INTERVIEW WITH ET.

ELISABETH THYS HAS BEEN THE COLLECTION DIRECTOR AT HONEST BY SINCE APRIL 2011. SHE IS ALSO ONE OF THE MODELS FOR OUR PEOPLE PAGE. READ MY INTERVIEW WITH ELISABETH THYS HERE BELOW. 

By Bruno Pieters

BP: YOU WORKED AS AN ARCHITECT BEFORE JOINING HONEST BY. IS FASHION SOMETHING YOU WERE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN? 
ET: I was captivated by fashion at an early age. I remember seeing a snippet of a Christain Lacroix show in the evening news. I was blown away; those colours and full skirts swirling on the catwalk…I was hooked. Unfortunately my parents didn’t consider fashion design to be a ‘real’ job. They kindly, yet firmly, encouraged me to study architecture as a sort of compromise between creativity and job security. Both disciplines have many similarities, but after 2 years of drawing building plans I decided to move forward in the direction I really wanted. I learned moulage and draping with a patternmaking company specializing in such techniques, during an intensive trainee-ship for 18 months. After that I found my way to Honest by.

BP: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT FASHION?
ET: Fashion is a powerful expression of our time. For me, it is about the thin line that separates the ideas of timelessness and timeliness. From that point of view it is very similar to architecture, however at a much faster pace.

BP: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE IN THE HONEST BY BRUNO PIETERS COLLECTION?
ET: The adjustable womens pants. I like versatile pieces that you can wear in different ways. It is a clever design based on the functions of different button positionings. You can wear them high or low waisted, with heels, flats or sneakers. We used my favorite fabrics within the collection; a really fine organic wool and a herringbone linen.

BP: COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOB AT HONEST BY?
ET: I start the season by sourcing sustainable fabrics at various fabric fairs in Europe, based on the brief I receive for that collection. Once the samples arrive in our office, a team of interns help me to research the origins of the raw materials and the production processes for each fabric. I present them to the designer and advise on making the best selection based on the research we have collated, the minimum quantities to order, the possibility of dyeing and the overall lead-time involved. 
In the mean time I coordinate the communication with our patternmaker and organize fittings for the collection. I attend all fittings and make sure the designers vision is maintained by taking notes of all modifications. By the time the patterns and technical drawings are done I launch the prototype stage and visit our production companies. If necessary they will advise me on what is technically possible and what is not. Once the prototypes are made we have final fittings to make sure everything looks as it should and all finishings are in place. Once the prototype stage is complete, work starts on the production of the collection which I also follow up.

BP: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO?
ET: It is great to be part of something that is as innovative and fresh as Honest by. I was lucky enough to join the team in the very beginning; when the blueprint was only just set and it was time to take action. It’s exciting to see the final production after all the research and hard work.
I also like to visit the fabric fairs. It’s a chance to meet the suppliers and to hear their side of the story. Some are really as enthusiastic about our project as we are, and that is a real energy boost. I also have to add we have a great team. This project really feels like a joint effort.

BP: IS IT DIFFICULT TO SOURCE OR FIND CERTIFIED ORGANIC SUPPLIES? IS THE VARIETY STILL LIMITED? 
ET: It is not easy, and when you produce small quantities it is even more challenging. For a supplier to get their fabric organic certified, standards require, for instance, a thorough cleaning of all production machines in order to avoid contamination with non organic fabrics. For obvious economic reasons some suppliers will not start organic certified production for just a couple of meters of fabric. They ask for minimum orders, usually a thousand meters, in order to make the process profitable for themselves.
It has also been difficult to source organic trims, accessories and interfacings. I think that most suppliers are not developing this yet because the demand is currently still low. Luckily, there are exceptions to the rule, however they are few and far between.

BP: IN YOUR OPINION WHAT IS THE BEST ORGANIC CERTIFICATE AVAILABLE AT THE MOMENT AND WHY?
ET: There are many certificates out there which can be confusing. The global organic standard (GOTS) on the other hand focuses more on textiles. It aims to define world-wide recognized requirements which are necessary to make a complex matter comprehensible for both people inside the industry and also for consumers. 

BP: WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT THE RESEARCH YOU HAVE DONE ON ORGANIC SUPPLIES?
ET: I did extensive research on wool fabrics, and thus came to investigate sheep and what happens with their fleece from the clipping to spinning process. I called all organic certified wool farms in Belgium to see what they did with their wool once their sheep were clipped. I learnt from this research process that not all wool from all breeds is suitable for fashion textiles. Some wool is just too sturdy and should only be used for carpets or for mattresses. I have found only one farm which breeds merino sheep. This wool is soft enough to spin yarns to use for knitwear. 

BP: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE HONEST BY CONCEPT?
ET: I am really excited about the transparency component behind the concept. On the one hand suppliers are credited for their fabrics and accessories, yet on the other hand Honest by is transparent about actual material cost, prices and mark up. I am very intrigued to see how this will be digested by the fashion industry and its consumers.

BP: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY? 
ET: In general, I am never that eager to express my opinions publicly. I feel that I am more of an observer. I rather prefer to watch, take a closer look, contemplate and question in the privacy of my own thoughts.

BP: DO YOU PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU BUY? ARE YOU A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER?
ET: Since I got involved with this project and started to understand more closely the supply chain, I have paid even more attention to details, finishings, and composition labels. 

BP: ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT AND ANIMAL WELFARE?
ET: I once heard someone say that the human being is the only parasite that slowly kills its own host. Food for thought, isn’t it?

BP: YOU READ THE BOOKS 'THE POWER OF NOW' AND 'A NEW EARTH' BY ECKHART TOLLE. DID READING THESE BOOKS INFLUENCE YOUR DAILY LIFE?
ET: Both books opened my eyes to a simple truth. There are only two types of situations: those you can change, and those you cannot. It is great to think about this when dealing with stress, deadlines or even on a day to day basis in relationships with others. If you can't change the current moment, accept it. If you can, then take action.

BP: WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY THESE DAYS?
ET: Where there is a will, there is a way. As you know, I am the eternal optimist.

BP: ELISABETH, THANK YOU FOR THIS INTERVIEW.
ET: Thank you.