The Sustainable Shopper:“Ignorance felt like bliss in relation to conscious clothing”

Written by Harriet Davey

Each week on the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Lesleigh Jermanus – creative director of Australian eco-friendly fashion brand – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about saving deadstock fabrics and making them into incredible new pieces. 

Hands up who wants to discover a new brand that screams summer from every angle? Australian-born label Alémais launched earlier this year, in March, as an answer to clothing supplier cancellations sparked by the pandemic. Founder and creative director Lesleigh Jermanus recognised the amount of materials destined for landfill and jumped in with a solution. Since then, Alémais was born to focus on using deadstock materials to create amazing, intricate new pieces that can be loved for a lifetime. 

With an interest in sustainability within the fashion industry, the foundation of the brand has always been to create pieces with a difference. Now, the ready-to-wear label has been snapped up by the likes of Browns, Matches, Harrods and Selfridges in the UK. 

The small brand is making waves within the designer market, and rightly so when the pieces will make you want to book a staycation, pronto. From floaty smock dresses, to puff-sleeved seashell-print billowy blouses, for each item sold, a tree is planted. Alémais also offsets the carbon footprint for staff members and each item will also arrive in fully recycled and biodegradable packaging.

Lesleigh is here to tell the Sustainable Shopper how her journey began and why education is the key to shopping mindfully. 

Creative director of Alémais: Lesleigh Jermanus

What is your earliest memory of sustainability?

Lesleigh: It was back in 2005 when I was in my 2nd year at university. At that time, no one was really talking about sustainability, which seemed like an obscure concept. Ignorance felt like bliss in relation to environmentally conscious clothing and it felt like the right time to start researching an industry I was planning my future in. My university partner and I had a similar passion for this area and spent the year writing our thesis on ‘if you are what you eat, you are what you wear’.

More recently on a trip to Kenya, I saw excessive truckloads of deadstock and abandoned clothing from America and Europe on the sides of the roads. I listened to a podcast recently called The Cutting Room Floor and I believe there is a ban on deadstock being sent to some African countries as they can’t handle the volume. I recognise the inherent contradiction between the fashion industry – which requires newness and consumption – and the concept of sustainability. The complex problem of sustainability has caused many of my peers to walk away from the industry.

Alémais Under The Sea shirt

I believe with education around considered and thoughtful clothing production that focus on people and the planet we can make positive change

Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?   

I don’t think it’s sustainable to stop production of clothing altogether, which would be the most sustainable outcome for our planet. However, I believe with education around considered and thoughtful clothing production that focuses on people and the planet we can make positive change with truly sustainable fashion solutions.

Our aim with Alémais was to create a brand with purpose and integrity, which reduces environmental impact and treats its suppliers with honesty and respect.

Alémais Osiris dress

We want to take our customer on the garment journey to create a connection through the whole process

Investment pieces vs throw away fashion: how do you get customers to care?   

Education is the greatest tool in helping people make informed decisions about the clothing they buy. We want to connect the customer to the provenance of their garment and to understand that there is nothing simple about making a dress.

The number of hands a single garment passes through from pencil sketch to pattern maker, to cutter and maker, the presser and packer, the logistics team and eventually to the customer is a long arduous process. We want to take our customer on that journey to create a connection through the whole process. 

Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?

Clare Press is a master in sustainable fashion and helps to simplify a complex conversation for absolutely everyone, offering practical solutions to sustainable shopping, care for clothing and highlighting the big issues. I love how Clare uses her poetic writing skills and voice to educate but also keeps it fun.

Alémais Atlantis dress

What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?

More education and funding on regenerative farming and its positive impact for our environment and end use, also for the fashion calendar to slow down. It would be great to see everyone striving for transparency and sustainable practises and celebrate more artisanal techniques and natural fibres.

Three sustainable shopping methods

1. Look to see if a brand shows active support towards treating people and theplanet with respect.

1. Try to buy natural fibre clothing and organic where possible.

3. Buy more vintage clothing.

      Sustainable Shopper edit by Lesleigh:

      • Alémais shorts

        Alémais shorts

        The cosmos jogger short was made with our artisans in Rajasthan, India, by a small community hand painting each piece on a linen/cotton blend woven.

        Shop Cosmos jogger shorts at Alémais, £192

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      • Alémais dress

        Alémais dress

        Made from 100% hemp, it’s considered to be more sustainable than linen due to its regenerative process and does not deplete the soil. It is a sturdy strong fibre that will last a lifetime with the right care.

        Shop Ada corset dress at Alémais, £352

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      • Alémais jeans

        Alémais jeans

        Denim repurposed from deadstock, this creamy colour will work across all seasons and never date. 

        Shop Yolo ecru jeans at Alémais, £156

        BUY NOW

      • Alémais mini dress

        Alémais dress

        A playful mini dress crafted from 100% linen which will over time once disposed of, will decompose back into the earth within a short period of time rather than stay in landfill.

        Shop Atlantis smock dress at Alémais, £260

        BUY NOW

      • Bode jacket

        Bode jacket

        Incredible one-of-a-kind reworked vintage item. Price per wear over a lifetime makes this a great investment piece.

        Shop Iris cabin jacket at Bode, £1,201

        BUY NOW

      • Romance Was Born slippers

        Romance was born shoes

        A woven pair of slides that are made from deadstock fabric – they’re a statement-making piece to love forever. 

        Shop woven slipper at Romance Was Born, £323

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      • Artclub top

        Artclub top

        Founder Heidi offers classic and romantic shapes made from natural or deadstock fabrics in limited quantities. This top is perfect to dress down with jeans or up for evening. 

        Shop Ballet Russes top at Artclub, £190

        BUY NOW

      Images: courtesy of Alémais, Lesleigh and brands featured

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