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Fashion Talk

Jennifer Droguett

Founder
Label - Anciela

The only way you can govern your supply chain is by keeping it as simple as possible

Colombian-Chilean designer Jennifer Droguett founded the London-based conscious womenswear label Anciela as a homage to her South American heritage. It celebrates South American folklore and experimental tailoring and is a culmination of Droguett’s rich experiences of a childhood combined with an outsider’s perspective gained from leaving the homeland and living in London. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Droguett talks about how she developed an interest for the fashion industry and her journey so far.

Fibre2Fashion: What attracted you towards the fashion industry? How has your journey been?

Jennifer Droguett:

I always had an affinity for making. I was a very crafty child, and often at school, the teachers would call my mom and tell me off, thinking my mom was doing the art projects for me. My first introduction to dressmaking was when I was nine years old, and my mother took me to a seamstress who made my first communion dress. I picked the fabric and explained the dress I wanted to the seamstress. I had my measurements taken, and without really knowing it, I had designed my first dress. It was an amazing feeling to try it on when it was finished. This experience was really special, and it gave me a whole understanding of how clothes were made and sparked my curiosity about making.

After that, I started experimenting with upcycling, using my mother’s old clothing. My dad gave me my first sewing machine when I was 14, and the rest was history. That machine followed me to fashion school in Amsterdam where I graduated in 2015 from AMFI—the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. My first experience in fashion was an internship at the haute couture atelier of Viktor & Rolf nearly 10 years ago. It was incredible. I had to pinch myself; it was quite something that someone like me could even be there. I was their very first Latina intern. Most important of all, I learnt about the endless possibilities of what fashion can be beyond clothing. I moved to London shortly after I graduated and started another internship at House of Holland, which led me to my first job at the design studio. After that, I worked as a freelance designer and pattern cutter for emerging brands such as Richard Malone, Sabinna, and Phoebe English before I started Anciela over three years ago.

 

F2F: Can you share the origin of the moniker ‘Anciela’?

JD:

Anciela gets its name from my Colombian grandparents, ANgel and GraCIELA.  The name is how I celebrate and pay homage to my Colombian and Chilean roots. But also, the name is a constant reminder of the vision behind the brand, which is, how to use fashion as a catharsis to process the past and present, whether it is a very personal family story or to strive for more Latinx representation in fashion. I think my work has somehow helped me to understand my journey as a migrant and minority, and by sharing new stories that can spark emotion and start a conversation, I can use fashion as a platform for change.

F2F: How would you define the vibe of your collections?

JD:

Anciela is a mix between playful tailoring and South American neo-folklore. Taking inspiration from art, literature, and historical costumes, we offer eccentric, ready-to-wear interwoven with a hint of the magical.

Storytelling is at the core of every garment. Whether it is the colourful fabrics or the cuts, every detail challenges stereotypes about what’s perceived as Latin by bringing new narratives from faraway places that people haven’t heard before.

F2F: How do you balance aesthetics and functionality in your designs?

JD:

It is a fine balance. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the crazy designs that you know will get you more press but would not be commercially beneficial enough for buyers. What I found is that it is good to somehow bring enough magic without forgetting who your customer is and who are you designing for. At the end of the day, people have enough choices to buy from, but they choose you; they choose to buy into the culture of your brand and support you. But this relationship comes from the story behind the pieces you actually make and how the consumer relates to them, rather than their pure functionality.

In most cases, you learn the most with a private client who you meet personally and who can give you direct feedback.
I am a very active person. I run and cycle everywhere, and I wear all of my clothes myself, so you can say I proof my designs. I think the pieces I love and wear most are the most versatile ones, the ones with big and functional pockets that look slick enough for a night out too.

F2F: Can you explain your design process and the steps involved in designing a new collection?

JD:

I always start with research. I immerse myself in any kind of media that relates to the theme I am interested in. I watch old movies, read old stories from old journals, and look at old family photos, and things like that. I then look for fabrics, mainly around my area, and I look for new developments in natural fabrics that could work with the collection. After I have a draft of a story of the collection, I start sketching, and then come pattern-cutting development and mock-ups on the mannequin. I develop prints, which are mainly hand-painted or mixed media. After I have enough designs, I start building an overview of the collection and a range plan of the different groups organised by category/fabric/style etc. Then you go onto the sampling process, and when everything is ready, you gather a creative team to showcase your work, whether it is a lookbook or a video campaign. You then conceptualise that, and the collection comes together in this process.

F2F: Can you give an example of a project where you had to work within constraints, and how you overcame them?

JD:

Every project has its challenges. As a small brand, your main constraint is always budget, but then you learn how to become creative in making something out of nothing and the endless possibilities for learning. For me, how to keep growing my brand during the pandemic was the main challenge in the last few years. With all content being shown only digitally, the need for evolving the quality of the vision and creating truly engaging content was very difficult. I had to learn about film, music, and editing and collaborate with artists who work in different industries in order to be able to create our campaigns and stand out. Some days I was dropping off an 8 mm film to be scanned in North London; something I never thought I would do. It was extremely rewarding when we got a lot of press exposure and the work resonated with a lot of people. Among these projects was ‘Nueve’, a short documentary we made for Fashion Revolution week, featuring Latinx creatives in Latin Village in Tottenham, London, to raise awareness about the area being gentrified and bought by big developers.

F2F: How do you stay updated with new technologies and materials in your field?

JD:

I am always on the lookout for new developments. I look for sustainable fabric fairs such as the Sustainable Angle, and I follow sustainable press and social media accounts that are writing about it such as Techstyler. I also work closely with textile designers who I collaborate with, and every season we are trying to develop new jacquards and experiment with new yarns that come out every year. A lot is happening in recycled yarns at the moment, as an example. I have also collaborated with Tencel Luxe to create and experiment with their latest fabrics.

F2F: How do you ensure sustainable and ethical practices in your tailoring designs?

JD:

It is a constant journey of learning and adapting. The main thing I have learnt is that the only way you can govern your supply chain is to keep it as simple as possible and close to you as you can. I work closely with suppliers at every step of the process, which gives me an understanding of where things are coming from, the impact within their practice, and the quality of life of the people involved.

For me, it is imperative to think of our planet and the circularity of the products we create from the very beginning of an idea to the realisation of a garment and finally what the end of the life of that garment will be. Understanding the short- and long-term implications of the products we are making and the environmental and social impact throughout the entire supply chain is vital.

F2F: How do you handle feedback and criticism of your designs?

JD:

Well, it is only a natural part of creative industries. There are so many flavours of fashion, so you will never please everyone, and I think it shouldn’t be the aim either. I try to understand everyone’s criticism and respect it as their point of view without analysing it too much and always seeing what can be learnt from it.

F2F: What tips would you like to offer to young designers who are starting out in the industry?

JD:

Do not take things at face value, try to look beyond what you see, and always think of the overview.

Understand your purpose and apply it to your work. Be patient as there is nothing like instant success.

What tips would you like to offer to young designers who are starting out in the industry?

Published on: 07/02/2023
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