Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion. What is your personal story – education, prior work, and so on?
Hello, I’m Jessica from Barcelona, Spain. I have been hand sewing since I was 8 years old, and I learnt by watching my mother and grandmother. At that age it was just a hobby, it relaxed me, and I never thought that it became my passion and work. Some years ago my grandma kept on telling me “leave the work you have and concentrate on sewing! You have talent!”…and here I am with my own brand “Pqno… Handmade designs”.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion? How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
I have learned by myself, trying, failing, trying again, designing my own patterns and using them first to see if they would work or not. I use ‘common sense’ and ask and listen friends and family experience.
When I started my brand, I wondered if I could do something “extra”, not just sew and create useful and colorful products, but how I could create impact and contribute to the society and welfare, and then I start reading about ethical and sustainable fashion, and it fit to my brand’s main idea: buy just the fabrics I need, always 100% cotton, and use them all producing almost none waste.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
It’s not just to make eco-sustainable products to sell, but to teach and show the world that another way of making clothes is possible. When I sell in markets I enjoy explaining how I work and that my pieces have high quality, are useful, are not expensive, are unique and moreover, have no negative impact in the environment.
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
I would say the small brands like mine that are willing of carry on their passion for sustainable fashion, no matter the barriers along the way. It’s hard to have a small piece of the fashion cake, and if it’s sustainable fashion even harder.
What is Pqno… Handmade designs?
#alapqnostyle was born to combine quality cotton fabrics with cheerful and modern pattern, to create useful and unique pieces, and if they can have more than one use, and be combined to create sets, better, always respecting an eco-sustainable design and an affordable and adjusted price throughout the year.
I buy the fabrics in local shops, selecting one by one, thinking how I can combine them. I buy small amount of each fabric to have a good selection to choose from, and this means that the products created are unique models.
I take care of the design and manufacture by hand or machine, with great care and love, as each piece is special and even more if I know who is going to use it. I use the maximum of the fabrics to generate minimal impact on waste and be as sustainable as possible. Member of the Associació Moda Sostenible Barcelona (Barcelona Sustainable Fashion Association) and Women Creators from Gràcia-Barcelona, and it’s part of the directory of The Slow wear project and Sustainable fashion brands.
What inspired the title of the organization?
“Pqno” is abbreviation of “por qué no” in Spanish and “per què no” in Catalan, that means “why not”, and when I was considering of starting the business, I have my doubts, as many of us I think, but I always finished the sentence with “why not?”: “why not to try it? why not to do it? why not to start it?”. I said “why not” so many times that when I started thinking about the name’s brand, it just came “Pqno” and then I added “handmade designs” to be more specific about the nature of the brand.
What are some of its feature products?
It started as a kids accessories brand, but adults also increasingly buy my products to use them themselves or give them to other adults. For kids, the most popular are the bibs, the softies and the pacifier strap (both hand sewed). The backpacks, saquettes, pouches, hair scrunchie are for everybody, no matter the age. Now in 2017 I have 3 new products: -a frame for decoration (a small embroidery frame as I used to use for hand sewed when I was little, and pieces of fabrics I can’t use). -a bag for women (you can adjust the length of the straps so it can be a tote bag or wear it as crossed-body or normal bag. The patterns are more for adults but keeping #alapqnostyle). A mini bag (you can adjust the leght of the straps and it can be used as crossed-body or as a tote bag or belt-bag).
What is your customer base – the demographics?
Basically locals, Barcelona, but as well Spain, and since Barcelona is such an international city, and as well via web, I have sold to many places in Europe, Latin America, USA, Japan, China, Australia & New Zealand.
There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). How do tragedies shed light on work conditions in garment factories?
It was known that the working conditions were/are really bad, but unfortunately it has to be a tragedy to be on the news. What I am not that sure is that if it has been any improvement or change.
What is the importance of the status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?
I would say its human rights, not just women and children, men too, and in any industry. Any person should work in a good working environment and respecting the rights.
The Gender Inequality Index (GII) relates to the empowerment of women, gender equality, and international women’s rights. The progress for gender equity is positive. Regressive forces exist in explicit and implicit forms. What seem like some of the explicit and implicit forms observed in personal and professional life to you?
Once a Norwegian woman minister asked “why we women want to be equal, when in some fields we are better than men?”. I strongly agree. We are born equal and have the same rights, but it’s society, education, family, tradition that makes the ‘gap’ between men and women, and it’s accepted in some way. So there has to be a change of mentality in society starting at school and at home.
How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations, women and children, in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
Consumers should know where the product they buy comes from and the “who made my clothes” campaign is a good start.
Fashion industry should take care of the work conditions when the hire a company to make the clothes, but here as well, I think that each country should take care of that too, it should be more inspections and verify the quality of the work environment and salaries.
What personal fulfillments comes from this work for you?
A smile that makes me smile. When I’m at a market, I look at people how they move around, they look usually serious, thinking, looking, touching, but when they see my products, they smile! And that makes me smile. It’s a privilege to be able to work on what I like, plus at it’s sustainable, and if I make people smile, even better!
Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, Pqno… Handmade designs?
love challenges, some of my products are the result of people explaining me a problem they had, so challenges and comments are welcome!
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
I’m glad I have had the opportunity to be a small part in Trusted Clothes, congratulations for the project! Any chance we have to talk about ethical and sustainable fashion is great. People needs to know more about it and it’s a very good idea to let the designers express themselves.
Thank you for your time, Jessica.
Thanks Scott and we keep in touch.