Art direction: @designs_bybri
Make up: @bethsmakeup
Jessica Prasertsri is a self-taught fashion designer based in the West Midlands, UK. She started making clothes a year and a half ago and she has since launched her brand, Sourtai, through which they sell climate-friendly and upcycled clothes. They describe Sourtai as ‘Junk Core for the Anthropocene’ and through their designs they hope to achieve liberation, awareness and love. We were lucky enough to speak with Jessica about their inspirations, her experiences as a small creative in the fashion industry and the issues she has with mainstream ‘sustainability’.
Model and Stylist: @dextra_mandrake
Your designs are very unique. Where do you draw inspiration for them?
I've always had a love for subculture fashion and magazines. I guess that love never fades. What stopped me from pursuing this for so long was, one, not thinking I could ever be good enough, and two the understanding the severity of the destruction of climate through clothing production, which has halted my urge to start designing. I did not want to become part of the problem.
I started pursuing this dream once I realised that nothing in life would make me happier than what I do now. I don't know if I would still be here if it weren't for the fact that I can create every day. I owe my inspiration to my passion.
What themes do you explore in your designs and how has this transformed in the years that you have been making clothes?
My life-long obsession has always been 90s post-apocalyptic films, but inspiration can come from anywhere. Last year I was obsessed with swamps. It's crazy how inspiration can be sparked up by the smallest things. Most of the time I do not plan what I do, I just start working and inspiration finds me. Ask Nike, they keep telling us to just do it, that's my motto too.
What kind of struggles have you faced in starting up your own brand in the era of fast fashion?
Working on your own all day everyday comes with its challenges. I understand that I am not alone when it comes to the inner battle of self-worth. You go through periods of confidence then all of a sudden you question everything you make.
The thing that crushes my soul more than anything I could have imagined is not only having Chinese dupe markets take my designs as well as use my photos but larger, well-known brands clearly using my work in their mood boards, taking not just my silhouette ideas but my whole brand aesthetic and copying photoshoots.
When things like this happen to you, you don't have colleagues around you helping you pick yourself back up again. It can feel very lonely at times, we usually have to be very head strong and learn from an early stage to self-soothe. I feel for all small creatives out there. I send you all appreciation and love.
A lot of fast fashion industry giants have been adopting the term ‘sustainable fashion’ as a marketing ploy. How do you feel this impacts the brands that are really fighting for change in the industry?
I personally feel that the word "sustainability" has lost its value. I have personally become desensitised by it. Clothes cannot be physically sustainable if they are made in large quantities. There is no balance with nature if nature's exploited to make 2 billion t-shirts that are sold worldwide every year.
"Sustainable" and "organic" cotton still uses 2,700 litres of water to produce 1 t-shirt, in contrast to an average person who uses roughly 350 litres of water a day. It would take an average person 43 million years to use the same amount of water wasted in t-shirt production each year.
I understand the statistics can be scary, what's even scarier is that I've only touched on a fraction of the production line. Imagine the numbers if I were to add socks, trousers and underwear into the equation.
Customers are at no fault here, why wouldn't you believe something is sustainable if it's labelled that way? We have learnt to trust the laws set by the government to ensure that we are not being lied to by corporations. I believe it's our job to spread awareness without judgement to others, although sometimes I am scared I could be preaching in an echo chamber. I do hope that one day this understanding reaches the masses.
The current greenwashing by large corporations is unethical as it spreads false information to the less knowledgeable market.
What has been the biggest challenge in making climate-friendly clothes?
When I first started, I solely upcycled clothes. This meant everything was one-off. Now that I've built a customer base, I found myself giving into my customers and buying deadstock fabrics so that I can produce the same designs over & over again. I've come to learn a lot about fabric production and come to realise how much more expensive natural fibres are. It is the price I am willing to pay so that I do not contribute to putting more micro-plastics into the sphere.
How would you ideally see your brand evolving in the future?
I would like Sourtai to become a cooperative. I want to hire up-and-coming designers to produce upcycled items under the Sourtai name. Sourtai will no longer be a brand, but an online distribution centre celebrating all forms of designers. The Sourtai name will purely provide a safe production space and unlimited resources to its designers. All designers will have a stake in the company and profits are shared equally.
I also want Sourtai to partner with charities and organisations, we would like to help our community in every way.
How did you get into fashion design and what advice would you offer to those looking to do the same?
I got into fashion purely out of love. I wanted it enough to teach myself the art of sewing. I also understand I come from a privileged place where I could move back in with my parents, worked part-time elsewhere and did not have to pay rent when I started all of this. I am now full time and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Interview by Annabel White