fil Etik please go to their website or Instagram for more information.