Ethical Designer Spotlight: Xander Kostroma

Anyone who thinks the realm of fashion design is vacuous, money-driven and selfish has clearly never come across Xander Kostroma, designer and founder of Emi– An ethical company! Intelligent, vibrant, committed, quirky and kind, Xander, born in Swansea (Wales), is becoming well known for his ethical and fair trade fashion designs. In 2o11 Xander was honoured as one of Wales rising fashion designers and was invited to exhibit his work at Wales Fashion LIVE. 

Kindness by Design was delighted to catch-up with Xander for a chat about fashion, fair trade and the future as well as grabbing a sneak-peek at Emi’s♥ 2011 clothing range and unique jewellery!

Q. When did you first consider design as the career for you? What was it exactly that appealed to you?

In all honesty, it wasn’t the design aspect that came to me first. I knew from a young age that I wanted to have my own business and to be remembered when I am gone for doing something meaningful with my life.
I had always been interested in fashion, and I have always been (some may say) a bit of a “hippy”. I can remember using bits of old trash and turning them into something creative or making compost from my leftovers…or trying to grow acorn trees in the back yard! I was around the age of 12 or so when I first started to take notice in my appearance and what others around me were wearing, but I always seemed to be doing something different which later on, others would end up copying! (I hated it at the time, but I love it now) My mum had made me aware of where things came from and she taught me that everything had a value. So, I guess as I got older I got more concerned about the manufacturing side of fashion and took a real interest in ethical fashion.

Q. Did ever see yourself doing anything else? For example, I was going to be an Olympic equestrian champion and astronaut…

No, as cliché at it sounds but I knew I wanted to work for myself and run my own business…I just didn’t realise that I would be designing ethical clothing out of an interest that grew and grew from a young age!
When I was 19 I started my first business. It was a wholesale company that sold end of line stock from high street stores…I guess I got fed up of selling other peoples clothes and wanted to produce my own. I sold that business at the age of 21 before starting Emi at 22.
Q. What makes Emi a great company to design for?

First and foremost, the brand is ethical, and we stand by what we believe in! We know where our products come from and we have a great relationship with our factories both in the UK and in Asia. We really understand our customer and we know what she wants, and what’s more is that we actually follow fashion so are always up to date with the latest trends.

Q. Would you rather be a fish in the sea, a bird in the sky or a monkey in a tree?

I would rather be a monkey in the tree, you can’t cuddle a fish or a bird but a monkey gives one hell of a cuddle!

Q. Do you think there has been a real paradigm shift in the fashion industry towards a more ethical sustainable approach or are such ideas still in the minority?
As sad as this sounds, ethical fashion has become a “trend” now a days. Ok, it’s great because major high street brands are converting to more ethical ways of working and looking at more sustainable ways of sourcing raw materials, but I worry that this is just a trend people are latching onto. I just hope that the smaller brands such as Emicatch on so we can continue the “trend” should it die out in the future.
What people don’t understand is that to be green or ethical isn’t just a word it’s a way of working…a working conduct and what ethical brands such as Emiachieve is so much more than just a trend. We operate our business in a way that is fair for everyone involved and if you look deeper than that we are actually helping poor countries via a necessity such as fashion.

Q. When was the last time a random act of kindness crossed your path?

This is an easy one. I had to relocate from Wales to England for my current job (as well as working full time for EmiI also work full time at head office for a major brand in the UK) I needed £900 to put the deposit down on a new place in Manchester. It was about 2 days before I was leaving and I didn’t have the funds, I had no idea how I was going to move, I was stressing about my new job and how I was going to move. On my leaving party night at my old flat my sister was also there with all of my friends (who had no idea about my money worries by the way)
Anyway, we were laughing a joking, and I remember she was plaiting my hair at the time, and as she was she whispered into my ear “check your bank account”. She had transferred the whole amount into my account without me knowing which meant I was able to move and progress in my career! I was so happy I actually cried, I couldn’t thank her enough for that. Without my sister, I wouldn’t have been able to move…which means Emiwouldn’t be where the brand is today and I can’t thank her enough!
Q. What is one of the most personally rewarding pieces you’ve ever produced?

This has to be my current clothing collection as I have had 100% say in how the collection is made, designed, the fabric, everything. When I first started with the brand I was more of a product developer/allocator. The factory would send me what they were producing and I would give them my advice on the line, or saying something like “Owl trends are big right now” and they would go away and produce. The factory that we work with in Asia actually have their own in-house design team so I was working with them and what they were designing as opposed to designing myself.
As the brand has developed I have taken more of an active role in what is produced and I couldn’t be happier.
Q. What advice would you give to someone wanting to embark on a career in ethical design?

You have to be 100% committed to what you want to do, no matter if things seem to be not working or not going your way or your voice not getting heard, you have to keep on fighting for what you believe in and that is ethical fashion
As a designer for the brand, I do not take a wage from the business and neither do the rest of the staff at Emi♥.  All profits from sales go directly back into the brand which in turn helps to pay our suppliers which in turn helps the families who work in the factories. We all work for the brand because this is something we believe in and we want to work. If you want to start your own brand you have to be committed to it and put the brand before you 110% because at the end of the day we are working for a greater cause.
Q. What does the future hold for Xander Kostroma and Emi?

As you have seen online, we have just released our 2011 clothing line look book. This 8 piece capsule collection is due to launch over the next few months so keep your eyes peeled! (the neck labels arrived at the office only a few days ago). Alan, the jewellery buyer is currently putting together our fall 2011 jewellery collection and I am hard at work creating a new branch of Emi.
I am currently working on a 12 piece, recycled jewellery collection working with a designer in the USA. This couture collection we plan to launch around June and will feature high end jewellery pieces and a few accessories including a recycled snood – but that’s all I can say for now!
We are also working on a section on the site called “Emi Agents” where if you want to start your own business but don’t quite know how too – we give you all the basics needed to hold say a small stall at a jewellery fair so you can start straight away. What’s more, if you feel that it isn’t right for you we promise to buy back all the stock so this means you don’t lose out your hard earned money. But, this is still in the development stages at the moment.


Ethical Jewellery by Emi

Pink Faux Pearl Ring – featuring 5 faux pink pearls in the center and finished off with crystal stone detailing around. This is an extremely sweet confection of a ring with a fun design that would add sparkle to any outfit!
Limited Edition Alice in Wonderland inspired Rabbit Locket – in an antique bronze colour, featuring a rabbit motif on the front with a peach background colour. I love Emi’s♥ Alice range, it’s whimsical and oh so pretty!
Classic Stacker Bangle Set – features silver and light gold plated bangles that are finished off with a faux pearl bracelet. This for me is simple elegance with a modern twist…how could you not feel classy wearing this?
China Teapot & Cup Necklace – inspired by Alice in Wonderland’s “Mad hatter” tea party. It features a cute teapot & matching saucer and is made from china. I looooooove this! So delicate and adorable, wearing it almost guarantees smiles all ’round!
Feather Owl Necklace
Nikon Camera Necklace – comes in a bronze metal, with black inserts and clear gem detailing for the lens. The words “Nikon” are engraved on the front and on the back. This is a brilliant retro-inspired piece. I love fashion AND photography so this one is a massive thumbs up from me :o)
Russian Doll Necklace – comes in wonderful burnt orange tones and has cute glad Russian doll charms for decoration. The straps are adjustable and made from artificial leather.
Bird Cage Necklace – features a round birdcage with a dove holding a branch. As you may have gathered from Design Has Gone to the Birds, feathered fashion is a favourite here at Kindness by Design and this necklace would make a nice addition to that collection ;o)
Sneak Preview of Emi‘s♥ 2011 Clothing Range

Kindness by Design’s Pick! :o)
Sexy meets business. Gorgeous details on the sleeves!
An elegant stylish hoody? YAY!!! 😀

Watch this space as Kindness by Design will be catching up with Xander later on in the year when the new clothing line hits the stores!

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