Designer Edward Mongzar is creating beautiful clothes inspired by his birthplace of Nagaland, giving back to the community, and supporting slow fashion.
We ask what makes him tick, and why ethical fashion is at the heart of what he does.
What made you want to work in the world of fashion, particularly that of ethical fashion?
Growing up, I was always creatively inclined. I was the closest to my mum amongst my brothers, I
was always around her; I helped her pick what outfits to wear to events and social gatherings and this really ignited my interest in fashion at an early age. Once I completed college, I decided as a result of this interest, to pursue a degree in Fashion Design. The degree was my biggest learning curve and taught me a lot, not only about the creative and realistic sides of the industry but also allowed me to make discoveries about who I was and who I wanted to go on to be. It paved the way for me to enter the fashion industry.
In regards to working ethically, I wanted to give something back to my community; there is something special about crafts that have existed for a long time being used in a contemporary setting, giving them new life and allowing people to make a living using their passion. This is something I do through my work with hand weavers in Nagaland, allowing my weavers to continue to do what they love, outside of just traditional garments. To achieve all that we need an honest approach to the process, we can’t just mass produce collections every season and follow the lead of other brands and hope it’s enough. We have to build our business with a strong ethical code built into it from the very beginning and continue to build upon that as the business grows.
What’s the inspiration behind your designs?
What inspires my designs is the simplicity of everything that can be found, the simplicity of human relationship dynamics and the way that nature can work in such simplistic ways. Some of the most beautiful creations of nature have come about in the simplest of ways. I like to believe that anything can be simple, as long as you want it to be. I take big inspiration from people, their culture and their interaction with it.
Fashion is born out of a balanced relationship between consumers, designer, artisans and the perfect nurturing environment given to craftsmanship. I believe in my brand’s philosophy that there is sophistication in simplicity. My belief, which also aligns with the label’s ethos, is in the sharing of skills with an honest heart.
How important do you think provenance and transparency of production is in your line of work?
I believe in transparency in everything I do, and I believe my label exemplifies that quite eloquently. In my relationship with me weavers and artisans, I have always been really sincere and this has been reciprocated. It’s perplexing to see some people in the fashion industry who are really secretive about everything they do. I really never understood that. The world is evolving into a big cocoon, and one must learn to evolve together with it, and being transparent and ethical is the honest way to go about it.
What would you say to people who believe in throw-away fashion and how would you convince them that ethical fashion is better?
When you buy a garment that has been ethically made, you can be sure that you have supported not only the designer who has put time and effort into creating the piece, but you will also have supported artisans and their age old, refined crafts and allow them to continue to make a living doing what they love. You not only provide a stable way of life for people and their families but give new life to traditional crafts such as Naga hand weaving. You are safe in the knowledge that your purchase has not left a damaging mark on our planet or the people on it. In return, you have a beautiful, handcrafted garment made with love and dedication.
How did you come to choose the hand weavers of Nagaland to produce your garments?
Being born in Nagaland, I always had an appreciation for the wide ranging culture and history of my state.
I remember last year when I was visiting my parents, a woman came selling shawls. My mom told me how the woman had hand woven the shawls she carried and sold them door to door to support her family. She was a widow and had no other source of income. As I was designing my collection at the time, I saw a perfect opportunity not only to add a special piece of heritage from home to my collection, but also to help give back to my community, something that is so important to me.
That woman became my first employed hand weaver, she told me on our first meeting that she wanted nothing else than to keep doing what she loved and to provide for her children, I told her, as I’ve told my other weavers, that as long as I am designing, they will be able to do both. It’s for this reason that Naga hand weaving is always at the forefront of my design process.
What is your hope for the future of your brand?
I hope to expand my brand and expand further. I hope to be a fashion house that is known for their ethics, quality and dedication to the slow fashion movement. We have some very exciting things in the works at the moment, which we can’t wait for!
Where do you see fashion in 20 years’ time?
I see it going one of two ways, first everyone is dressing the same, the second is every person dressing up for himself or herself with a touch of individuality. I think it all depends on how people respond to the present socio-political and cultural shift now. So choose wisely.
Find out more at www.edwardmongzar.com