04 December 2019

The Essence of Fashion

Written by Published in Entrepreneurs
Photo by David Wilman

What made internationally renowned visual artist Begoña Toledo – aka Boxhead – put away her brushes and spray cans aside to find self-expression in zero waste fashion?

Sublime: Tell us about you and your background
Begoña Toledo: Born and bred in Spain, I left my home country 12 years ago. After spending 5 years in Amsterdam I came to London where I’ve found my new home (for now!). I am a former visual artist, I gained international recognition for my work in street art under the pseudonym Boxhead. A couple of years ago I decided to pursue my all time dream.  BegonaToledo 1 
S: What's behind the name of your brand, Dot and Above?

BT: In Spanish we say “punto y seguido” when marking a stop on a writing. It means “dot and follows”. With my label’s name I wanted to express that I will always remain an artist and should not forget who I used to be. I decided to use the word Above as in saying: there’s a stop to what I was doing, but the above (my previous life as an artist) remains. The two words also allowed me to define my label in two branches: Dot, the more urban, day to day garments, and Above, which will feature more elevated, complex and avant garde pieces. 

S: Where does the inspiration for design come from?
BT: I normally start with a well defined strong concept that will inspire the designs. In the case of my first collection "The Sol Collection" it was the Sun. Then I will think about the Dot and Above woman, how would she express the concept in an stylish, abstract, playful urban way. Functionality is key in my designs as well, I don’t believe function, comfort, responsibility and style should be mutually exclusive. I try to create garments that will be used for years to come and will remain stylish and original. I don’t look into trends that much, I find following trends goes against the basis of a sustainable lifestyle. I get inspired by literally everything, a colour, a shape, a movement... To be honest most of the time I just let my mind roam free when coming up with ideas, as I would do when making art, it’s always been the way I create something.

S: You’ve mentioned the ‘Dot and Above woman’, who is she?

BT: The Dot and Above woman is an independent thinker, she uses fashion as a verb. She understands style over trend. No matter if she’s 30, 60 or 80 years old, she uses fashion to express herself, she understands the power of fashion. She can be bold and subtle. She is also highly conscious of the world's issues and shops accordingly, she looks for timeless pieces that will last and will always treasure them. The Dot and Above woman looks for originality and functionality, she’s active and wants her clothes to move with her. 
S: What is the importance of ethical, locally-made garments?
BT: From a social perspective, making your garments locally ensures your supply chain is shorter and in return more transparent and fairer. From an economic perspective, locally made means supporting your local economy and also, as a brand, you normally produce less quantities, are more responsive to your market and are able to produce less waste. Which brings us to the environmental impact. Local production means a much lower carbon foot print. Although locally made doesn’t always mean ethical, it does allow for a much more transparent supply chain and so it is much easier to track whether it is fair or not to your workers. 

S: Tell us about your philosophy and latest collection
BT: When I conceptualised Dot and Above I had one thing very clear, I was gonna be responsible and as sustainable as possible from day one. When taking every decision from fabric choice to pattern cutting, longevity, fairness and low environmental impact come first. 
Our debut collection celebrates our big star, the Sun. Every piece of the capsule collection represents an aspect of our relationship with the Sun. In our Sol Collection we’ve used 100% GOTS certified organic cottons, all sourced from cooperatives in Turkey that use a crop rotation system in their fields. We’ve kept our sourcing as local as possible and our numbers very small. At the moment we only make on demand at our North London atelier to keep waste to a minimum. As we grow as a brand we’re committed to keep production local and fair and be totally transparent. We’re excited to be able to invest in fabric innovation and support environmental organisations as soon as we can. 
Our motto is to create garments that invite women to express themselves, to go back to the essence of fashion which is self expression, creativity and joy; and of course, to do so in the most responsible way possible. We make garments that last, that our customers will cherish for years. If you’re a new designer there’s absolutely no reason for you not to be ethical and sustainable! We know the social and environmental repercussions of our current system, I don’t understand how could we ignore them. 

S: If we had £100 to spend, which piece would you recommend we buy from Dot and Above?
BT: We’ve created the most eye-catching and functional of bags: The SunBum. Round like the sun, made out of heavy organic cotton twill, hand dyed by us with AZO free non toxic dyes in our signature yellow. For the padding we’ve used upcycled neoprene from waste generated by a local factory. It is an statement piece that will bright up any season’s outfit. You can’t go wrong with it!

S: Do you see ethical fashion gaining more of a share in the market?
BT: We're definitely seeing more awareness but unfortunately also more opportunities for greenwashing by the bigger brands. A huge part of making the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable is reducing the speed in which we are consuming, which is a direct response to the speed fashion is being produced and made readily available in the stores. I appreciate the introduction of recycled materials and organic cottons in the big stores, but as long as they don’t slow down we can’t say sustainability is gaining any share in the market. There are more and more small ethical brands, but unfortunately a lot of them are making almost exactly the same type of garments. If we want the consumer to switch to sustainable fashion we need to give them better options, different options, we cannot neglect style and creativity. We don’t need more clothes, we need better stories.

S: Are you working on a new collection at the moment?
BT: I am, I don’t want to say too much about it just yet, but I am extremely excited about the collection's concept. It’s gonna be bold and super versatile at the same time. We’re working on generating zero waste in the production of this collection. We will be adding the first pieces to the ABOVE section of our label too. We’re also aiming to help some incredible organisations by donating part of the sales to research on several global environmental issues.
S: Where we can see and buy your clothes?
BT: You can get them online at dotandabove.com There you can also read our story, follow our progress on our Journal and shop our Sol Collection.
You can also follow us on Instagram: @dot.and.above  and Twitter: @dotandabove



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