An Interview with Maria Jose and Nicolas of Casa Lefay (Part one)

Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

Since childhood I liked fashion, thanks to my grandmother, a woman from Barranquilla, a city in the Caribbean coast of Colombia that breathes fashion, elegance, and style.

In her time, women still did not have much participation in society, so they found in fashion a particularly and feminine language for expressing their creativity. I also inherited from her the love for painting.

My grandmother devoted her life to be the companion of my grandfather, attend social gatherings where she found the occasion to create a character to tell a story. I still remember, dress with heels and jewelry from my grandmother, who at that time had two large closets full of clothes that collects even until now.

During my adolescence, when I started out to graduation parties and celebrations of all kinds, it was my grandmother who lent us the costumes to me and my friends. (Still does, are now more women in the family, cousins… sisters and their friends…)

Besides my grandmother was his sister, my aunt Anita, another beautiful Caribbean woman, who found in sewing and embroidery how to make life had the possibility of main transform the material into an object full of meanings. In general women of that generation of my family were in some way or another related to fashion clothing.

Not only because at the time was an activity for women, but because Colombia at that time did not come out fashion designers or fashion labels, and if they did were very expensive…so each woman herself responsible for creating their costumes. When I was a small, I studied in a school that was very focused on math, that’s when I met Nicolas, currently my husband and co-founder of Casa lefay.

I had no good in math so I left that school after repeating two years (my mom studied there with his brothers so she refused to take me out of school). After much debate it, I moved to a focused liberal arts school, where fortunately I was able to explore many of the capabilities that until then had been unable to explore.

Unlike my first college women in this school were fully communicated through fashion. At first my adaptation was very painful because I had to overcome many preconceptions ideas about “being superficial” to be inclined towards the world of fashion.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

Fashion, despite being an art of which we are all captives, is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. Given the current environmental situation, we believe that it is necessary to begin to be part of the change that we need.

So, We want to provide an alternative to consumption. Currently the world needs a change because the natural resources are finite and we need them to live, we have to conserve and use them in a proper manner.  Fashion is one of the most polluting industry in the world

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?

After finishing my school, I decided to study literature at the Javeriana University in Bogota, I always liked to tell stories and learn more about the man through them. The emphasis of my career I did in visual arts where I could find a space for my taste for drawing.

Over time the drawing took me into fashion as a professional field, by then would have 22 years old. It was when I started studying fashion illustration in a fashion school in Bogota, Arturo Tejada. Eventually, I get involved even more and end up enrolling in the academic career.

At that same moment I met again with Nicolas, after many years we had not seen, and we decided to move to Buenos Aires, where I could end my career in literature while studied fashion design at the University of Belgrano.

It was a very difficult time because my family was still incomprehensible that ending my career I took a descision like that. In addition to our cultural context it was frowned me to live with if we were not married.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires I started my fashion career at the University of Belgrano while finished my thesis in Literature.

Although, I completed my thesis in Literature and graduated while in Buenos Aires, my fashion career turned out to be not what I expected. It was still a very new program and still there was a definite structure, so I decided to leave college to make independent courses what I really interested in.

Illustration, makeup, styling, fashion and tailoring. Since the courses do not take a long time and at that time I was not working, I decided to continue my career and to start a master degree in art criticism and dissemination at IUNA.

Over time the city was oppressing us, the academic structure did not fit with my ideals of life, and together with Nicolas, who by then worked as an environmental analyst for contaminated site remediation and environmental issues Dept. at YPF’s downstream, an Argentina oil company, we decided we wanted to take another life. By then he was very affected by the environmental damage of the industry, and was a need for us to take another way of life.

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

The designers or companies that promote ethical and sustainable practices contribute to generate a change in the forms of consumption. Such change is necessary to maintain the healthy ecosystem we need.

It is urgent to create a human system that guarantees the integrity of all members of the chain. It is also urgent to recover the nature that we are exploiting. Having practices that guarantee the wellbeing and the conservation of the ecosystem in which we are only a part, is a responsibility that we cannot evade.

Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?

Vivienne Westwood

Stella Mccartney

What is Casa Lefay?

Casa Lefay is a brand that are committed with sustainability, art, and ethical principles as pillars for an alternative way of living.  Guided by travels and multicultural traditions, Casa Lefay creates limited collections of clothes and illustrated objects.  All profits are shared with environmental or humanitarian causes.

What are some of its feature products?

We made romantic and boho maxi dresses, pants and skirts.  All garments are made with organic cotton under fair trade conditions. Each piece is unique and is printed with water based inks. The fabric design is based in original watercolor illustrations.


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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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