There are few brands that truly weave cultural heritage and sustainability in every aspect, from design to realization, like fashion label VEREDAS. Placing an emphasis on creating an impact and outstanding garments rather than current consumer trends, the brand works hand in hand with local communities of artisans and lacemakers from Brazil on each of its items.
VEREDAS was launched in 2019 by designer Ana Andrade, who’s currently studying Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. “From a very young age fashion and interior design were ways for me to work through my identity and self-esteem, and in some ways ‘escape’ my immediate reality onto realities I created,” she shares with us. Through the help of multi-brand stores such as APOC Store and Garmentory, Andrade is amongst one of our favorite labels to watch in 2022.
The brand’s Spring/Summer ’22 collection, aptly titled Anunciação.22 or “Annunciation” in Portuguese, is a combination of sustainable alternatives that blend the worlds of tradition and innovation. Standout pieces include the label’s Sereia Dress, a handmade bobbin lace dress that utilizes bamboo, lurex, and cotton stretch fibre, as well as the Colonião Corset, which comes embroidered in grass—one of the most labor-intensive items within the collection. Rounding out the range are accessories such as the Buriti Choker, Bobbin Lace Headscarf, Buriti Garters, and Leather Patchwork Bag amongst other pieces.
We spoke with VEREDAS founder Ana Andrade in regards to design signatures, steps towards true sustainability, and bridging the gap between artisan communities in Brazil and high-end luxury. Read on for our conversation.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in fashion design?
The decision to pursue a career in fashion happened very organically. From a very young age fashion and interior design were ways for me to work through my identity and self-esteem, and in some ways ‘escape’ my immediate reality onto realities I created. I was a bit of a nerd and grew up on anime and game culture, so I think there was an influence there. I cared a lot about moving my ideas outside of my paper sketches and seeing them manifest in reality, so I pursued a lot of technical skills before and during high school.
I remember spending a lot of time in this seamstress studio after class, helping with small repair jobs and learning different finishes on the industrial machine, and also learning and experimenting with pattern-cutting. So in a way, I never had to consciously ‘choose’ fashion, it was always this organic progression of building my skills and wanting to create more interesting, more impactful, more relevant work.
I also think it’s important to mention here that when I am speaking of ‘career’ I am not speaking exclusively of ‘income’. It’s important to acknowledge that in order to actually afford this ‘career’ in fashion, I have had to do several other types of jobs in other industries. It’s a reality of our field that isn’t discussed enough.
VEREDAS bridges the gap between artisan communities in Brazil and the international high-end designer market—where do you see the connection between the two?
I love this question! The connection between the two seems so self-evident to me, but maybe not for everyone else to see. Fashion in general—but especially the high-end designer market—relies heavily on an idea of uniqueness and exclusivity. Artisanal work offers a lot of that due to the bespoke way things are made and the incredible stories behind the techniques and their makers.
Then there is the industry’s concern for the quality of products, and for sustainability more broadly—making things made to last, employing ethical labor, using better materials for the environment, etcetera; and artisanal work speaks to a lot of that: the care and skills that go into the making, the frequent use of environmentally conscious materials, the effort and transparency of the production process and fair wages, not to mention the positive impact this brings to local economies and the preservation of their craft.
Of course, there are also challenges in connecting the two things and making it all happen, which is why I am there, and why I am doing all this studying and research.
What are some ways your affinity for fine materials influences your design and creative practice?
My entire creative process starts with materials and techniques—the challenge is to make interesting fashion employing materials that are environmentally conscious and that integrate the labor of local artisan communities. So my entire design research starts there—in the communities and the techniques and materials they work with. Sometimes I feel like I am more of a textile designer than a fashion designer per se because I am more concerned with the language of these techniques and exploring their potentialities than with the final clothes in themselves.
How is sustainability an integral part of your brand and your design methodology?
Sadly nowadays anyone can claim a product is ‘sustainable’ by simply doing the bare minimum—it’s become a trendy word in the industry that means very little. I think VEREDAS however is part of a smaller group of brands that have sustainability embedded in their DNA, born from the desire to rethink design systems. We simply wouldn’t exist if not for our sustainability research – our drive is not to put more clothes out there in the world but to research more sustainable practices, from material sourcing to labor to a product’s end-of-life cycle. That is why we are also so invested in doing consultancy and collaborations, so we can share and extend this research knowledge to other brands.
What are some of your design signatures and how do they embody your brand?
It’s hard to reflect on our pieces without talking about their techniques and the communities involved in the making.
The Colonião Corset has been one of the most laborsome things we have developed, and one of the most challenging pieces as far as translating such a rough textile into something that is actually wearable. When it comes to bobbin lace, the Racer Top and the Sereia Dress have been really big breakthroughs in terms of working with new materials for handmade lace and developing new techniques and patterns with the communities in Ceará. And the Patchwork Leaf Dress, being the result of a collaborative design workshop done with female prisoners in Goiás, is an extremely important and creatively rewarding piece.
For your Anunciação.22 collection, may you discuss the inspiration behind the capsule and your design process working with local artisans in Brazil?
Anunciação.22 is our launch collection. It’s an extremely important body of work with all of our DNA imprinted into it – all of the work, blood, tears, and research that went into making VEREDAS in the years prior to launching our brand.
Working with communities of artisans is something that takes time. You can’t simply arrive at a place and say “I want this”. There is a relationship of trust and mutual respect that needs to be built. All my pieces are co-designed with artisans: we exchange ideas back and forth, play, and experiment with different things. It takes a lot of time. I listen to what they want to do with their technique and their textile language just as much as they listen to me.
A major foundation embedded in the label’s ethos is fighting for social welfare and sustainability within the fashion industry, what are some steps that we can collectively take to move forward in that direction?
I think the industry keeps trying to present a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that is much more complex than that. Of course, the default answers: “know your clothes,” “know your designers,” “look up the material composition and the countries where they are made,” “buy less,” “don’t shop fast fashion” is overall good practice, and I stand behind all of that. But I think what’s most important is the transformation that happens from inside out, in the relationship we have with ourselves and our wardrobe by extension. It’s a change in culture and mindset.
If our clothes are our second skin, how do we learn to grow into ourselves through them? How can we make room to fall in love and out of love with them, and then back in love again? How can you build a relationship with your wardrobe, rather than cycling through multiple wardrobes in a year? Repairing, resignifying, reassembling? I think shopping less and shopping smarter is overall a better practice than shopping and wasting “guilt-free” because something is supposedly sustainable. The world simply doesn’t have enough resources to process all this waste and we are paying the price for it as we speak.
For any young women that want to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you offer to aspiring designers and artists looking to create a brand?
I think this has all been said before, but I say: have a vision, be patient, and be confident. The industry is constantly changing and there is no one singular way to have a brand. I think it’s an exciting time to rethink what kind of businesses we want to see out there in the world and make them happen.