We caught up with Veryan Raiker, founder and designer of Peckham-based fashion label specialising in sustainable pieces, ethically made.
How did Veryan come about?
While I was studying English I did an internship in fashion and realised I wanted to work in the industry. Engineering designs from scratch, experimenting with finish and functionality were exciting concepts. I worked on my skills and gradually began to sell my work.
Why are you passionate about sustainable fashion?
When making my sister’s wedding dress, I went to one of the Berwick Street fabric shops to pick up reams of silk voile. It was woven at a tiny mill in the south of France…which was so romantic. The stories of all the people who make and contribute to a finished garment were exciting. When you start thinking about the people involved, the question of why choose sustainability changes to why not?
What are Veryan's core values?
What frustrates you most about the fashion industry? And how are you hoping to change that?
Every garment is made by skilled individuals, even basic jeans, t-shirts, shirts. Every stitch of every seam is worth something, every woven panel, every component part, but it often seems that these skills are only valued in the luxury end of fashion, in couture and high end design houses. Clothes can be presented by a designer in any way, glossily in a magazine or on a rail in a busy high street, but the value of the time spent building those garments doesn’t change. We’ve become accustomed to seeing cut-priced clothes and, sadly, those prices represent people being underpaid and overworked, at best. At Veryan we work with suppliers who promote fair trade and ethical production lines and will always support the growth of these values. It’s wonderful to be one of many who are either investing in pieces—understanding their quality and value—or creating garments and respecting their supply chain.
What were your biggest fears when you first set out to start Veryan?
It wasn’t so much a fear, but I was pretty overwhelmed by the ins and outs of a supply chain—a rabbit hole you inevitably fall down when trying to work towards sustainability. Finding suppliers who are working ethically can be hard. It’s important to remember each small positive choice makes a difference.
What have been your biggest obstacles since you started?
At first, finding like-minded suppliers who could work with a certain level of orders and deliver consistent high quality was hard. Now there are increasingly more choices when it comes to fabric and garment components—innovations are happening constantly. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this industry.
What has prompted little victory dances in the studio?
Being approached by collaborators always feel special (“they really want to work with me?!”) and it’s particularly exciting when they aren’t specialists in sustainability. It’s wonderful that a wider audience is becoming more interested in sustainable design.
What makes you really, truly happy?
Good wine with good food with friends.
I’d love to hire a van and drive around Europe, visiting new places and having the freedom to explore anywhere and everywhere.
What are your top tips for others trying to lead more sustainable lives?
I’ve recently started following Zero Waste Home blog; it gives a lot of good tips on how to reduce waste in the home. It’s also always worth investing in local businesses and thinking through purchases. Buying clothes you’ll love to wear again and again, rather than those you might only wear once.
Finish the sentence: In an ideal world…
fair working conditions would be universal and the global conversation about who makes our commodities—how they do it, where they do it—would be an open and honest one.