Collective Canvas Founder, Oscar Anselmi, On Ending Fast Fashion

1 year ago | Features

We’re always looking to reduce our ~footprint~ with sustainable sneakers. Enter NZ-based Collective Canvas – which makes timeless organic cotton footwear, in a transparent supply chain. Here, founder Oscar Anselmi tells us how the brand is fighting fast fashion.

WMC: How did Collective Canvas first come about?
Oscar: My background is in footwear, with a family history in the industry spanning four decades. Throughout my 20s I worked in and around the industry, both of which gave me a unique insight. Over time I grew frustrated with the modern footwear industry – namely its extremely fast-paced, trend driven nature. This need for constant newness came at the expense of long term thinking and end-of-life considerations.

Why is slow production such an important principle for the brand?
In developing the brand, I set out three core principles: slow, simple, and transparent. ‘Slow’ encompasses the way our products are designed and where we intend them to sit in the market. The industry is still very focussed around fast trends, cheap, synthetic products, and heavy discounting. To me, slow fashion takes an antithetical approach and concentrates on creating products that eschew trends in favour of timelessness, ethical construction and life cycle consideration.

How important is transparency for Collective Canvas?
Transparency is at the core of the brand’s identity, both in how we make our sneakers and how we sell them. I think transparency is our way of building trust with customers, who are increasingly aware of fast fashion’s role in climate change and a culture of overconsumption. I like to think consumers are increasingly conscious of the difference between brands that hold sustainability as a core tenet and those that are simply greenwashing. 

You’ve said that you’re “not fans of fast fashion”. Could you elaborate?
In order to maintain competitive advantage, fast fashion brands are pumping the trend cycle and pushing prices ever lower, with little concern for the impact it’s having on people and the planet. I really wanted to step off the hamster wheel and slow down, focussing on timeless products that are responsibly made from humble materials. We don’t adhere to typical fashion seasons or plan a specific number of new product drops throughout the year, and we rarely discount. 

Can you tell us about the materials you use at Collective Canvas?
We use an OCS100 certified organic cotton canvas for the upper and linings. While cotton is not the perfect textile, organic cotton does a lot to overcome the issues [of conventional cotton]. Our soles and foxings are made from natural rubber, as opposed to the much cheaper synthetic (petroleum) derived rubbers and EVA foams. Then our insoles are made from a combination of recycled foam and sustainably sourced castor oil, covered with a thin layer of natural cork. The goal from the outset was to keep the use of synthetic materials to a minimum. The sad reality is that footwear recycling is still in its infancy and almost every pair still eventually ends up in landfill.

What are your hopes for the future of fashion?
For the concept of ‘sustainable fashion’ to slowly fade out, as all brands move to incorporate real sustainable practices as a core part of their corporate responsibility. It’ll require a real change in consumer attitudes toward consumption, but it feels like more people are waking up to the impact they can have with the way they spend their money.

You can shop our full range of Collective Canvas here

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