AVIE - Yorkshire's sustainable fashion design duo
PUBLISHED: 11:22 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 26 September 2019
Sustainable fashion is a growing movement and a design duo in Yorkshire is blazing a trail. Bethan Andrews finds out more.
Husband and wife duo Sonya Bachra-Byrne and Liam Nathan Byrne are two people who epitomise the meaning of teamwork, and who have an infectious love for life. It seems fitting, then, that their life's passion has resulted in them spending the last two years creating Avie, a sustainable clothing brand focused around investment pieces - the French translation for this meaning, simply, for life.
Sonya spent three and a half years as a manager of a studio in New York, something that she counts as a great apprenticeship for her at the beginning of her journey - she even dressed the likes of Demi Moore and Jessica Alba. Once back in the UK, she worked in London with high street brands while Liam worked as a civil engineer. Through this collaborative process of working day in and day out with architects though, he came to realise he was fascinated by detail, design, and composition and, perhaps in an unlikely move, started working in the arts as a photographer.
After Sonya was headhunted to work for Berskha in Barcelona and then to be a design manager for Besos, a large company in Denmark, the duo started to realise they were collecting skills and experiences from all over the world. It was in Scandinavia that Liam got his first job as a fashion photographer - clearly, the two of them were creating something of the ultimate design partnership. Their globe-hopping didn't stop here, with a stint in Rome and Australia too, by which point Sonya had worked her way up to a high level in the fashion industry.
But home was calling, and a dream to create their own brand was starting to take over. 'We thought, instead of fast fashion, why don't we do luxury, slow fashion based on all of the skills that we've picked up over the years? We wanted to do things right ethically, and set up a brand using sustainable materials,' says Liam. And, based out of Leeds, that's exactly what they've done. 'We go to our factories, we see the workers stitching our fabrics, and we know the quality workforce is looked after the right way. It sets the price point higher, but you are buying into our ethos of making clothes the right way.'
It's important to Liam and Sonya to minimise the amount of waste in the world - perhaps not surprising when their inspiring backdrop is one of the most beautiful areas of countryside in England. They are passionate in their stance that fast fashion isn't helping anyone. 'We want to help the people we work with, know them and support them in every way we can,' continues Liam.
One way of ensuring this is through the limited supply of each product, investing in a piece from Avie is, in many ways, like investing in a piece of art with the label inside letting you know your number out of the 50 or 100 ever made. 'It's something you can hold on to,' says Liam. 'Plus, some of our fabrics come from England too and it's Yorkshire design, so we are getting there slowly and surely when it comes to sustainability.'
Clearly, the rest of the fashion industry can see that what Sonya and Liam are creating is something worth watching out for. Having showcased their first collection at SCOOP International Trade Fair in London in February, it was picked up and featured in Draper's Online. Pitched as one's to watch, Draper's then put them forward in the Draper's Independents Awards as finalists for Best New Brand of 2019.
'We're getting a really good response from industry buyers and everyone seems to love the direction that we are going in,' says Liam. 'When you put a garment on, it's supposed to make you feel good. We're designing clothes for women who have worked hard and got to a certain point in their career and they want that killer blazer that makes them feel confident. That's why we do what we do - to give power to women to stand strong and say, 'This is me'.'
So aside from the obvious reason of Sonya being from Yorkshire, what brought them back to set up Avie. 'Initially, we wanted to bring manufacturing back to Yorkshire,' says Liam. 'It has such a rich history for manufacturing fabrics and clothes.' It's turned out to be difficult to do due to the infrastructure not being in the county anymore. However, it is something that the couple are working on and they still dream of setting up a small studio to do the sampling in-house with amazing local talent. 'It will happen in the future,' he continues. 'But Yorkshire also gives us that headspace we need for the brand too.'
It's clearly been a bit of whirlwind over the last year, but it's exciting to see where this Yorkshire brand is heading and with such a focus on the sustainability movement at the moment, we're proud to see a small company from Yorkshire paving the way. u