Mexican designer cuts waste with fashion from Indigenous artisans
Designer Regina Soto poses next to a mood board from the offices on Someone Somewhere in Mexico City, April 24, 2023. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Diana Baptista
What’s the context?
Mexican firm Someone Somewhere uses fabrics made by hand and traditional looms to produce climate-friendly clothes that last
This story is part of a series on transforming the world of work for a greener, fairer global economy: "Green jobs for a just transition"
MEXICO CITY - In an industry awash with mass-produced fast fashion, Regina Soto is bucking the trend by designing high-quality, long-lasting clothes that do not end up as trash after a few months.
Soto, 33, is senior design manager at Someone Somewhere, the first Mexican manufacturing firm to obtain a "Climate Neutral" certification for reducing carbon emissions throughout its entire value chain and aiming to cut them to zero.
The clothes - mainly T-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets for men and women - are made by Indigenous artisans in communities around Mexico, most of whom are women.
These artisans have, for hundreds of years, created their own clothes by hand and on looms that do not generate waste or consume energy.
Learning and enhancing the techniques of Indigenous communities is crucial, said Soto, at a time when textiles account for 1.4% of all waste in Mexico, according to the most recent data from the environment ministry.
Soto studied fashion and textile design in Mexico and began her career as a fashion designer with an international retailer which relies on high-volume production. There, she came face-to-face with the enormous waste generated by the industry.
Her job is now very different, as she works to make sure that Someone Somewhere's products, which also include bags and hats, are made from reused textiles and have a timeless design, so they can be worn for many years.
Why did you choose this job?
"As a child I had a very creative mind; I enjoyed drawing and painting. I was drawn to fashion because clothes allow us to express who we are and what we enjoy. Likewise, I always felt fascinated by textile production, whether created with high-tech machines or with traditional looms.
Fashion, however, is one of the most polluting industries with huge levels of textile waste. When I saw this job advertised, I was drawn to its social mission of creating constant, sustainable work for artisan communities.
My goal is to avoid any waste from design to production. For example, we can plan how to economize the number of materials needed, efficiently cut fabric during its making, and make sure that the product is of a high enough quality that it will last a long time.
Part of my job is also working with providers and external laboratories making abrasion tests to evaluate how much the clothes last before breaking. This allows us to know how long our products last, and if they need double-stitching or a technique that holds the textile together for longer."
What do you enjoy about your job?
"It is an incredible job that was not available ten years ago, when I started working in the industry. Recently, however, I have visited textile fairs where the players of the fashion industry gather, and everyone has a sustainability focus. Very few do not offer sustainable products.
At Someone Somewhere we have also started working with providers that are producing fibers from recycled and reused materials. Discarded clothes are being crushed and transformed into new fibers and threads.
It is very exciting to see this sustainability focus grow, and to push for it to be more than just a passing trend."
What are the challenges of your job?
"One of the biggest challenges in this industry is finding sustainable raw material from local Mexican producers. We are still importing textiles from the United States and Asia.
Sending and receiving materials, however, is complicated because of our carbon footprint.
It is one of our greatest challenges to create alliances with local producers who are willing to create new products with us. This can be a long process, but it is exciting to find allies interested in experimenting and pushing forward change."
How do you see jobs in your field evolving in the next decade?
"Currently, our most popular textile is the one created by artisans in which the fiber is 100% recycled. This makes me believe the sector will go back to its roots, to the techniques of the artisans' communities.
The artisans do their jobs by hand or with a loom - there is no consumption of electricity. This is much more sustainable than having a machine do the job.
Our goal is also that the communities, especially marginalized ones, find dignified jobs in which they do not have to sell their work at cheap prices. We are helping them realize the true value of their creations."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
(Reporting by Diana Baptista; Editing by Megan Rowling and Kieran Guilbert.)
Part of:Green jobs for a just transition
Updated: May 02, 2023
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