Britt Cosgrove and Marina Polo started their mindful, minimalist collection, SVILU, in 2012 and were quickly awarded for their efforts in sustainable fashion and eco-conscious production. SVILU comes from sviluppo, the Italian word for development, and is a nod to the underlying spirit of growth and change that informs their “mindfully made” motto. The collection is always changing but not with the trends. It’s constantly refined to represent only the best in staples for women, “workhorses” as they describe them, which will wear well, are easy to care for, and aren’t defined by occasion or season. We stopped by their studio in midtown Manhattan for a sneak peek at their latest pieces and to learn more about the line as well as the sincere and truly honorable motivation (and similarly, the women!) behind it.
How did you two meet and decide to go into business together?
Britt: We used to work together and just got along really well from the start, which is crucial because we spend lots and lots of time together now. We shared a similar aesthetic and approach to design, so launching SVILU together made a lot of sense.
Did you know right away that you wanted to launch a sustainable, eco-conscious fashion label?
Marina: We never had the “let’s make an eco-conscious line” conversation, the decision to work with responsible materials evolved naturally. When you start something new, you have the opportunity to do it in the best way you know how – and we believe that great design should also be mindful. It wasn’t a trade off.
Of course, it’s important to consider our planet in all that we do but was there a turning point for each of you, or some thing you can remember, which made mindfulness and sustainability so important to you?
B: We had both worked in fashion for over ten years before launching SVILU and, during that time, we watched as fast fashion started to take over. The sheer volume of clothes flooding the market at super cheap prices was unsettling. If you think about it, there is something drastically wrong with being able to buy an entire outfit for less than a cocktail. SVILU is about making clothes that you want to wear year after yea. They’re the staples in your closet that bring you joy.
You’re known for your fabrics. Can you tell us a little bit about how you decide what to use and what sets SVILU apart?
M: We like to dig deep into our supply chain to understand the full picture of our materials, so we ask our mills a lot of questions, such as where the fiber was grown, how they treat their water waste, do they monitor and regulate energy consumption – sexy stuff like that. We like working with fabrics that have certifications such as GOTS organic cotton – this means the entire process from growing the cotton buds, to ginning to spinning is entirely regulated. No pesticides are used in the growing process and GOTS organic cotton can’t even be stored in the same warehouse as conventional cotton.
What, other than impact, do you have in mind while designing? What aesthetic do you hope to achieve and who do you design for?
B: SVILU is rooted in mindfully made staples – we believe that clothes should serve a purpose. We design effortless, timeless pieces that set a woman apart without speaking louder than she does.
What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
M: We love the treasure hunt of finding fabrics that fit within our sustainable parameters, and honing in on our color palette at the beginning of each season. We relish in the feeling that anything is still possible at that stage of the process.
B: Location scouting for our collection shoots is always a wild adventure that has taken us from shipyards, to commercial greenhouses, dance studios and a stone yard - where we shot our SS17 collection.
SVILU is now in its eighth season. How have you changed and what are you most proud of?
B: We’ve been working on refining and simplifying; making sure that every piece has a reason for existing in the collection by focusing on functionality and effortlessness as well as ease of care for our customer.
Which other brands, if any, do you consider “in your corner” when it comes to running a sustainable and thoughtful business?
M: We love the amazing, women-owned brands, Odette and Land Of Women. Odette makes beautiful jewelry, from certified metals, produced in family owned ateliers and Land Of Women’s skincare products are made from essential oils that smell incredible.
What else do you do to aid the environment? How can your customers live a considered lifestyle?
B: Mindfulness is as important to our business decisions as it is to our design decisions. It’s about taking the time to address the little things - from repurposing fabrics into future collections to using low impact packaging like our corn-based poly bags or recycled plastic hangers. We see sustainability as more than just green fabrics but as a holistic approach to running our company.
M: We think curiosity and sustainability are intrinsically linked- we encourage our customers to ask questions about the provenance of their purchases in order to buy consciously- what is it made of? Where is it made?
We know what it's like to run a small and bustling business - If you had a couple weeks off, without any responsibilities, what would you do?
B: A villa in Panarea, Sicily- drinking aperol spritz and watching thunderstorms come in over the Tyrrhenian Sea.
M: I’d go search for flamingos in the Altacama desert in Chile.
Journal readers get 15% off SVILU in Steven Alan stores with code SVILU0502. Just present the code to your sales associate upon purchase. Discount expires 05/09/2017. SVILU is available at Steven Alan Tribeca, Steven Alan Chelsea, Steven Alan Nolita, Steven Alan Brooklyn, and Steven Alan Fillmore.
Photos by Heather Sten