Ethical Closet Series: Claudia Gontovnik
Claudia Gontovnik is the latest brand to join our Ethical Closet Series!
A sustainable fashion brand that creates clothes equivalent to a fun and well-edited mood board, the Miami based designer who’s brand is named after gives new life to one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by the differences in today’s world and embracing imperfections.
Claudia Gontovnik is a multidisciplinary artist that focuses on the creation of one of a kind pieces which manifest themselves through a brand whose mission is to inspire self-expression and style with sustainability values.
Gontovnik designs the collection in her Miami, Florida studio. In a world saturated with production and toxicity, she repurposes and maximizes the beauty of the discarded by creating pieces that become a statement for her and for the person who chooses to wear it.
UP: Tells us about your brand, why did you start you label?
CG: After a long and successful career, I wanted to take a break and think about what I wanted to do next. I thought about weaving together sustainability, social responsibility and design. That is how I decided to design one-of-a-kind pieces by giving new life to discarded items that already had one. By doing that I could contribute to stopping the widespread feeding of toxic chemicals into our environment.
My signature “suture” style highlights the pressing need to stitch together our differences in today’s world. The raw and honest exposure of seams and visible knotting of the embroidery thread embrace imperfection and foreground how the variegated elements of the piece are held together. The result is a collage of cultures, colors, religions, and gender identities coexisting happily in each garment.
I source all the materials myself and I work on them until I feel in my heart that the design has come together and makes sense. The item is finally sent to Medellin, Colombia, where it is hand embroidered by a group of Mothers Head of Household, whose painstaking and beautiful work takes several days to complete, a feat that is recognized on the garment’s label, which credits their names and hours of labor.
UP: How do you choose your materials?
CG: I generally source the materials in thrift stores that are non-profit here in Miami and in my travels. I choose my materials by letting what I’m looking at, inspire me. Then I make sure they are in perfect condition to make the final decision. The embroidery thread I decide to use to hand-embroider each piece, depends in its entirety on the color which is key to bringing everything to life.
UP: What is your main source of inspiration?
CG: I sit on a sofa in front of all the materials pinned on my inspiration wall, and I let them guide me. I also research artists in all kinds of different disciplines, listen to music, watch movies, I am interested in almost anything, and all that keeps me inspired.
UP: Who makes your collections?
CG: I design everything and they are hand-embroidered in Medellin.
UP: How do you assure they are paid fairly?
CG: I pay them exactly what they ask for, no negotiations ever! There is no standard pricing, each one charges for each piece according to the amount of labor involved. I never ever argue a price, they work each piece with such love and dedication, there is no arguing!
UP: How often are you in contact with your artisans, factories, and seamstresses? Do you visit them?
CG: I went to Medellin to meet them for the first time to teach them my vision, the reason for the type of stitching I created, how I wanted them to look like, all sorts of details. I don’t go much, they understand exactly what the vision is and I accompany each piece that I’m going to send to them with drawings and detailed written instructions
UP: How many collections do you make a year?
CG: I don’t do collections, it all depends on how inspired and satisfied I am with each piece. I do not want to be bound by timings and obligations. They are ready when they are. My pieces are timeless.
UP: Which one is your favorite piece in this collection?
CG: Difficult to choose. I have lots of favorites...The Electric Lady, Roco & Co, and Monalisa Sweatshirts, the A While Ago Camo jacket and pants, and all the jumpsuits!
UP: Where can people buy your pieces?
CG: They can buy them at claudiagontovnik.com and at Wynwood Tribe, in Miami.
UP: What advice do you have to create an ethical closet?
CG: In order to create an ethical closet, it is important of course to buy from responsible manufacturers or designers and have some key basic pieces. But for me the most important is acquiring bits and pieces of very special garments that are creative, well constructed, that one can mix and match with those basics in order to keep the closet varied, interesting and fun without needing to shop often.