O N N O W

I N T E R V I E W

S E R I E S # 3 ​

published by Naz Kisnisci
2 December. 2020
WITH DEYI 德逸.

Deyi founders

1. Who are you and how do you describe your brand?

DEYI 德逸 is a new sustainable lifestyle brand, inspired by Chinese philosophy and sense of

beauty. It offers a global art of living that studies traditions to give new perspectives for a better future, in harmony with nature and people.

This brand was co-founded by three friends who share a sincere passion for traditional Chinese culture and arts, but also the conviction to change our consumption patterns based on the principles of ethical design. Adriana Cagigas Gil, a sustainable fashion designer from Spain has teamed up with Pauline Ferrieres, a young French creative entrepreneur, and Zhang Xing, a Chinese space designer to found DEYI 德逸.

Catwalk for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid SS21

2. Could you tell us a bit more about the process and culture of your brand?

We feel very concerned about environmental issues and in particular about the negative impact of our consumption patterns in the natural world. As the fashion industry is the second polluter in the world after oil, we are convinced that huge changes have to be done. With DEYI 德逸, we challenge ourselves at each step of the value chain to limit our negative impact on the environment. We only work with natural materials and dyes, no chemicals and plastics are used. The quality of our garments is our first concern. We use traditional handmade fabrics of indigenous communities in South China. The final garment is made in Spain.

We reject fashion trends. We propose innovative outfits with a timeless aesthetic and a natural color palette. We offer genderless clothes that are comfortable but stylish. Elegance, sobriety, and contemporaneity are our guiding principles.

 

Yin Yang clothing

3. You are defining the project as a lifestyle project, could you give us more details on that?

More than a fashion brand, we see ourselves as a more global project that aspires to share a sustainable lifestyle nurtured by arts and culture. As Chinese philosophy is our main inspiration,

Deyi founders

we study several Chinese philosophy concepts and see how those are relevant in the current society. Our desire is not to go back hundreds of years, but to build a sustainable future by taking inspiration from traditions and adapting them to the contemporary world. We do collaboration with Chinese and European contemporary artists to promote our lifestyle.

Our last collection YIN YANG is inspired by the Taoist philosophy. Taoism teaches that the world is ruled by opposite but complementary energies, the Yin and Yang breaths. Inner harmony lies in the quest for a balance between those two energies. Thus, DEYI 德逸 promotes a new philosophy of clothing by proposing to combine two independent parts of clothing, which embody Yin or Yang characteristics, to create a piece that aspires to harmony. A multitude of combinations becomes possible and everyone is free to design a look that reflects his personality, with elegance.

 

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Adriana Cagigas with Miao women artisans

4. We know that you are working with indigenous communities from China. How did you start working with them in the beginning? Do you think this adds an additional value to your brand and products?

Indeed, we are working hand in hand with Chinese indigenous communities in Guizhou province, from Miao, Yao and Dong minorities. We began our investigations in rural China in April 2019 and became real witnesses of the gradual disappearance of their exceptional textile heritage. In the context of modernization and globalization, younger generations of those minorities leave their remote villages to settle in big cities to earn money. Only elderly women still practice the traditional techniques.

 

Deyi exclusive dress made with Miao pleated skirts

With DEYI 德逸, our first objective is to preserve their traditional crafts by helping local

communities to make a living from them. We create contemporary and innovative outfits using their exceptional traditional fabrics.

This collaboration is for sure adding value to our products and brand spirit. We propose very high quality products with some very exclusive fabrics that are not in the market yet for some of them, as the pleated fabric of Miao minority. But more than that, we really care that this collaboration benefits both sides. We aspire to empower local communities in remote villages to get rid of poverty.

 

Miao lady wearing her traditional costume

5. Do you think young consumers now know the difference between slow fashion vs. fast fashion?

Could you tell us how is your customer profile and how is their reaction in general?

We are convinced that there is an increasing global awareness about social and environmental issues, in particular among younger generations in the Western world. But the drawback of that situation is that « sustainability » has become trendy and every brand develop its « green » products line. In this context of increasing greenwashing, consumers are confused and might not really be clear about the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion. That is our role as slow fashion designers to educate consumers. We have a key role to play : sustainability all along the value chain is the future of fashion. A fashion brand developing a trendy natural line with green branding, without changing its polluting core model, is not sustainable!

With our garments, we target conscious consumers in search of natural materials, regardless their gender or age, that really want to have a positive impact in our world. So far, we have very good feed-backs from our community. They appreciate our story and our commitment to preserve the textile heritage of Chinese minorities.

 

Chinese ancient literati

6. What are your inspirations? Is there a mission or aim for the future when you think about your brand?

As mentioned before, or brand is inspired by Chinese philosophy, traditional craftsmanship and arts. We aspire to give a new regard on “MADE IN CHINA” items by promoting the expertise and traditional know-hows of our artisans. In the long term, DEYI 德逸 envisions to raise social and environmental awareness among consumers and build a community committed to preserve our global cultural heritage and the natural environment.

The original name DEYI 德逸 symbolizes the core values of the brand. DE 德 means "Ethics" and

"Sense of dignity". According to Confucius, humans constant goal should be to reach the DE 德 mindset.

Humans need first to learn from Nature and respect human dignity and then transmit this moral value to other to live in inner peace.

This quality is complementary with the YI 逸 mindset. YI 逸 depicts a mindful lifestyle in harmony with nature and oneself. This art of living is perfectly illustrated by the lives of ancient Chinese

literati who decided to step back from the drifts of society to live a simple life connected to the natural world and nurtured by the arts. Thus, they were pursuing their quest for freedom of thought and spiritual elevation.

7. Do you feel successful and what do you think about success?

We would rather say that we are confident about our ability to succeed. We need time, we are a pretty young brand with the ambitious mission to preserve traditional crafts of Chinese indigenous communities, with a sustainable approach. We are working hard to achieve our noble mission. Step by step we are building strong partnerships with talented artisans.

About our conception of success, we believe that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. According Lao Zi, the master of Taoism, « Failure is the foundation of success and the means by which it is achieved ». We resonate with this conception.

Dong artisan with her indigo dyed handwoven fabric

8. What are the challenges that emerging brands are facing? Do you think there are any solutions?

We guess the first obstacle is the huge competition in the market. It is difficult to make one's place among all the key players, but we are confident in our future thanks to our differentiating positioning. Existing players on the market must also give a voice to young creators. We are very thankful to platforms as On Now who support emerging designers. We do our best to grasp all those opportunities to share our lifestyle and values. We were proud to participate twice in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid this year, within the framework of the Young Talents contest. It was a great opportunity for us to promote our ethical values. Sustainable fashion is not represented enough on such platforms, it is important that brands like us can be represented there.

In addition to the significant competition in the market, our
major obstacle is also to get the relatively high but fair price
of our clothing accepted. With DEYI 德逸, we propose a new
way of dressing. Our high quality clothes are meant to be
lifetime partners. Like in the Chinese minorities’ families
where they take care of their clothes and pass them on from
generation to generation, we want to create an emotional
attachment between the client and the garment. We want to
teach our clients how to really care about their clothes. As we are committed to limit the negative impact of our products all along the lifecycle, we also offer a free repair service.

9. What is your relationship with social media? How much do you think social media affect your work?

In the digital age, we believe it is essential to be very active on social networks. Although it is very time consuming, it allows us to develop our community internationally and share our lifestyle via video content, for example. For emerging brands like us, it's an opportunity to talk to as many people as possible while limiting costs. During the containment in particular, social networks have allowed us to continue to share our commitments.

Of course we have to remain vigilant about fake news but social media is a real opportunity to alert the global community, and in particular the younger generations, about the social and environmental excesses of fast fashion. Recently, the scandal over the exploitation of the Uighurs, the Chinese Muslim minority, has led to a real awareness and strong changes. Social networks are becoming a tool to speak out, to defend causes and that is why it is an important tool for us.

 

DEYI atelier

10. What do you think about the new way of productions when you consider the new digital age?

New technologies offer us a multitude of opportunities, but we are all aware of the excesses of new technologies. With DEYI, it was important for us to use these technologies to help us to promote the textile heritage of Chinese minorities. In the fashion world in particular, new technologies are often used to promote a very modern or even futuristic aesthetic. We want to take the opposite side of this is in order to revalorize traditional techniques. Thanks to new technologies, we can share our the know-hows of our artisans live, anytime and anywhere.

If we think about it for a few seconds, it is
moving to be able to see live the craftsmen
of our workshops lost in their remote villages in rice fields, far away from any urban area. Above all, we can see them working in 2020 using techniques that date back several hundred years.

11. When we consider the new world, we are seeing that the usual fashion industry is changing, which we were already expecting and now we are seeing more positive and in a way more “human” changes. What do you think about this new normal and are you preparing the brand for the new normal? How do you feel about it?

Indeed, there is an increasing environmental and social awareness among consumers and we’re glad about it. Following the scandals of numerous fast fashion brands, people are expecting more transparency and traceability from fashion brands. Increasing consumers want to know who made their clothes for instance. The #FashionRevolution movement had a real impact. With DEYI 德逸, it was essential for us to put the humans back at the core of the project. Our first fashion

collection named YUANFEN缘分, which means « destiny » or « natural affiliations », was paying tribute to all the exceptional people with met along our path in China. Each piece of the collection was inspired by one person, its values and mindset. We wanted to give them voices, storytelling is really impacting in our view.

 

Miao traditional loom

12. We are going through some challenging times with the environmental crises, political injustices, and many more when you think the current situation of the world, how do you consider situation? Do you think these kind of events are shaping or affecting the fashion industry? And is your brand taking action?

We would rather say that the environmental crisis we’re experiencing is shaping the fashion industry. Brands that won’t take the « sustainable turn » will not survive in the long term. Limiting a negative impact on the environment will become an absolute necessity. If one considers that the environmental crisis affects the fashion industry, one thinks that is a threat for the brand development rather a real opportunity to change the core model to produce in harmony with nature.

We have already raised several points about environmental issues and shown how we intend to provide real solutions with our brand. Furthermore, DEYI 德逸 is also built in opposition with the drifts of cultural appropriation, which is a growing phenomenon in the fashion industry. For example, in the last years, the traditional patterns of certain tribes in South America or Africa were very « trendy ». Many brands copied these patterns without those indigenous communities being able to benefit economically from the sales, it is a shame. We believe it is important that designers pay tribute to those traditional heritage, and share it with the global community, but at the same time the local people should benefit from it. With DEYI 德逸, we are building a sustainable and fair relationship with the craftsmen of Chinese indigenous communities and offering them a living- wage. We want to make them become the main actor of their economic and social development.

 

Brand by DEYI 德逸