Tamara Cherie Dyson is a Cape Town based designer, who launched her brand Tamara Cherie in 2015 after winning the prestigious ELLE Rising Star Award the year before. Her understated designs convey of effortless luxury and are constructed with delicate silk, furry mohair and exquisite leather. We caught up with this stellar DAF graduate to ask her a few questions about sustainability, and get a sneak peek at her new studio.
Where do you source your fabrics from?
We work with various suppliers that source both locally and internationally. Our country is richly available with merino wool and kid mohair, so we make sure to use those natural resources as far as possible.
You seem to use a lot of natural fibres, how do you feel about synthetic fabrics?
We as a brand try to use natural fibres in as many of our designs as possible. I believe we have a responsibility to be conscious about every step of our production process and create sustainable and environmentally friendly designs. As we are still a small company, sourcing completely organic is extremely tough, but we are moving towards that direction as we grow.
How important is sourcing and producing locally to Tamara Cherie?
We believe in sourcing locally first and foremost, helping to build and support our local industry. Not everything is availble to us here, so when we do source internationally, we ensure we know who we are dealing with to ensure fairtrade, and where their fabrics originated.
How do you, as a young independent designer, compete with the price points and marketing strategies of bigger brands?
It is really tough, but all we can do is try to educate our customers and followers about our processes and what our brand believes in.
Do you ever feel pressure to cut costs to grow your brand?
Its always at the back of your mind, when you see brands like H&M now bringing in an eco-conscious line and you still can’t even compete with their pricing. But I know what I believe in as a designer and as a brand, and we need to keep pushing forward.
At this point, your clothes are produced locally, is this a deliberate decision? Would this change if your brand grew dramatically?
We love supporting our local industry. We are an all women owned and run business, and we produce with small, all women run production houses. Knowing that we are helping others improve their lives and living conditions is the reason we stay local. I can’t tell you what will happen in the future, but we as a brand will always seek out fairtrade and ethical production.
How much of your production is outsourced (roughly) and how much is produced in house?
It changes every season according to our design needs and the capabilites of the various production houses we use. This season, we produced about 30% in house.
Do you feel a responsibility as a designer to source fabrics and production ethically and sustainably?
Do you think the Fashion Revolution movement could influence mass production?
I do, there is more and more pressure being put on big corporations to own up to their actions and take responsibility for their unethical choices. The world is moving more and more towards sustainable living everyday, and the big brands can’t help but listen and make changes. It definitely won’t happen overnight, but I believe this is the only way forward for all brands.
As a Cape Townian, I often encounter the attitude that international (fashion) is better. Have you experienced this attitude, and if so how do you combat it?
Yes I have, but I do believe the public is slowly learning about supporting local.
What does luxury mean to you?
The garment district in Cape Town has shrunk dramatically as have the number of skilled seamstresses: do you ever worry that it will vanish completely, or are you optimistic that the industry can be rebuilt?
I am optimistic that we can rebuild it as a creative community.
Do you try to buy locally and consciously?
Yes, more and more I have become more conscious of all my choices, not only in the fashion industry but in all spheres of my life.
If there was one thing you could change about the fashion industry what would it be?
How do you think we can get people to care more about who made their clothes and what fabrics are sustainable?
Just keep making sure designers are getting the word out into the market. I make sure to every now and then post articles on my social media accounts about sustainability, fabrics, the industry etc to educate my followers.
What future do you envision for Tamara Cherie?
I want us to keep growing, keep learning, and keep supporting our local design market, and to show the world that their steriotypical view of African fashion is outdated and incorrect, and that we can compete in the global landscape.
Keep an eye on this talented designer at tamaracherie.com