Culture Weekly

Sustainable elegance

September 23 - 29, 2020

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Sustainable elegance

After 10 years of working in the fashion industry, Irish Fiona Bakhorji cast her net in the design pool and made her dream of creating her own sustainable activewear brand out of sea waste into a reality.

The sustainable fashion movement and interest in ethical fashion grew tremendously after the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed 1,134 people and left thousands more injured.

After that, numerous organisations began educating consumers on the impact that the fashion industry had on the environment, as well as encouraging people to make better fashion choices.

Fiona, who was deeply affected by the tragedy, said: “I try to avoid ‘fast fashion’ at all costs, especially since the disaster. I’m a lot more conscious of where I spend my money and I’m always on the hunt for sustainable products and clothing.”

Fiona became a freelance consultant for a brand based in Los Angeles in 2017 after the birth of her daughter Isla, who is now three. However, due to Covid-19, her freelance work slowed down and she saw that as the perfect opportunity to create her own sustainable line.

Fiona, who is expecting her second child in February and is living in Saar, said: “When it comes to activewear, I found it difficult to find eco-conscious brands that fit my aesthetic. So, I set out to produce my own.

“It’s a ‘passion project’ really and the plan is to keep it small and produce and it at a slow pace.”

Sustainable fashion, which is also sometimes called slow fashion, refers to an environmentally-friendly approach to designing, manufacturing and consuming clothes with little to no harm to the planet and its natural resources.

It also focuses on extending the life of clothes, using recycled materials and recycling in general.

Fiona combined her love for yoga, which she studied in India a few years back, with her fashion background to create A*Ray, which is made out of Econyl. Everything is made in a small batch factory outside of Hong Kong.

“Econyl is generated from waste such as fishing nets and other industrial plastics,” she explained. “Through regeneration and purification, the nylon waste is converted back to its original purity - meaning the recycled nylon is exactly the same as virgin nylon.

“It then goes on to be processed into the textiles that we use for our activewear.

“The best part of the entire process is that this can be infinitely reprocessed without ever losing its quality and, therefore, our products can go on to be recycled and used again in the textile industry.

“I wanted to conduct business in an ethical and fair manner and to do my part in conserving natural resources and maintaining a healthy environment.

“There are a lot of great brands out there starting off in this manner and, hopefully, more existing businesses will review their practices and follow suit. The demand for sustainability is ever growing and I’m proud to be part of that agenda.

“On a personal level, this is the first time I’ve created and designed something for my own brand.

Ultimately, I would love to have people feel the same way I do about the clothing, to be an example to my daughter and be lucky enough to continue this work that allows for me to be creative and that I believe in.”

Her collection is only available for preorder through a platform called Pozible which is active until October 17. “The reason for this is two-fold,” she added. “To ensure we do not carry excess stock and, therefore, nothing is wasted and also to gauge our customers’ preferences so we can better foresee demand in the future.”

For details, follow @aray.collective on Instagram.

More on Culture Weekly