What is feel-good fashion? As an artist and designer who’s longing for sustainability I have a complex relationship with fashion design. Today I tell you why. I also want to let you know how Zen Cat T-Shirt fits into this equation of “feel-good”.
My first university degree was in Fashion. Straight from high school I was accepted to the fashion design program in Aalto University back in 2004-2008. I loved the idea of design since it’s artistic creation and problem solving put together. Fashion design comes close to us by touching our body. Clothes are the skin colour we can choose for ourselves. “This is what I stand for” says the clothes about us.
I fell in love with graphic design on textiles while I was doing internship in Paris 2006 in a small firm called DOG (oh the irony of that name). It was such a unique experience: from 9 am to 3pm I sketched out prints and patterns and the rest of the evening I walked around the beautiful streets of Paris.
Four years later I graduated as a Bachelor of Art and Design. I could have continued to Master’s program but by then I had complex emotions towards clothing design:
Does the world need any more clothes? Do I have something unique enough to say with clothing design that it makes it worth the tons of investments (time, finance, natural resources) it needs?
At the time the answer to those questions was NO. So I didn’t do much with my fashion design degree. Which is a shame in sense that my graduation collection Red-Blue dresses from 2008 ended up selling to some of the most stylish people in Finland (Maija Vilkkumaa and Maria Veitola).
One of my classmates from fashion studies – and close friend of mine – is Rinna Saramäki. She also graduated as BA in 2008 and decided not to continue the studies. Saramäki has spent her time since self-educating herself about sustainable fashion and ecological living. She wrote an amazing book called Hyvän mielen vaatekaappi. In English the title means “Feel-good Wardrobe”. The book hasn’t been translated into English (yet) but you can follow Saramäki’s wonderful sustainable living and style in Instagram.
When I last time attended one of her Feel-Good Wardrobe -lectures in Turku library she (again) opened my eyes. This time not so much about “quality over quantity” and “know what you support before buying from the clothing brand” because those I already knew. But when she said “everybody must dress themselves” I understood I’ve been too harsh on fashion.
The fast-fashion has defamed whole fashion industry. Buying clothes just because they’re cheap is madness. BUT if there is something you need and something you love it’s feel-good joy to buy it. Then wear it until it’s rag material and ready to be recycled as textile waste.
Clothing is one form of design that is actually necessary for human being. It’s the shelter from the weather. It’s also our cover up since we are not living in nudist society (thank goodness). And if you ever own a pair of socks you know that with passing of time they will wear thin.
It’s important to take care of the clothes we own: wash accordingly, repair and dye. But there comes the time when your favourite t-shirt is just not up for the part anymore.
ZEN CAT T-SHIRT
In the middle of pondering the sustainability in fashion – I’m still passionate about creating beautifully designed products. Preferably clothes. And I love drawing cats.
So in May 2019 Zen Cat T-Shirt was born. It’s online print-on-demand (Printful) clothing store in Etsy. Zen Cat T-Shirt is about offering feel-good clothing for cat lovers. The mastermind behind the designs is my Burmese muse: Cocco-the-Cat.
How is Zen Cat T-Shirt sustainable?
It’s print-on-demand. Which means there will be no spoilages. I don’t have to burn unsold clothes after the season since every item will be produced only after someone purchase it.
I choose products that promises sustainability. Like Bella Canvas and Gildan t-shirts. *When Printful gets the organic cotton t-shirts to European market I will use those.
The printing production happens in US or Latvia. Most of the European orders will be shipped from Europe and most of the US orders from US. Note: Fulfilment location is set based on shipping destination, routing preferences and stock availability. So if the t-shirt is out of stock in Latvia it will be printed in US instead.
I’ve can now share designs with the world in a way I don’t feel ashamed for. This time I feel strong about my design philosophy. It’s about finding zen – the things that matter in life – by being grateful of the good things. Most importantly: about CATS.
There’s going to be new “Back to School/Work” -designs coming up to Zen Cat T-Shirt in 1st of September.
Besides this feel-good fashion hassle I’m still the Animated Painter Elli Maanpää. You can find my art account from Instagram as well. Next week I’m in TAFF Turku Animated Film Festival with my Augmented Paintings so see you there. Also those paintings are available as poster prints in my other Etsy store: Elli Maanpää Art.