Swiss-based label Sottes rewrites conventional codes to push the agenda for timeless, waste-free and genderless style

SINGAPORE (Oct 21): Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change of fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing textiles or products; it also addresses the whole system of fashion. It means considering the industry from the perspective of many stakeholders — users and producers as well as current and future dwellers on earth.

Sounds like heady stuff? Not quite — this just means making clothes with a minimal impact on the environment. While easy to understand, this principle is not always easy to put in place as it requires a complete rewriting of conventional fashion codes, right from how clothes are made to what they are made from and how long and for whom they are meant for use. Jeanne Guenat and Elliot Upton have done this with Sottes, creating a fashion brand that challenges many of the norms to be, at heart, truly sustainable.

The real meaning behind the French word Sottes is a “mischievous and precocious child”. The brand not only takes this meaning and uses it in its designs, but also creates its own rules. Going against mass production, cheap labour and countless seasons is how Sottes pushes back against the industry. The universe surrounding the brand is a feeling of childlike creativity, which can be found in the style of print design and the way the garments are constructed.

With a shared vision of working towards a season-less and waste-free industry, Guenat and Upton have combined their fashion design background and experience in luxury to create a brand that defies fast fashion and factory-made production. Physically moving away from style capitals and setting up shop in a small Swiss village, they aim to interrupt the world of contemporary fashion with their sustainably upcycled line of undefined garments for the undefined audience — one that goes beyond age, size, gender and trends.

With every collection, garments are designed in a customisable way, which gives the wearer ease of versatility. As the clothing is sizeless and genderless, the Sottes customer can be anyone and everyone, and the wardrobe possibilities are endless. The generous proportions and creative closures allow men and women of various sizes to wear them — just as a white shirt can be worn by a man or a woman.

The focus on upcycling allows for spontaneity when designing the collections — whatever recycled materials are procured will be the directive as to what the maison will produce next. As it is with creating art, everything at Sottes is done with purpose, care and intent — all garments are handmade by Guenat and Upton in their workshop alongside a team of local seamstresses, who meticulously finish each piece from beginning to end, as couture is traditionally made.

Given the man hours required to create each piece, collections are released twice a year with limited runs per style. Because each garment is handmade and because of the nature of the recycled materials used, each piece has its own character and story to tell; how the narrative moves forward continues on with the Sottes customer telling his or her own story.

In this part of the world, Sottes is only available at Singapore boutique Surrender. A fashion space where art plays an important role, Surrender is designed to stimulate the senses and invoke thoughts and the exchange of ideas and conversations within the retail environment. Both brands share a common belief and link between fashion and art.

Recommence is Sottes’ debut collection and it instils the idea of recommencing something new from an end. Made using natural fibre fabrics sourced from vintage stores in Switzerland, the all-white collection symbolises a blank canvas, on which the brand’s identity is built.

Black-and-white silkscreen printed images can be seen throughout the collection. These prints exude a childlike naivety and playfulness, akin to that of a child drawing on freshly painted walls — aptly capturing the core meaning of Sottes. For instance, printed on the Busboy Shorts is “sale gamin”, which is French slang for “naughty kid”.

No detail is spared in the handmade production process. Each piece of clothing features embroidered details of the Sottes logo and a drawing of a stick man, which harks back to the playfulness of a child’s sketches. All buttons are designed and made in-house, laser-cut using recycled plexiglas and then sandblasted, shaped and polished by hand. The garments also feature a variety of fastenings that allow the wearer to adjust them to suit their own size and style, however they see fit. Most styles can be worn in multiple ways with some being completely detachable, as seen with the Next Patient Coat as well as the Packing Mule Vest and Packing Mule Belt.

For its new collection, Sottes is introducing four additions to the Recommence line while continuing to use natural white fabric for its base. Recommence 2.0 is an evolution of colour, shape and design that will see more and more garments added over the years as the brand continues to build a constant line of clothing that will run parallel to other project releases. These new pieces feature vibrant patchwork, unique designs and traditional production techniques as Sottes takes steps towards strengthening its image and expanding its arsenal of ideas, concepts and products for the future.