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An Interview with Raquel Allegra

Since she founded her brand in 2005, Raquel Allegra has always maintained her commitment to the environment. She started her brand by shredding vintage tees recycled from the Los Angeles County Prison System. Almost thirteen years down the line and Raquel has expanded her brand into an internationally renowned womenswear label, yet her roots have remained firmly grounded in the ethos that has driven her brand to where it is today. 
In conversations with Raquel in her Topanga gardens home, we chat about how she is staying true to her sustainable roots, her partnership with Canopy Style, and how majority of collection is still produced in Los Angeles. In today’s current economic landscapes, where most brands are in a race to find the biggest profit margins - Raquel Allegra has stayed true to her beliefs. Inspiring us to veers away from disposable fashion, and cherish the fashion that we have. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? What made you fall in love with fashion?
For me, fashion has always been about expressing myself, having fun, and being comfortable. Playing with clothing is something I’ve done since childhood—tying scarves around my body was a nostalgic pastime. This creative spirit allowed me to play and invent, which naturally progressed into experimenting with t-shirts, initially for myself, then for others.

You began your namesake label by shredding vintage tees and so much has changed since then. In your opinion, what has been the biggest change for you over the years?
Through careful business decisions and at progressing at an organic pace, the Raquel Allegra brand has evolved and matured quite significantly since its beginnings in 2005. At first, I worked directly with clients to create custom pieces. These were exclusively tees, as tees were my sole focus during this time period. Turning this foundation of specially made pieces into a complete collection was a natural, but challenging, process. It meant designing for both myself and the women in my head, as opposed to directly for clients and friends. Today, I still design, but as creative director, I’m working with a lot of departments every day. This encompasses everything from production, social media, e-commerce, our retail store, to presentations and public appearances.

Aside from some of your knitwear, you manufacture all your pieces in Los Angeles. In what other ways do your manufacturing processes promote sustainability? 
It is my responsibility to ensure that we stay true to our ethical values and promote sustainability, particularly as the company continues to expand. With the exception of our knitwear, we manufacture all of our clothing in Los Angeles.  We do what we can to minimise our waste and maximise our recycling opportunities. My development process often begins with vintage garments which can streamline the patterning process and eliminate excess sampling. We reduce our seasonal waste by repeating our core fabrications from one collection to the next. The pieces we manufacture primarily use the same fabrics as well, regardless of the season. We don’t over-cut or over-buy either; we purchase exactly what we need. I aim to produce timeless, beautiful pieces that are collected, worn, and mixed year after year.

You are a proud partner of the CanopyStyle Campaign, which protects ancient and endangered forests. Could you tell us more about your participation in this campaign?
CanopyStyle is an environmental non-profit organisation that works across the globe to save and protect the Earth’s ecologically rich forests, species, and climate. Canopy develops next generation solutions for conserving these landscapes, which include Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, Vancouver Island’s rainforests, and Canada’s Boreal forest. We contribute financially to Canopy’s cause and are committed, along with more than 125 other brands, to not using ancient and endangered forests in our textile supply chain. 

Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the fashion industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species? 
With the changing environmental landscape, it is crucial for the fashion industry to evolve along with the planet. This means that brands need to rise up, re-evaluate their choices, and take actionable initiatives. Ultimately, we as an industry need to lead the way in our responsibility to preserve the planet and its resources for future generations. 

As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
Let’s redefine the way we consume, through mindful and selective purchasing. By buying only clothing we love and want to take good care of, we can make a positive and impactful change. Let our wardrobes tell a bigger picture, by transforming into a collection of cherished pieces, rather than trend-driven disposable fashion.

Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies

Portraits by Cara Robbins