The sustainable fashion and design movement is growing worldwide. Consumers and designers are realising that fashion doesn’t have to be detrimental to people or the planet. While we may be united by a common goal, designers across the world are facing different challenges. Today, I spoke to Athena Bentila CEO of Mu Mu Organic, an ethical fashion brand from Greece, to find out how she has overcome the challenges she has faced in her design business.
Athena has been running her own label since 2009 on the beautiful Cyclades islands. Athena designs all the garments herself and is completely self-taught.
So Athena, Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
Usually I get inspired by art and the natural environment of the Greek islands. I also take great inspiration simply from bearing in mind the needs of a modern woman.
The collections are contemporary, urban and powerful, but also remain feminine, comfortable and sexy. There is emphasis on detail and the silhouette of the female body.
How is your collection sustainable?
I use only organic, natural and sustainable fabrics and I produce everything myself by hand. I ensure that all of the garments are also treated with care after production. Most of the fabrics I use are GOTS certified organic and completely Fair Trade. I love to support women the world over by using socially responsible fabrics as well as sustainable ones.
I feel it is so important to support Fair Trade production and organic farmers. As designers, we have the wonderful opportunity to help make the fashion industry move away from throwaway fashions to beautiful, timeless and long-lasting pieces, that also create long-lasting, rewarding and safe work for the farmers.
What makes you committed to being eco?
My philosophy is what keeps me committed; simply the fact that I want to stay true to my principles and ethics.
Do you think there are different challenges being an eco designer in Greece compared to other places?
Definitely! Unfortunately being a sustainable fashion designer in Greece is very difficult due to two main problems.
The first is that people in Greece are not as familiar with eco fashion and sustainability as they are abroad. And also many of them are not even aware of its existence and they do not know the benefits of organic and sustainable fabrics.
The second is that there are not any sustainable or organic raw materials to be found in Greece and therefore I must buy everything mainly from Europe. This makes it more difficult for me because it adds to more time and expense to my work.
What is the sustainable fashion scene like in Greece?
MuMu organic was the first sustainable fashion brand created in Greece back in 2009. There are now a few more. Also, in recent years people have actually started to engage and learn about eco-fashion themselves. We are seeing the odd sustainable fashion show now too.
I take pride in being able to create employment opportunities here in Greece. Most of the stores which stock MuMu Organic lines are in Greece and in the Greek islands, with our flagship store located in Alexandria. We have a handful of boutiques that carry our lines elsewhere in Europe too.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming Greek designers?
My only advice is that they try to be true to their values and beliefs and do what they love most without compromising.