Designer Spotlight Kendall Wilson, Vesta Studio by Michelle Blanco
Kendall Wilson is a sparkling sunbeam of a human. Cheery, down to earth and striking all at once with cropped platinum hair. She lights up when sharing her passion for things like cupro—(the gorgeous vegan silk alternative) and leather substitutes made of mushrooms. We talked to her about how she morphs luxurious textiles like pima cotton and cupro into flowy kimonos, mock neck tees and silky wrap dresses. We love Kendall’s beautiful pieces and intention to evolve vegan fashion by prioritizing natural fibers rather than synthetics.
We asked Kendall why she decided to pursue sustainable fashion design, the challenges of getting dressed and the future of fashion.
How did you start becoming aware of the need to be sustainable in the way you dress?
I remember the exact moment when I had my first major crisis of conscience. I was a new student at Parsons and so I was starting to learn about fabrics and question animal-derived materials for the first time ever. I had been a vegetarian for years and had felt perfectly comfortable giving people all my unsolicited opinions on eating meat, yet I was still buying leather, wool, and fine with never even thinking about it. I was about to buy these leather boots at Aldo one day when I thought, "Hang on a sec..." It sounds ridiculous, but I really hadn't thought much about sustainability or animal rights pertaining to fashion until then. I bought the boots but I didn't feel great about it especially after I began to really research leather. That was the last time I bought leather or any animal products. That lead to learning about sweatshops and pollution as well.
Could you tell us a little more about Cupro or the other vegan friendly fabrics you love and why they're more sustainable than traditional vegan fabrics?
Cupro is made in a mill in Japan from the part of the cotton plant that usually gets thrown out. This mill has figured out how to turn it into an amazingly strong, silk-like fabric. They dye all their colors with low-impact dyes, which saves water, and the mill is very eco-conscious. They recycle almost all their waste water within the factory. Cupro has been a bestseller for us because it's dressy like silk but is more affordable and more low-maintenance (you can machine-wash it).
Do you think that this is something that will start to catch on in a global or mass scale at some point?
I may be pessimistic but I think sustainable fashion is going to be a niche thing for a long time, if not forever. I don't think the majority of people see a connection between their purchases and the environment. I hope we don't have to reach a point of environmental collapse before they do, but we may.
Do you think shifting to more sustainable clothing is a consumer problem or a business (industrial sized problem)?
I think it's both, but I think businesses need to take responsibility first, since they're the ones creating more stuff and putting it out into the world. They also have the power of PR and marketing behind them and they can conveniently sweep problems like sweatshop labor under the rug. It’s a dangerous thing. I think consumers need to be responsible as well. People are starting to wake up to the fact that they can't always believe what's marketed to them and that they need to question things before buying them. The biggest question consumers should ask first is "Do I even need this?" Overconsumption is a huge problem.
What are the biggest challenges for you when you are trying to get dressed ethically and chicly?
For me, the struggle has always been (at least for the last 9 years or so) to find things that are 1. Vegan, 2. Ethically-made, 3. My style, and 4. Affordable. That's been really hard, which is one of the reasons I started Vesta. There aren’t a lot of good-looking vegan fashion options out there and to a lot of people "vegan" means pleather shoes and slogan t-shirts. I wanted a brand that would check all the boxes for me, because that's what I feel is hardest to find.
What solutions on the individual or the brand level inspire you the most?
I'm really inspired by innovation, especially when I see people out there developing sustainable, animal-free products, like mushroom leather, pineapple leather, and biosilk, made from synthetic spider web. Humans can be amazing and I think innovation is our only hope at turning this environmental devastation around.
To shop Vesta Studio check out @shopvesta on Instagram or shopvesta.com