April 13, 2024

Sustainability is normally not a phrase found in the lexicon of those in the fashion industry, but Cambridge, Ont. designer Bella Viglianti hopes that her designs can help make it a buzzword.

The 20-year-old designer grew up watching her grandmother work in a garment factory and then as an independent seamstress, so from a young age Viglianti started designing her own clothes.

Bella Viglianti poses in one of her custom designs. (Photo courtesy of Bella Viglianti)

After an overwhelmingly positive response from her high school peers, Viglianti slowly began to take her hobby and turn it into a business. In 2016, she launched her company, Bella Viglianti Designs, a sustainable apparel company that sells its clothes through Foxglove studios, a collaborative retail store on Grand Avenue.

“I started to see an opportunity to not only make garments that girls wanted to wear but also use social media as a tool to teach people about the damaging aspects of the garment industry both ethically and environmentally,” said Viglianti. “And why it is so important to support small brands who don’t operate on a mass production scale.”

The mass production of trendy styles or “fast fashion” is the exact industry that Viglianti hopes her clients abandon through her education.

According to the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Ontario generates 500,000 tonnes of clothing and textile waste every year. According to their data, that number is only set to grow as the fast fashion industry continues to skyrocket.

“It’s not enough for me to just be a producer of clothing and leave it at that,” said Viglianti. “I want to show people as much of the construction process as I can and teach them why it is so important for more brands to become as transparent as possible.”

Since the launch of her apparel company, Viglianti has not only seen growth in the number of clients she works with but the reach of her education. On Nov. 29, 2017, she had the chance to speak at Cambridge City Hall about the ethical and environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

Viglianti has talked the talk on sustainability, but her designs have proven that she can walk the walk. Almost all of the fabrics used in her designs are recycled materials. Factory scraps, thrift-store clothes, repurposed textiles and even tablecloths and shower curtains have been given new life in the form of a Bella Viglianti Design.

“I try to keep buying from fabric stores to a minimum but I’ve found lots of great factory ends and scraps at these stores so I don’t rule them out completely,” said Viglianti. “I’m also always upcycling clothing and giving old textiles new life as garments.  I love turning things like curtains or lace tablecloths into garments. The whole process of designing with materials like these is so free-flowing and the result is always one of a kind.”

Although Viglianti has a large collection of everyday pieces to help women ditch fast fashion, her favourite area of design is formal wear.

From wedding dresses to prom dresses, making dresses for important events in women’s lives holds a special place in Viglianti’s heart.

“I had the privilege of designing my first wedding dress two years ago and it was such an honour to contribute something to such an important day in someone’s life,” said Viglianti. “ love the idea of making something special for someone.”

Madeline Mullins is one of the many women who had a custom dress designed for a special occasion. For Mullins, she had the chance to see her dream prom dress come to life through a custom one-of-a-kind design.

Madeline Mullins poses in her custom-designed prom dress by Bella Viglianti Designs. (Photo courtesy of Bella Viglianti Designs)

Mullins knew the exact dress she had in mind, but she wasn’t sure where to find it, so instead of endlessly searching through retail stores, she decided to seek a designer.

The dress Viglianti designed was a vintage-inspired champaign coloured floor length dress that was complimented with a white lace.

“Being able to see my original seed of thought brought to life was incredible,” Mullins said. “I was extremely happy with the dress in the end. It wore well all night, and it fit so nicely. I loved being able to show off her beautiful work.”

Aside for apparel and formal design, Viglianti recently had the chance to work with Canadian Country Music Association award-winning country music duo, the Reklaws, designing custom up-cycled merchandise. Viglianti highlights this as one of her proudest moments since her launch in 2016.

“Working along the music industry is something I’ve never done before so getting to try out something so different has been so fun,” she said.

The young entrepreneur has just launched an online retail store for her designs and hopes to one day open her own retail location where she can not only sell her designs but continue to inform and educate women on the negative impacts of fast fashion.

Bella Viglianti Designs has seen a growing success since it launched only a few years ago, not only through the growth of her clients and designs, but through the awareness she has raised over the environmental impacts of the garment industry.

Through her designs, she is proving that environmental sustainability is in fashion.

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