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Career Q&A with the founder of eco-luxe label: JPL Atelier

By Aileen Yu


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This year, brands and retailers have had to face unprecedented challenges due to the impact of the pandemic on the global economy. According to consumer data tracker, PSFK Research, the fashion industry is placing new value on sustainability, circularity and efficiency. Along with these current market trends, a surge of social protests worldwide have also led shoppers to re-evaluate their stance on issues such as eco-responsibility, local production and inclusivity.

In this Q&A series, FashionUnited is spotlighting four sustainable and ethical brands that were already on the path towards a more socially conscious and circular fashion future. JPL Atelier, a Peta approved brand, was founded in 2017 by Colombian designer Juliana Ponce de León. The collections are produced in a female-led factory in London and the company strongly upholds transparent sustainability. Founder and designer, Ponce de León, shared recently with FashionUnited via email her vision for expanding JPL Atelier to work alongside disruptors, charity partners and building a community of changemakers.

The Alliance Collection

Launched just in August on Women’s Equality Day, the Alliance Collection features five organic cotton white T-shirts, each connected with a distinct charity partner (Peta UK, UN Women UK, Friends of the Earth, Fawcett Society and Post Carbon Lab) and embroidered with a different word depicting female empowerment. 30 percent from the sale of each t-shirt is donated to the affiliated charity.

What’s the best part about creating your own sustainable and transparent label?

The greatest part of creating my own label is having control over our supply chain, who we work with, and what we bring into the market. Knowing that our garments are made responsibly in London and that everyone in our supply chain is taken care of and respected in the process is what makes it all worthwhile. It is definitely possible to create a beautiful garment without exploiting human beings, animals, or the environment (to an extent).

What’s the most challenging part and how do you tackle that?

The most challenging part by far is finding high-quality fabrics that meet all of our strict requirements. It is important to know the process of fabric development to be able to ask the right questions. You may find a stunning fabric that claims to be "sustainable", and then come to realise the supplier doesn't know the mill's dyeing processes or how the workers' working conditions look like.

Another challenge is trying to shift the consumer's mindset on how much a luxury "sustainable" garment actually costs versus other garments in the market. The reason our pieces cost what they do is because this is how much a garment actually costs to produce responsibly and locally.

I envision the brand expanding and working alongside disruptors and our charity partners. I want us to keep growing as a community of powerful feminists, changemakers, and activists.

Juliana Ponce de León, Founder and Designer, JPL Atelier

What career advice can you share with FashionUnited readers?

Go with your gut and never settle. My entire work ethic is centered around that philosophy. If you settle for things, whatever they may be, you limit your possibilities and your ability to disrupt the system.

When I first started, I was told by people that the concept of a sustainable luxury label was going to limit our growth and that recycled water bottle shirts weren't going to get JPL Atelier anywhere, yet here we are. Always go with your gut, and never settle. Trust yourself and question everything.

What do you envision for the future of JPL Atelier?

I envision the brand expanding and working alongside disruptors and our charity partners. I want us to keep growing as a community of powerful feminists, changemakers, and activists. JPL Atelier will not only be a label that produces garments, but a company that supports acceptance, change, empowerment, and the protection of Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.

I want to also keep learning, researching, and finding ways on how we can successfully work towards circularity and how we can find solutions to real sustainable fabric development. We have already adapted to the made-to-order model, which leaves us without any excess stock as we have the advantage of producing locally. I want to push the agenda on how we work with innovative materials, dyeing processes, and fabrics.

What is your go-to sustainable fashion outfit?

I love the classic combination of one of our organic bamboo silk button-down shirts, recycled denim jeans, and a pair of vegan leather mules. Also, anything vintage, rented, or second hand in the mix is the way to go!

Photos: courtesy of JPL Atelier, ASV

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JPL Atelier