5 Minute Coffee Break With... Daniela Degrassi, founder of Annaborgia
Hi everyone, Rachida here! I'm delighted to introduce the first of the '5 Minute Coffee Break With...' series! Each edition will feature an interview with a business owner dedicated to offering luxury with sustainability in their brand. It's a really exciting time for this sector, and I hope these interviews will inspire you as much as they have me.
Today I'm talking to Daniela Degrassi, founder and creative director of luxury and ethical fashion brand, Annaborgia. I'm sure you'll agree that her designs are just beautiful, so for more information on Daniela and Annaborgia, head to her website and Twitter profile.
How did your vegan journey start?
It's quite a curious story. I was watching Ridley Scott’s movie Noah and a scene in particular shocked me. It depicted a group of savages chasing after a tiny defenceless lamb. In the next scene, the skinned lamb was skewered on a grill roll and roasting over the fire. It shook me so hard and it got me thinking: nothing has changed in today’s society. We keep abusing the helpless and disposing of animals like they are our property. I suddenly decided I would not eat meat after that night. This decision set off a need to learn more about vegetarianism and during the next month I watched all sorts of documentaries that brought me to tears, learning a lot about animal abuse in farming and in the fashion industry. It was really tough to watch. I felt like, “how in the world did I not know about this?”. There was no doubt in my mind that I would not be a silent accomplice anymore. I just had to go vegan.
What made you want to set up your own business?
I’ve always been self-employed. I’ve been a wedding/lifestyle photographer for 15 years and after relocating from California to Italy for family reasons I had the time and urge to shift to something new. My love for fashion and my background in the wedding industry lead me to start Annaborgia. I felt there was the need for re-wearable options for brides and bridesmaids, and I was inspired to create minimalist designs that would easily transition into everyday life. Annaborgia was in the planning stages when I turned vegan, so it was a natural consequence, when looking for textiles for my designs, to choose cruelty-free fabrics.
What struggles did you experience in doing so?
I struggled a lot with finding the right team to work with at the beginning. It was time-consuming and unfortunately, a waste of money. I’ll spare you the horror stories but it made me feel good to connect with other starting designers going through the same problems. It made me feel less of a ‘fool’.
And what about the best bits?
The best part is definitely being able to see your visions come to life and get recognition. Winning San Francisco Best Sustainable Collection in 2016 was definitely a huge milestone. I also love to connect with customers in person during pop-up shops or via email/social media. Getting their positive feedback and seeing them interested in sustainability is heart-warming.
What’s your top tip for someone who wants to start an ethical biz?
Community. Finding that support group of likeminded people is not only helpful in terms of getting resources and referrals for good suppliers, but also for constant motivation, feedback and encouragement.
What do you think about the sustainable and ethical fashion industry?
It inspires me to keep going, no matter the difficulties! We see steady progress year after year. The Fashion Revolution movement is growing and raising more awareness, more countries are tipping in. I love being part of a generation that wants to fight for the health of this planet and its inhabitants.
How do you think it could improve and what would you like to see in the future?
I wish the mainstream media would be more supportive and have a more proactive role in pursuing the change that the fashion industry needs. Right now, just a small audience is aware of fashion industry pollution, labour rights injustices being perpetrated in developing countries (and not only those!) and the continued abuse of animals for their skin and fur. It would be great if more people could be exposed to the real facts; maybe not all would rethink their shopping attitudes, but still, I am sure lots of perspectives could be changed.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration for your work?
Women have always been a source of inspiration. From my childhood heroes to the women that I admire today for their strength, passion, courage, determination and creativity. Without renouncing to their femininity, they wear so many different hats, relentlessly. I am inspired by women not just for my designs, but also in life. All my role models are women. Look around the Ethical Fashion Industry, 90% of these new mindful companies are run by women, who are tapping into a totally new market, a difficult niche that needs to shake off the ‘granola fashion’ attribute and re-invent a well oiled (and difficult to change) industry. That takes guts!
And finally, what’s your favourite vegan meal or recipe?
I am a decent cook and enjoy making my own veggie pastas and pizzas. But I often crave this vegan burrito I eat when I visit a favourite cafe of mine in Berkeley, California. It’s made with spicy tofu, onions and potatoes, very simple but heavenly to me.